A Painted Lady butterfly at Surrey's Butterfly Garden June 6.

A Painted Lady butterfly at Surrey's Butterfly Garden June 6.

Butterflies freed as students learn about the circle of life

Third annual butterfly release a colourful event that touches on big themes

More than 250 students watched with pride and wonder as the butterflies they hand raised in the classroom took wing last week at a release celebration at Surrey’s butterfly garden.

The Surrey Centre Elementary students raised the Painted Lady butterflies from kits over the past three weeks, in partnership with cemetery staff, who maintain the garden, said Angela Hollaus of Cemetery Services for the City of Surrey.

Located at Surrey Centre Cemetery, the garden is filled with butterfly and bee-friendly flowers, and also provides homes for mason bees, solitary insects that don’t form colonies, like honeybees.

It opened in March 2014 and hosts an annual butterfly release each spring.

“It teaches the kids about the cycle of life, and introduces them to the cemetery.” Hollaus said. “It’s not a dark, gloomy place. It’s a happy place.”

This year’s release celebration took place on a warm, sunny morning.

Along with parents and school staff, a handful of Cemetery Services staff were on hand for the June 6 event, held amid colourful balloons and emceed by Jeff Young of Kearney’s Funeral Services.

Cemeteries, he said, are places where people come together and share memories.

“This is all part of the cycle of life and thanks to you guys for being part of it,” Young told the children.

Nine divisions got a chance to whisper their wishes to the butterflies before sending them off, a process that involved no small amount of gentle coaxing.

The children also had to be careful not to accidentally step on their former charges.

At the end of the ceremony, a flagstone bearing the inscription ‘Angela’s Garden’ was unveiled to acknowledge Hollaus’s contribution to the garden over the years.