Third-graders in three Faulkner County schools — Florence Mattison, Greenbrier West Side and Mt. Vernon-Enola — are all agog these days watching in awe at the evolution of butterflies in the classroom.

They are participating in a project sponsored by the International Paper Company in conjunction with the Earth’s Birthday celebration to bring classrooms to life and fill young minds with curiosity about nature.

The three schools were selected for the project by virtue of IP employees having a child or grandchild enrolled in the third-

grade in their respective schools. They are part of a nation-wide effort by IP that distributes butterfly kits to classrooms — the kits containing painted lady caterpillars, butterfly houses, flower seed packets, take home information and teacher’s guides with complete instructions.

This is a hands-on, life science project that has generated intense enthusiasm in the schools where youngsters are watching the caterpillars grow twice their size each day, intensifying their interest and awaiting the time when the butterflies appear.

At Greenbrier West Elementary, third-grade teacher Melinda Hollenbaugh reports that her charges are in a state of euphoria watching the creatures prosper.

"We’re studying about the life cycle of the butterfly and how they evolve from caterpillar to chrysalis in their development," she said. Waiting for the butterflies to emerge from the chrysalis and then the prospect of feeding them with fresh fruit is keeping the youngsters excited.

In addition to the schools receiving butterfly kits, employees from the Conway International Plant plan to erect five-by-five foot gardens at each of the schools and fill each with soil.

When the butterflies have matured and are ready for release, IP employees join the children at each school, bringing flowers for each student to plant. And when the butterflies are released, they have a ready-made habitat and food source on the school grounds.

These butterfly kits, according to IP’s Dan Gladwin are designed to meet national and local science standards and demonstrate that the paper company has a strong belief in the value of early elementary science education.

A spokesperson at the Mount Vernon-Enola third grade reports that the students are enthralled by the profound beauty of nature. Their study of nature puts them into increasing and diffusing knowledge.

Teacher Cindy Irish tells of her 19 third-grade students checking out the development of the creatures during the morning hour before classes commence.

"It’s been lots of fun for the children as they watch the caterpillars grow," she said.

The packet of information gives third-graders a heads up on learning about the metamorphosis of the butterfly. It allows them to keep up with the nuances of growth.

In Florence Mattison School’s third grade, the pupils are similarly involved in watching the cups where the butterflies will grow to flying size. Teacher Brooke Vallance reports that her class is on standby to greet the butterflies when they emerge.

"They can hardly wait for the next development," she noted. She agrees that the children are seized with excitement.

Again, these students have been bedazzled by the thought of the caterpillars becoming pretty butterflies as they develop. "We’re leaning quite a bit, thanks to the information sent to us by the paper company and from our own experience."

They learn that there are about 125,000 known species of butterflies and moths in the world — approximately 700 species in North America alone. The profusion of the creatures, for example, is demonstrated in the common stripper butterfly which actually comprises at least 10 different species, scientists contend.

To tweak the curiosity of the young students, the IP packet of information provides the names of various butterflies. In the U. S. the painted butterfly is called "thistle butterfly " and "cosmopolitan butterfly."

Spanish — Bella Dama (beautiful lady)

French — La Bella Dame (beautiful lady)

German — Distelfalter (thistle moth)

Norwegian — Tistsommerfug (thistle butterfly)

Japanese — Hime-aka-tateha (little red princess.)