Watching Caterpillars Turn Into Butterflies

 In Environmental Science Grant Program, Science Grants Program, teacher grants

by Anita Brown, Program Officer

“A spider! A spider! Teacher kill it! Kill it!” How often do we hear children yell this in the classroom, instead of understanding the whole ecosystem of insects, reptiles, and animals? With your help, we will begin to shift this idea of insects as ‘bad’ to fully understanding and being aware of how each single species plays an important role in our ecosystem.

Thus starts Bernadette Zermeño’s request for an Environmental Science Resource Grant.

This school year, PVF launched this new teacher resource grant program to offer grants of up to $500 to enhance classroom environmental science curriculum.

Ms. Zermeño is a TK/Kindergarten teacher at ASCEND, a K-8 school in Oakland. She wrote, “More than 90% of the students at ASCEND are from low-income families. Most of our students are English language learners who learn best with hands-on, visual experiences. [Your grant] will provide our students with a kinesthetic learning opportunity and a deeper understanding that we are all responsible for the animals and insects around us and in the world. Students will benefit from a rich integrated expedition around scientific observation and strong commitment to their environment, specifically learning how to preserve and protect the wildest creatures and their habitats.”

PVF gave $500 to ASCEND for Ms. Zermeño to invite experts from the East Bay Vivarium and purchase materials for an insect discovery lab. Sheryl Young (PVF’s San Mateo County Program Director) and Anita Brown (Program Officer) visited Ms. Zermeño’s class to witness the impact of the grant.


That morning, as they split up into small groups, students were fully engaged in learning about insects—from identifying and measuring parts of insects’ bodies and writing observations to reading about various insects to drawing and painting impressions of the insects they saw. Young learners were excited to talk about insects and show pictures of the day they went to the school garden to find spiders and ladybugs. The class had just started their insect unit, but the classroom was full of insects in jars and cases (ladybugs, worms, spiders, caterpillars, etc.—even a tarantula named “Mickey Mouse”), posters and books about insects, and insect signs and cards on every table.


Ms. Zermeño has applied for and received PVF’s teacher resource grants for nine years. She was excited about the new Environmental Science grant, especially to fund her unit on insects, as she said for her students, there is nothing more impactful than the real-life and hands-on experience of observing and touching the insects and watching caterpillars turn into butterflies.

The Environmental Science Resource Grant is made possible with funding from the Lampert Byrd Foundation. PVF is excited to expand the program to Napa County this spring with funding from the Frank H. and Eva B. Buck Foundation.

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