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An educational green space that teaches about butterflies and resurrection

When in-person worship resumes, Virginia Beach Girl Scout’s butterfly garden is designed to be a church gathering spot

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

When in-person worship resumes at First Presbyterian Church of Virginia Beach in Virginia, worshipers can gather at a new butterfly garden constructed as part of a Girl Scout project by 17-year-old Emma Reed. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — The metamorphosis of the caterpillar transforming itself into a butterfly reminds many Christians — Emma Reed of First Presbyterian Church of Virginia Beach in Virginia, among them — of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The 17-year-old Girl Scout wanted younger Sunday school and preschool students at her church to see the same connection, and so she constructed a teaching tool they can visit when in-person worship resumes — a butterfly garden.

Reed, who belongs to Troop 163, completed the butterfly garden and accompanying instructional materials as part of her Girl Scout Gold Project Award.

“It is very common to see young children watching hours of television every day or even carrying around their own electronic device,” she said. “But allow me to pose this question: how often do you see kids wanting to run around the backyard or go on an outdoor adventure?”

Modern society “raises children to be comfortable with technology, not dirt,” she said. “It is extremely important to teach kids to be comfortable with nature at a young age because humans are, in fact, part of nature. Personally, I am a huge fan of nature — going for a hike or swimming in the ocean are activities I would do any day. I am also a huge supporter of educating young kids on the great outdoors.”

The butterfly garden at First Presbyterian Church of Virginia Beach also includes educational resources. (Contributed photo)

In addition to constructing the butterfly garden, Reed’s project includes educational posters, felt board and drawing activities on the butterfly life cycle for Sunday school students as well as preschoolers at the church’s Beach Day School. “I sincerely hope that my project will spark interest in these kids to want to learn more about butterflies, gardens and anything about nature,” she said. “As important as it is to get young kids involved in the outdoors, it is just as important to bring the whole community together in these endeavors.”

The butterfly garden’s spot is intentional, she said. “Due to the current COVID circumstances, my church has not been open for services when the kids and families would normally be able to enjoy the garden,” she said. “However, several adults who have guided me during my project have said they greatly enjoy it!”

Once in-person worship is again offered at First Presbyterian Church, the garden should become a gathering spot for worshipers as well as butterflies, which of course can take advantage of the plants despite the pandemic.

New to her position as pastor at the church, the Rev. Dee Dee Carson said she’s grateful for Reed’s gift.

“As the new pastor at First Presbyterian, I arrived to a beautiful, completed butterfly garden, but I know there was a lot of work and adaptation that happened prior to my arrival,” Carson said. “Emma did a great job of adjusting her plans as she assessed our grounds and determined what was best for the church and for her project. She moved her location several times before finding the right spot, and she has done a beautiful job of incorporating a vision for our children into her plans.”

“Her garden will help our Sunday school classes and students at our day school learn about butterfly life cycles for years to come,” Carson said. “It will also give us a chance to help children think about Jesus’ resurrection in creative ways as we help them understand the beauty of the Easter story just as they understand the beauty of a butterfly. What a gift Emma has given us!”

Reed said the butterfly garden was moved a couple of times for maximum effect.

“The garden is located in the churchyard at a convenient location where parents and grandparents are able to visit it with their children after a Sunday service,” she said. “I think this butterfly garden will help bring our church community closer to nature … I highly encourage other churches to adopt educational green spaces for their congregations as well.”

More about Reed’s project is available on the church’s website here.

“I hope the congregation will be able to enjoy the butterfly garden,” Reed said, “and learn about the butterfly cycle as well as remember Jesus and all that he went through for us.”

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