The time had come to release the butterflies. I had five caterpillars. I ended up with three healthy butterflies, one diseased and broken butterfly, and one dead butterfly.
"Okay, guys," I told them, "I have to talk to you about your butterflies before we release them today."
"Because their dead?" someone asked me. I guess the word had spread.
"Well, you should know that butterflies are kind of like insects, they don't really think. It's not like a person, but, yes, two of them are dead." That's when the butterfly accusations began. It was really my fault because I told them if they bothered the cage it would kill them. Unfortunately, one of them knocked over the cage when she was sharpening a pencil.
"Kisha did it," they declared.
"That is not what happened," I told them. "They were sick before they were born. Sometimes nature is like that. Now, it is time to release the rest of them, so we'll get them out of the pod and take them outside to release them."
"How will you know which one is ours?"
"Well, because ours are dead."
So, we took the cage out. All the kids lined up, and I removed the net over the cage. Three butterflies flew away dramatically. One sickly butterfly flapped its diseased half wing. It rolled out onto the concrete.
"It's stuck!" they declared. After about five minutes of staring at it, someone suggested poking it. I don't know why I agreed to this, but I did.
"Okay," I said, "Dale, only, poke it carefully." Well, Dale poked it, but it didn't go anywhere. By now, I was kind of laughing, but two kids were crying.
"Let's put it in a tree," someone suggested.
"Why not?" I thought. "Okay, Kevin, pick it up carefully and put it in the tree." So we all moved the butterfly to the tree. Guess what, the butterfly was so gone it wouldn't stick to the tree. It kept falling back on the ground. Every time this happened the kids, in unison, said, "awwwwww."
"I think we better leave it by the tree," I said. "It is shy when we're all here." So we left the butterfly there, like an offering in front of the tree, and we went out to recess.
I figured that none of the kids would remember the release of the butterflies as much as the death and disease of the butterflies, but there was nothing I could do about it.
That afternoon one of my students who lost her three year old cousin over Easter weekend asked to share the program from the funeral. All the kids gathered on the carpet and she held up the program with a picture of her cousin.
"This is Janelle," she said proudly. "She loved butterflies and princesses and she was my cousin. She fell into a pool and drowned for three minutes. Her brother came outside and saw her in the pool. They tried to save her, but she died in the hospital."
"How old is she?" one of the kids asked.
"She was only three years old," she said, with her voice breaking. "On the day of the funeral, we saw a butterfly on a flower that flew away into the sky."
Myself and the nine-year-olds were all crying. Suddenly, we all remembered the release of the butterflies a little differently.