Project Native educates youth of nature


Photo Gallery | Project Native Family Fun Fest

HOUSATONIC -- Dozens of youngsters spent part of their Saturday chasing butterflies through a sun-speckled meadow.

This dreamy setting came about because Project Native -- a nonprofit native plant farm, nursery and wildlife sanctuary -- was hosting another Family Fun Fest.

Aided by the Community Health Program, Project Native set up several activity stations for the kids, who were all about 8 years old and under, with most of them proudly in full-fledged toddler status. There was face painting, a place to make seed-balls with native wildflower seeds, tours of the Butterfly House and two crafty spots for creating toy butterflies. Then there was the story walk through a field of native wildflowers which tells the tale of a little seed.

But as everyone knows, toddlers love their bugs, which may be why the Bug and Butterfly Safari was so popular.

Two groups with more than 30 people, most of them from the toddler demographic, trekked off into the fields, but only after each of the children (and some of the adults) were given butterfly nets.

The idea was to gather specimens for inclusion in the Butterfly House, but when a kid gets a butterfly net, all bets are off.

Fran Lartigue of New Marlboro brought her three young ones to the safari.

"It's educational," she said as she watched her children bounding through the tall flowers in a mad dash after a butterfly. "It gives the kids an opportunity to learn about their environment in a really fun way. Generally speaking, give a kid a net and put them outside, they're going to have a good time."

Cara Becker, an early services program assistant at CHP, said one of the activities was quite popular. It gave youngsters the chance to see butterflies and grasshoppers through a microscope.

But the bug safari was the big deal of the day, she added.

"It's always a hit, and every time we can get these little guys used to being outside in nature is another opportunity," she said.

David Ellis, general manager of Project Native, said the project was started as a place to obtain native plants and seeds. Over the years, those native species have flourished and become available in many more ways.

"So we're switching over to a place-based education center, where we can teach people about the native habitat and its importance to the health of the environment," Ellis said.

The Butterfly and Bug Safari is a weekly offering at Project Native. For more information:

To reach Scott Stafford:,
or (413) 663-3741, ext. 227.
On Twitter: @BESStafford.


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