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Students use bugs to help school plants
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Patrick Henry Elementary School first-grader Evan Shively watches a ladybug crawl on his finger after the insects were released in the school greenhouse. The students released the ladybugs to help control the aphid population in the school’s greenhouse. (Contributed photo)
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

By KIM BUCK - Special to the Bulletin

Students at Patrick Henry Elementary School went “buggy” this spring, thanks to two grants from the Martinsville City Public Schools Endowment.

One grant funded books and kits for each first-grade classroom to raise ladybugs, butterflies and ants so that students could study insect life cycles firsthand. Another grant allowed second-grade classes to raise butterflies, which were released outside after a 23-day metamorphosis.

Along the way, students in both grades kept observation logs of the insects’ transformations.

“The students were very engaged daily and excited to see the changes,” said second-grade teacher Brittany Byrd of the butterfly project.

Raising the ladybugs came with an unexpected bonus, first-grade teacher Logan Stana said.

“Through our research, we learned that ladybugs enjoy eating aphids, which have been a problem in our greenhouse this year,” she said. “The students suggested that we release our ladybugs in the greenhouse so they can eat the aphids and help improve the plant life.”

The plants in the greenhouse were grown with the help of another endowment grant, which has funded planting supplies for the greenhouse for the past four years.

Learning about the ladybugs helped students to “better appreciate the helpfulness of insects, rather than being scared of them,” Stana said.

Once the ladybugs matured, Anne Draper’s class released them in the greenhouse, much to the delight of students.

“The children were so excited about each stage of the ladybugs' development,” Anne Draper said. “It made it extra special to let them go in our school greenhouse, to live with the baby plants we had planted.”

As the insects matured, students in Stana’s class made their own ladybugs with moveable wings out of red construction paper and then illustrated their life cycle under the wings.

“This is how the ladybugs go: Eggs, larva, pupa, and then ladybugs,” said Natalie LaPrade, pointing to the ladybug life cycle she made. “They might lay eggs, and it goes all the way around and all the way around.”

The students enjoyed observing the ladybugs as they grew in a terrarium.

“Look, one of them just got a sip of water,” said Mallori Lowe as she and classmate Arianna Moorefield watched the bugs. “They’re shedding their skin right now. They look like little alligators.”

“I never saw the life cycle of it before,” Arianna said. “We like it.”

Participating first-grade teachers, in addition to Stana and Draper, were Lizzy Fulcher and Liz Lester. Second-grade teachers were Byrd, Chastidy Tolbert, Tammie Carter and Tracey Pierson.

The grants were among more than $5,000 in creative instructional grants awarded to all five city schools this year.

The MCPS Endowment was founded in 2007 to fund innovative, hands-on learning activities in the city schools that would not otherwise be possible in the budget. More than $21,674 has been awarded since 2007.

The MCPS Endowment is a component fund of the Martinsville Area Community Foundation, and donations are tax-deductible. For more information on the endowment and the programs it supports, visit, call 403-5827 or “like” the Martinsville City Public Schools Endowment page on Facebook.


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