Enriching Philadelphia: Butterflies and Treasures
This is an installment of our Enriching Philadelphia series, written by tutor Jane Wiedmann, highlighting enriching local activities in Philadelphia. Jane is an elementary tutor and painter with a degree in Art History. She recently attended the Butterflies! garden and exhibit at the Academy of Natural Sciences and wrote about her experience.
Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
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Hi friends! Before I tell you about my latest enriching adventure, I just wanted to say that although I write these posts with families in mind, I highly recommend grownups going on their own. It can be such a pleasure to be in field-trip territory without anyone to chaperone, and parents and educators need time to fill their well of knowledge and creativity.
As an artist, writer, and tutor, I find so much inspiration and comfort in the diversity of the natural world, so last week, I decided to take in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University’s Butterfly Garden and Treasures from the Mineral Vault exhibits. Photographing beautiful patterns is a hobby of mine, so I was super excited.
Dress in layers when you go—The Butterfly Garden is hot. The steamy air even makes it feel a little like a spa visit.
Upon entering the butterfly room, a sign told me to watch my step, and “If a butterfly lands on you, enjoy its company.” I so hoped I would get to heed that advice!
I moved delicately among the lantana and other plants, watching the butterflies feast on flowers and sticky fruit. In one corner, a mesmerizing team (I looked up the actual collective noun for butterflies, and it’s swarm, which doesn’t feel quite right.) of Blue Morphos fluttered around, the bottom of their wings dull but intricately patterned and the tops like living jewels.
My dream of butterfly company came true when a bright yellow one landed on me several times. I felt ticklish, special, and honored all at once, and I was grateful that a fellow visitor was willing to take a picture of me with my new pal.
The Treasures from the Mineral Vault exhibit was just as absorbing, if less interactive. I’m obsessed with gems partly because of Steven Universe (Ask your kids if you don’t know it, they definitely do.) and partly because I love seeing the dazzling variety of colors, shapes, textures, and patterns that nature can come up with.
This display was particularly instructive because it showcased the way that one mineral, like quartz, can take on many variations of color, luster, and form. Quartz’s repertoire, from opal to moss agate, awakens an awe for the extraordinary processes going on beneath our feet. The feldspar, calcite, and fluorite arrays are no less breathtaking.
If you want to take in the whole museum and/or are visiting with kids, plan about three hours for your visit. If you’re on a grownup field trip for just butterflies and minerals it can be done in one to two hours. Happy adventuring!