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Brookside Garden's Wings of Fancy


June through September in Silver Spring, MD

The annual Wings of Fancy exhibit allows visitors to explore hundreds of live caterpillars and butterflies up close and personal in an environment rife with opportunities to practice strong communication skills! This guide, initially published in 2015, has been revamped to include additional nature activities and suggestions for other exhibits to visit at Brookside Gardens.


EXPLORE: Sequencing
ENRICH: Narrative Abilities

ENGAGE: The ability to put sequential steps in order



  • The Wings of Fancy exhibit has a lot of educational information about caterpillars and butterflies. Explore the exhibits with your child and look for information about the life cycle of the butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. See if you can find photos or even live examples of each of the stages of the butterfly's metamorphosis. Afterwards, ask your child to retell the steps of the life cycle:

    • Use complete sentences

    • Include all four steps

    • Sequence the steps in order


2016 BONUS: After exploring "Wings of Fancy" and talking about the life cycle of butterflies, visit the Rose Garden. Talk with your child about the life cycle of flowers and plants. Have him/her sequence the steps, using a visual like this one if your child needs the picture support.


EXPLORE: Listening for Details
ENRICH: Oral Comprehension of Nonfiction Information

ENGAGE: The ability to recall key details



  • At the exhibit, find the brochure provided entitled "Gardening for Butterflies." The brochure talks about what types of plants butterflies need to thrive. Read the information aloud to your child and talk about the qualities of plants that will attract butterflies to a garden. Afterwards, ask your child to answer the following questions:

    • Why do butterflies need host plants?

    • How do butterflies use nectar plants?

    • How much sunlight do most host and nectar plants need?


2016 BONUS: Visit the Children's Garden to continue practicing listening for details. Embed basic language concepts, such as colors, shapes, and prepositions, into directions for your child to follow (click here for a more comprehensive list of basic language concepts). For example, "Go THROUGH the gate and find a YELLOW flower."


EXPLORE: Multisyllabic Words
ENRICH: Phonological Speech Skills

ENGAGE: The ability to produce 3-, 4-, and 5-syllable words



  • Pronunciation of all of the syllables of multisyllabic words is an important key to speaking clearly and being easily understood. You can easily work on this skill with your child at the Wings of Fancy event, with the many butterfly-related words containing 3, 4, and 5 syllables: bu-tter-fly, chry-sa-lis, ca-ter-pill-ar, me-ta-morph-o-sis, etc. As you come across these multisyllabic words, ask your child to do the following tasks:

    • Count the syllables in the word

    • Say the word slowly, clapping his/her hands as he/she says each syllable

    • Use the word in a short sentence, making sure to say all syllables


2016 BONUS: Review the map of the gardens (link above and also available in hard copy a and find all of the locations that have 3-5 syllables in their nameL Ja-pa-nese, la-by-rinth, pe-renn-i-al, etc. Have your child practice each word in isolation, then use it in a short sentence. For an extra challenge, encourage your child to use two words in one sentence!


EXPLORE: Conversational Skills
ENRICH: Social Use of Language

ENGAGE: The ability to maintain a conversation for several turns



  • Encourage your child to be a true Speech Explorer by initiating a conversation with someone at the exhibit - be it a staff member or a fellow visitor - and maintaining the conversation for at least three back-and-forth turns. Before arriving at the exhibit, practice some potential questions and responses with your child that they can use to extend their conversation. Remind him/her to do the following:

    • Initiate the conversation politely (e.g. Hello! What do you think of this butterfly?)

    • Make at least two follow-up comments or ask follow-up questions (e.g. I like that it has spots. Do you know where this butterfly lives?)

    • Politely end the conversation (e.g. Thanks for talking with me! Enjoy the rest of the exhibit.)


2016 BONUS: After your visit to the Wings of Fancy exhibit, help your child continue social language practice by having a collaborative conversation with someone about butterflies, taking turns sharing what they know about butterflies. You can use a turn-taking visual like this one to help your child remember to give his/her conversation partner plenty of opportunities to talk.

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