Dozens of butterflies fluttered through a newly refurbished flower garden on the Ashland Middle School campus Thursday.
Grown from caterpillars in the school's science classrooms, the butterflies began hatching over the past week and were brought outside in front of several classes of students.
"This is very exciting," said Lynn Kunstman, a retired AMS science teacher who first created the butterfly garden at the school in 2006.
Kunstman said that although the garden was popular among students, it wasn't used after she retired in 2011.
With the help of a $500 grant from the Ashland Schools Foundation, current science teacher Jennifer Craugh and her students restored the garden this year, planting a fresh set of vegetation that they hope will entice the butterflies to stay nearby.
Science classes at AMS raised caterpillars and oversaw them as they went through their molting stage and formed a chrysalis before emerging as butterflies.
Kunstman returned to the school to watch the butterfly release and see the refurbished garden.
"I think it's great that somebody is taking it on," Kunstman said.
Craugh said she hoped that the painted lady butterflies, whose lifespan lasts only a couple of weeks, would continue to reproduce and still be around in the fall when students return to class.
"We're hoping they lay eggs on the host plants and new generations will hatch," said Craugh.
In addition to flowers, milkweed was planted in the garden to attract the butterflies and provide a place for them to lay their eggs.
Students huddled around the garden Thursday afternoon as a few classmates released the butterflies from the cylindrical mesh containers they were living in.
Most of the large black and orange butterflies flew away from the garden and high into the air, while a few stayed behind on the garden floor.
Seventh-grader Hannah Doyle said she liked having the butterflies inside the classroom over the last week.
"It was cool to have the butterfly thing in our classroom so that we could see them every day," she said.
Hannah said it took about two weeks for the caterpillars to transform into butterflies.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.