Eloise Butler continues to teach Minneapolis kids 77 years after her death.

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis is one of those “gonna-stop-there-some-day” places that I finally visited today. As part of a science-focused summer school curriculum this year, the Minneapolis School District is sending all the 4th grade classrooms on field trips to this beautiful, quiet section of the Minneapolis Parks system.

Native prairie grasses grow in part of the wildlife sanctuary. (All photos by Steve Date)

I’ve driven by this place on Theodore Wirth Parkway many times, usually on my way to the Wirth Golf Course, but I never knew who Eloise Butler was or what was behind the gate. Today I learned that she was a science teacher in the Minneapolis schools for 36 years. According to one of the signs in the park, she “became known for taking students ‘botanizing’ in the bogs of Glenwood Park”. She believed what a lot of teachers still do — that the best way to teach kids natural science is to have them experience nature first-hand. Butler, along with several other science teachers, persuaded the Minneapolis Park Board to set aside a small parcel of land as a natural botanic garden. This “Wild Botanic Garden” opened in April of 1907.

Becka, our guide (gray shirt) did a great job of helping the students make observations about the wildlife that surrounded us in the Quaking Bog section of the park. Notice the Target gear -- they

The kids had a great time and seemed to learn a lot. I want to thank Target Corp. as well as the Minneapolis Public Schools for making this trip possible for our students. No one in my group (including me) had ever been here before and it was a beautiful as well as educational experience for all of us. We’re lucky to live in a city with such a wonderful public parks system and the Eloise Butler Garden and Sanctuary is a hidden treasure within that system.

Tatiana made some nice drawings of what she saw today.

Today we learned that Eloise Butler actually died in the sanctuary and her ashes were scattered there, in the place she loved. Some people have reported seeing her walking around in the park from time to time in the years since then. We didn’t see her today, but I do know that she left a wonderful legacy. It makes me happy that she was a public school teacher in my city. She knew that if the city would agree to keep this place in its natural state, that children — and adults — would always be able to visit and “let nature be their teacher”. Thank you, Eloise. The Minneapolis kids are still learning in your special place. I hope you’re resting in peace.

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