Butterfly Day Takes Flight

Butterfly advocate and Mountain Mermaid owner Bill Buerge visits with a swallowtail. Photos courtesy Bill Buerge

As a fitting celebration of a glorious spring full of wildflowers and wildlife, Topanga Elementary School Science Committee and the Topanga Town Council are partnering with Bill Buerge to host the Second Annual Butterfly Day event on June 2, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Mountain Mermaid. This special event was first hosted on May 5, 2018, to highlight the importance of pollinators to our ecosystem and as an outreach to increase awareness of the school in the larger Topanga community.  

Topanga Elementary Charter School (TECS) has two pillars in its charter, science and the arts.  Last year, in collaboration with the US Department of Fish and Wildlife, the school developed a butterfly habitat garden on campus comprised of native plants that support California pollinators including butterflies, bees, moths, and hummingbirds.  

Volunteer parents and children removed non-native species and planted native flowering plants. To decorate the new habitat, children drew images and made clay tiles of a wide array of pollinators, as well as local plants and animals.  

Paul and Matt Doolin of Topanga Art and Tile provided technical skills to help the children transfer their drawings to tiles that were integrated into a beautiful tile mosaic wall supporting the hillside native garden. It was a week of butterfly-themed events including the tile making, a pollinator art contest, butterfly dress day, and the first Butterfly Day event in May.

Our school has a long history of science education with a focus on environmental education and stewardship in an era of an increasingly fragile environment due to the stresses of climate change. This year, students and volunteer parents maintained our growing native butterfly garden and added to our tile mosaic wall, this time with tiles featuring outer space as well as local flora and fauna. After a rainy winter, our garden, like most of Topanga, has been flourishing with new blooms and plant growth.

This year’s Butterfly Day event is free to the community to raise awareness of the essential role of pollinators in preserving our environment and enabling the growth of most of our food sources. The magical setting of the Mountain Mermaid, an official butterfly waystation, includes meandering pathways and arches adorned with a wide array of native and flowering plants that host local butterflies. There is even a permanent butterfly habitat dwelling with live butterflies to visit. Hundreds of pesticide-free native butterfly host and nectar plants will be offered for sale by Sergio Jimenez, who is in charge of butterfly plant propagation at the Mermaid.

Two young participants share their delight in the butterfly house in the garden of Mountain the Mermaid.

Activities for children include books on butterflies and pollinators from the Topanga Library, face painting, origami, and “seed bomb” making. An array of delicious foods and drinks will be available for purchase. Guests are invited to spend a day strolling the gardens and celebrating some of nature’s most extraordinary creatures with live music, and a rich host of activities for adults and children alike.  

Entertainment features renowned local singers-songwriters Pearl Aday and Donna DeLory and performances by two recent elementary school graduates, Aurora Finetti and Allegra Frost.

Pearl Aday is a renowned singer who previously toured as a backup singer in Meat Loaf’s band, Neverland Express, and currently leads her own band, Pearl. Aday is following her critically acclaimed debut album, Little Immaculate White Fox (2015), with Heartbreak and Canyon Revelry.  

Donna DeLory is a singer, dancer, and songwriter with a long and distinguished career. She has sung on albums by Carly Simon, Ray Parker Jr., Santana, Belinda Carlisle, Bette Middler, Barry Manilow, and Madonna, whom she accompanied as backup vocalist and dancer from 1987-2006. She is currently touring to promote her new album.

Both Aday and DeLory live in Topanga with their families and have played an active role encouraging music and the arts at local Topanga schools.

Aurora Finetti and Allegra Frost, both recent alumni of Topanga Elementary Charter School, performed at many events in Topanga including the school musicals, Topanga Youth Services Talent Shows, and Camp Cabaret. Finetti has sung the National Anthem for her track team and for Topanga Days. Frost has competed and won third place for Mandolin as the youngest entrant of the Santa Barbara Old Time FIddle Festival in 2018.

Environmental partners participating in this year’s Butterfly Day are the National Wildlife Federation, the Audubon Society, California Native Plant Society, the Malibu Monarch Project, and the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee of the Town Council.  


All proceeds will benefit science education at Topanga Elementary Charter School. For more information: alisajlandhill@gmail.com.


By Alisa Land Hill


1 Comment
  1. So proud of your hard work! So appreciate your contributions to Topanga Elementary School!! Butterfly day is an amazing celebration of our local pollinators!!

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