Butterflies Under Pressure: Innovative new education resource launches at Oxford primary school

Butterflies Under Pressure: Innovative new education resource launches at Oxford primary school

A team of academics, including researchers from Oxford Brookes University have teamed up with a performance company to create an education tool that utilises PE and dance to help children learn about the perils that caterpillars face in their habitats.

The cross-curricular project was created by Dr Casper J Breuker of Oxford Brookes, and Dr Melanie Gibbs of The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH), with contributions from Dr Ellie Beaman of Oxford Brookes, and in collaboration with performance company Lynnebec.

On Tuesday, 15th March, ‘Butterflies Under Pressure’, was launched with a live performance at Windmill Primary School in Oxford. The project, which is aimed at Key Stage 1 and 2 children, aged 5-11, will now be rolled out for use across the UK.

Children in school

Superpillars Assemble!

The centrepiece of the resource is ‘Superpillars Assemble’, which is a dance routine to educate children about moths and butterflies, and the important role they play in the food chain. It also alludes to the negative impact humans can have on them.

After the launch in Oxford, Butterflies Under Pressure, organised by the Oxford Brookes Science Bazaar, will now be available across the UK through a video recording of the dance routine, for children to watch and dance along. Furthermore, there is an accompanying leaflet with further information and original artwork.

Dr Breuker, from the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences at Oxford Brookes, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had a huge impact on education across the globe. When in-person teaching was not a possibility for children to continue learning, online platforms became the next best step.

“However, some subjects like science can often require a ‘hands on’ type of delivery to keep young children fully engaged, and also to help educators support delivery of teaching to students with a range of different learning styles.”

A child cutting a crafted butterfly head out of cardboard

Launching at Windmill Primary School

The launch at Windmill Primary School involved children in reception and year 5 classes, who participated in an arts and crafts session to create “Superpillar” masks, and then took part in a live dance routine with Lynnebec performers Catherine Butler and Jessica Barber.

Dr Gibbs, who is an Insect Community Ecologist at UKCEH, said: “It was wonderful to see the idea come to life at the launch at Windmill Primary School, and to be able to see the children engaged in such an important topic in their curriculum.

“We are now very excited that ‘Butterflies Under Pressure’ is being rolled out to schools across the UK, so that thousands more children can benefit from this free education tool.”

Headteacher of Windmill Primary School, Mrs Lynn Knapp said: “The opportunity for our children to learn about science through the medium of dance was amazing. The “Superpillars Assemble” really inspired the children and helped them all to learn.”

A child decorating a paper butterfly head