University of Florida

Santa Rosa County Master Gardeners recognized for "Kiderpillar School"

The Santa Rosa County Master Gardeners received the 2008 Master Gardener "Award of Excellence for Service to 4-H and Other Youth" for their butterfly education and conservation program, "Kiderpillar School."

"Kiderpillar" tours are offered by Master Gardeners at the Panhandle Butterfly House in Navarre Santa Rosa County Park.

Kiderpillar School includes a twenty-minute lesson followed by an equal length visit to the vivarium, a 2,000-square-foot enclosure where youth can view Florida native butterflies in a natural environment. Here the students apply the learned concepts and then finish in the classroom featuring "Butterflies around the World," a pinned collection of nearly 300 butterflies and moths.

The vivarium is home only to Florida butterflies and the special plants they use for food and as hosts for their young. Here visitors can also see the entire life cycle of butterflies, a unique feature of the Panhandle Butterfly House that allows youth to get a close-up view of and appreciation for these wonderful creatures.

Within the last year, more than 900 children and 175 chaperoning adults have benefited from instruction by the “Kiderpillar” program.

In all, there were 14,132 visitors to the Panhandle Butterfly House between May and October 2008. Visitors came from 47 states and 12 foreign countries, including Egypt, Chile, France, and Japan.

Most of the lesson plans and visual tools utilized by the teaching staff have been created by Master Gardeners. Extension agents and the program chair (also a Master Gardener) train volunteers, called docents. The docent group includes approximately 20 Master Gardeners, as well as other community volunteers.

Florida Master Naturalists (another group of Extension volunteers) also assist, teaching about wildlife and conservation around a nearby pond.

Larger tours have additional simultaneous outdoor rotations on pond ecology and beneficial insects.

Children’s tours are available mid-April through August, and during October for the Monarch Migration.


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