Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

Volunteering at the Butterfly Festival

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ongoldenrodWho isn’t fascinated with the beauty of a butterfly?  Each and every time this summer when I have visited Tyler Arboretum, I have been greeted by lots and lots of butterflies, and I have taken so many pictures of these marvelous winged creatures.  It is only fitting that Tyler hosts a festival in honor of the butterfly.  Held on August 24, below is the description Tyler provided of the Butterfly Festival:

Say a fond farewell to the monarch butterflies as they are tagged and released for their southern migration to Mexico! Experts will be on hand with tips on creating a butterfly friendly habitat in home gardens with all their favorite plants. Learn all about butterflies native to our area, transformation from egg to caterpillar, then to chrysalis, and finally to butterfly and hear about butterfly secrets. Discover bugs like never before with amazing live and mounted specimens brought by Jon the Bug Man Insect Educators. Games and make-and-take crafts round out the day.

I figured it was about time for me to “step up” my participation in a Tyler festival.  In the past, I had always attended Tyler’s events.  Except for Pumpkin Days, I had yet to serve as a volunteer to help an event.  Through a simple online form, I was able to sign up to volunteer – it was that easy!  Tyler’s volunteer coordinator, Melissa Hamblin, sent me a reminder email before the event, and I was then on my way to volunteering at the Butterfly Festival.

I arrived at 9:30AM, the start time of my volunteer shift, and immediately jumped to help Director of Public Programs Betsey Ney with whatever was needed.  After helping move some materials from the Barn to behind the Butterfly tent, I was told that my assignment for the day was to be in charge of the “Feed the Hungry Spider” Game.  Betsey provided me with a few educational talking points about spiders and spider webs, and I went off to set up my game to be ready for the official 10AM start to the Festival.

If you have not seen this game before, it is very cute!  A spider web is created from a hula hoop, sticks and string.  Small pieces of cardboard with Velcro on the front are attached to the web to make the web “sticky.”  Small rubber balls had the opposite side of the Velcro attached on one side, with a picture of an insect (a fly, beetle, bee, etc.) taped to the other side.  After my short story of how spiders trap their food, kids then tried to throw the balls to attach to the Velcro pieces on the web to – well, feed the hungry spider!

2013 Butterfly Festival

I hung two “spider webs” from this dogwood tree, and then, I let the game begin!  You can see one of the trapped insects in the upper left corner of the web to the right.

I was busy during the entire festival, which ran 10AM to 2PM.  The kids were so cute and determined in trying to get the insects to stick to the web.  Some of the parents couldn’t hold back from participating in the game, either.  I even had some repeat players, kids that came back to play a second time because they had so much fun.

Being a volunteer meant that did not get a chance to participate in the other activities during the festival.  I did not see Jon the Bug Man (actually, I still remember doing a bug collection in the 7th grade and mounting my own specimens), and I could only glance across the lawn and here a mini-crowd express their oooo’s and ahhh’s each time a tagged Monarch butterfly was released.

2013 Butterfly Festival

Butterfly-attracting plants, and Monarch release crowd

2013 Butterfly Festival

Arts and crafts tent

But, typical of all of my Tyler experiences, I still learned something that was unexpected.  By volunteering, I was able to witness for myself how much fun kids have learning about butterflies, and how they liked to share their knowledge with me.  I learned that families greatly appreciate the range of activities available during Tyler festivals.  And I was able to meet so many interesting people, if even for a brief time.  The last report I heard was that there were over 1,500 people that attended the Butterfly Festival.  Not all of those attendees came and played the Feed the Hungry Spider Game (a missed opportunity, for sure!), but even some adults without children came over and asked how the game was constructed and played.  Two adults thought the spider web was a great idea for a Halloween decoration, and one mother talked with her son about using the hula-hoop web as a way to make his spider Halloween costume.  I even met one woman who was seeing a Monarch butterfly for the first time in her life that very day.

Wow!  There are lots of take-home messages for me from this experience.  I’ve learned that by volunteering just a few hours of my time, I can really make a difference in helping Tyler with its educational and outreach mission.  I’ve learned that an event at Tyler with a defined topic or theme can create an incredible range of takeaways for visitors, ranging from Halloween costume ideas to a first monarch butterfly sighting.  Most of all, I’ve learned how much fun it can be to work with other volunteers and the staff at Tyler Arboretum.  I’m looking forward to volunteering again (the current volunteer opportunities are always listed online, and I’ll definitely be helping with Pumpkin Days in October – both during the event and by baking a food item for their bake sale! (see page 14 of Tyler Topics newsletter for Autumn 2013).

2013 Butterfly Festival

Inside the Butterfly House

Author: Dr. G

Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Science, Penn State Brandywine. Learn more at

One thought on “Volunteering at the Butterfly Festival

  1. Thanks so much for your help Dr. G. The beautiful weather and fun things to do drew lots for visitors for a fabulous day at the Arboretum. We ended up with a total of 1,800 folks on Saturday!

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