Butterfly display combines students’ art and poetry
Between loss of habitat, being hit by vehicles and long migration patterns, the dwindling population of monarch butterflies is a concern.
To bring attention to their plight, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Cal Poets in the Schools, Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden have come together to provide third- through sixth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School, Montecito Union School and Vieja Valley Elementary School unique lessons for April’s National Poetry Month and Earth Day celebrations.
Art and poetry, created by the students, are on display through April 30 in the SBMA Museum Store window at 1130 State St.
In March, a nature-themed poetry lesson on the monarch butterfly was presented to the students by Cal Poets in the Schools.
“They observed the transformation of a caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly and wrote descriptive metaphors with details of color, texture, movement and feelings. Students then found the essence of their poems in the style of haiku, which prepared their butterfly writing into the museum’s art project,” said Cie Gumucio, Santa Barbara County coordinator and poet/teacher for Cal Poets.
After the poetry classes, SBMA delivered a video lesson inspired by Diana Thater’s “Untitled Video Wall (Butterflies) (2008)” from the museum’s collection and 220 art kits to the students who collaged color tissue paper onto the outline of the butterfly wing printed on a transparency. Their poems were placed on the opposite side of the folded transparency.
“The poems accompanying the collages are not only expressions of the monarch butterfly’s beauty and fragility but also the students’ discovery of their own creativity as a voice that can celebrate and protect the natural world,” said Patsy Hicks, SBMA director of education.
“In a year of much challenge and change, how wonderful to look to the butterfly as an embodiment of both fragility and strength, of adaptation and resilience. As with the butterfly’s transformation, these students have moved from observation to creation, and with their art, magically changed the museum store window into a vivid display of beauty, stewardship and sustainability.”
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden shared a planting video lesson from Scot Pipkin and Michelle Cyr with the students about the importance of planting the right type of milkweed, which is unique in the life cycle of the monarch in that it is the only plant the monarch caterpillars will eat.
In other words: no milkweed, no monarch.
Members of the Cal Poets were particularly enthusiastic about the collaboration, which they expressed in the following comments:
— “Writing poems helps kids feel more connected to their sense of wonder about the natural world because poetry invites them to stop and notice beauty.”
— “Having students write poetry about the monarch butterflies who have wintered here in Santa Barbara puts students in connection with the landscape they live in — these are ‘poems of place.’ ”
— “It’s a dream project to bring together the worlds of poetry, art and natural sciences to help empower students and inspire their creativity and community engagement in support of Mother Nature — specifically, the monarch butterflies.”
— “A gathering of butterflies is poetically referred to as ‘a kaleidoscope,’ and the monarch art and poetry display in the museum’s store window brings that definition to life.”
— “Amanda Gorman’s speech on Inauguration Day ignited the feeling that young people could be a voice for the issues that mattered to them and that poetry and the creative arts could be the vehicle for that voice.”
— “We hope kids will not only feel connected to their own creativity, but that they will have a new awareness about their own ability to participate in helping the environment.”
— “This project is an experiential engagement with poetry and art that brings attention to an important environmental issue — the potential loss of the monarch butterflies. The third part is a call to action — to plant the native milkweed and nectar plants that will help restore the monarch butterflies’ natural habitat.”