The butterfly effect

Primary School’s Butterfly Trail allows students to get up close to its
residents, offering opportunities for experiential learning, with Science and
English lessons conducted on location. Students also gain a better appreciation
of nature and the importance of caring for living creatures.  

Late last year, Changkat Primary School welcomed an unusual guest from a far-off land – Julia Heliconian, a rare butterfly that is more commonly found in Central and South American countries. 

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The butterfly, dubbed ‘Julia’ by students and teachers, was first spotted as a ‘unique’ caterpillar in the school’s butterfly trail by a Primary 2 student. When this was brought to the attention of Science teacher Mrs Maybelline Low, a butterfly afficionado, she identified it with the help of a butterfly enthusiast group. The caterpillar was found on Passiflora, a common host plant.

The trail was built in 2019 after Science teacher Mdm Salmi Bte Rahmat visited Changi Airport Terminal 3’s Butterfly Garden, and saw how fascinated visitors were by the colourful creatures. 

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She says, “I thought about how we could bring science learning to our students, and create an experience that will last them a lifetime, too?”  

Since then the trail has been home to five butterfly species common to Singapore, such as the painted jazebel and plain tiger.

On certain days, Primary 3 to 5 students visit the trail for Science lessons to learn about life cycles and animal adaptations. They also develop an understanding of the handling and caring of caterpillars and butterflies as part of experiential learning. 

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The trail has also been used to support English lessons. When Primary 2 students were reading a story about butterflies, to bring the lesson to life, each class adopted a caterpillar, looked after it until it became a butterfly, and then released them into the trail.

Three weeks after the rare caterpillar was sighted, Julia, the butterfly, emerged from the chrysalis, much to everyone’s excitement.   

“We hope the Butterfly Trail will develop a better appreciation of nature and care for living things in our students,” says Mdm Salmi.

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Recently, the Julia Heliconian laid an egg on the trail. The school is also exploring ways to expand the trail to welcome even more butterflies. They have even grown host plants, the Elegant Dutchman’s Pipe and Indian Birthworth, in the hopes of attracting Singapore’s national butterfly, the Common Rose. 

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