Verizon Helps Give Wings to Local STEM Program

On a beautiful, sunny day at Butterfly Pavilion, the first stand-alone, non-profit invertebrate zoo in the nation located in Westminster, Colorado, more than 1,600 live butterflies and 200 plant species thrive in the Wings of the Tropics habitat. Children shriek with delight at the brilliant colors of the butterflies flitting around. A curious toddler stoops to make sure no one steps on a butterfly that has landed in a sidewalk puddle.

In 2015, Verizon began an initial partnership with Butterfly Pavilion by awarding it a $5,000 grant to support its “Growing Scientists” program, a program rooted in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) designed to introduce low-income youth to these topics. The “Growing Scientists” program will educate students in kindergarten through second grade for a period of over three years, serving 1,500 kids per year.

“Butterfly Pavilion couldn’t be more excited to partner with forward-thinking STEM advocates like Verizon,” says Fund Development Director Andy Szekeres. “We both value the next generation of life science thinkers.”

“The partnership is about getting kids into STEM and encouraging them to learn about science, especially with those who might have little access to outdoor space,” Szekeres continues. “How do you get kids, especially young girls, excited about science? You put them in a room full of butterflies!”

The “Growing Scientists” program employs a three-pronged approach to fostering interest and learning in the life sciences. Students, families and friends, and educators are all a part of the program. Teachers involved will receive key curriculum training on STEM, and after they pass on their knowledge, students will present a project to their family and friends about what they’ve learned.

Providing an entryway to larger learning opportunities is a main component of Butterfly Pavilion’s mission, with the STEM program serving as one great example, in addition to the facility’s ongoing dedication to research. Butterfly Pavilion is a national leader in research for:

1. Urban Prairies Project: working to regrow prairie grasslands

Butterfly Pavilion partners with cities to create project plans/blueprints, as well as working with governments to convert open space.

2. Leading partner in the Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Project: providing resources on how to provide pollinator habitats, especially around Monarch Butterflies

Butterfly Pavilion helps citizens track, identify and count butterfly populations. According to the facility, 80 percent of the Monarch population has been declining over the past 20 years.

3. Tarantula Breeding: helping to create a species survival plan for the Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula

The Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula breed is a threatened species due to pet trade and habitat loss. Butterfly Pavilion successfully breeds numerous endangered species of spiders at the facility. The Pavilion also works with other zoos and conservation groups to establish a sustainable breeding program of the tarantulas to take away pet trade.

If you’re interested in learning more about the “Growing Scientists” program or about Butterfly Pavilion in general, visit