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Sunny SkyHands raised high in the air, students anxiously waited to be called on to explain the stages of a butterfly to the class. Instructor Yvette Cotera, better known as "Ms. C," decided to let the class explain together so that no one would be left out.

It was only the first day of class and the kids were already excited to learn.

The Butterfly in the Sky program is an all-inclusion class that convenes at 9:30 a.m. every Saturday, through Aug. 2, in Pinecrest Gardens for children to learn about the world of butterflies by exploring the botanical garden.

The class began with attendance while the students decorated their visors. Then, the artists moved into groups to create the flutter of a butterfly using paint, a ball and their imagination.

Cotera, 55, is a VSA (Very Special Arts) Florida certified instructor and knows her students by their first names.

"We try to make them all feel welcome. We have two students with high-functioning autism, but you can't tell who they are," Cotera said.

After the flutter of the butterfly was complete, each student put on their visors and were guided by Pamela Driza, 30, to get in a straight line before heading out to explore the botanical garden and plant milkweeds, a plant known to attract butterflies.

"This is great; my mom has been an art teacher for a long time," Driza said. "I'm an interior designer now because of my mother. Her artistic talent is infectious."

On the trail to the garden, the children are instructed to have a buddy at all times. Each group is given a mini-shovel, water for the plants and a magnifying glass to find little white eggs that are usually hidden under a leaf.

As they posed for photos and planted milkweeds, the group began spotting butterflies that surrounded their plants.

Once they finished planting, everyone lined up with their buddy, headed back to the art room to wash up and then the artists created their own butterflies. At the end of the program, each student is allowed to take their art work home for all to see.

"It's just very inspiring," Driza said. "No matter how old or young, it's just a great environment to learn in."

Registration for the Butterfly in the Sky program has ended, but there will be a program similar to this called Creative Crafts at Pinecrest Gardens beginning in October for children 6 to 12; 5-year-olds are welcome with a parent.

"It's all kids inclusive, meaning we don't exclude any children based on their ability," said Lisa Toy, Educational Program coordinator for Pinecrest Gardens.

The registration fee is $52 and includes a full session, materials and entrance to the botanical garden, petting zoo and Splash N' Play. For information, call Cotera at 305-753-5341.

*****

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(Article courtesy: Adrianne Richardson via Miami Herald).
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