Hundreds of elementary students attend SFA Gardens’ annual Bugs, Bees, Butterflies and Blossoms

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin State University’s SFA Gardens recently hosted the 26th annual Bugs, Bees, Butterflies and Blossoms event on April 5 and April 19 at the Mast Arboretum.

This collaborative event — organized by the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, SFA Gardens, SFA Department of Education Studies, Texas Forestry Association, and Texas A&M Forest Service — offers SFA education students valuable hands-on teaching experiences with kindergarten through third-grade children in an engaging outdoor environment.

Dr. Melissa Hulings, assistant professor of education studies, arranged for 42 SFA students taking the “Teaching Science in EC-6” course to participate as activity hosts for the event.

The SFA students were provided training through Project Learning Tree and resources to conduct four activities that “engage children in learning about the environment through the lens of forests” according to Dr. Alan Sowards, SFA professor emeritus of education studies and founder of the event.

The event was attended by 554 children across 32 classes from eight public, private and home schools. The children learned about the life cycles of butterflies, honeybees and trees, including the role of decomposers in the tree cycle and the adaptations of plants and animals that help them survive.

“What I love about this event is that some teachers who brought their classes to Bugs, Bees, Butterflies and Blossoms also attended the event as a child, later graduated from SFA in education studies, and are now bringing their students to the event,” said Kay Jenkins, SFA Gardens environmental educational programs coordinator.

The Four Seasons Garden Club supported the event through a donation used to purchase a classroom set of Project Learning Tree’s K-8 activity guides and event T-shirts for the SFA students to wear. Local beekeeper David Gallager provided observation honeybee hives for one of the activities, and SFA Gardens provided live decomposers, plants and butterflies in various life cycle stages and other resources for the activities.

“Bugs, Bees, Butterflies and Blossoms is the largest and longest-running environmental education program in East Texas,” said Ted Stevens, education director with the Texas Forestry Association. “This year was another success as it gave future teachers the confidence to incorporate environmental education into their classrooms and provided a service to the community around the university by hosting an interactive and fun environmental education field investigation for local school children in SFA’s beautiful gardens.”

Ted Stevens; Laura Stevens, wildland urban interface coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service; Jenkins; and Elyce Rodewald, SFA Gardens program associate, hosted the trainings for SFA students.