Nancy Jones (left) and Kirsten Ingbretsen (right) stand in front of the Butterfly mural at Idyllwild School. Photo courtesy Kirsten Ingbretsen

Idyllwild School uses butterfly effect to benefit Help Center

Educational inspiration can come from many sources. Community projects also have a myriad of origins. In Idyllwild, the “Butterfly Effect” joins community benefit with education.

In August, while in San Diego at an educational conference, Idyllwild Middle School history teacher Kirsten Ingbretsen “… came across giant butterfly wings meant for people to stand in front of and take a photo … and so we did …”

She had discovered the philanthropic “Butterfly Effect” and was galvanized to bring it to Idyllwild School and the community. “…I was instantly touched and inspired,” she said.

The “Butterfly Effect” is the creation of Tasha Wahl of San Diego. She started it in 2013 and Ingbretsen has brought it to Idyllwild. It’s social media and philanthropy.

“Once an install is authorized, [Wahl] will donate from her organization $1 for every photo taken inside her wings (following some social media hashtag steps) to a charity of our choice for up to one year,” Ingbretsen explained.

Have your photograph taken with the butterfly, let Ingbretsen or one of the group have the photo and they will post it to Instagram and the Idyllwild Help Center will benefit.

On Sept. 29, dozens of Idyllwild School students helped paint the Butterfly on the outside of the gymnasium and a traveling butterfly that visits various events in town.
Photo by JP Crumrine

“I felt really strongly that it
could benefit our community.”

In Wahl’s words, “The Butterfly Effect is an underground movement redefining philanthropy one ‘butterfly’ at a time by providing individuals the opportunity to give to a cause close to their heart. Harnessing the power of social media, we create a ripple effect of contagious generosity through our Butterfly Drops and Social Butterfly Installations.”

Wahl also speaks to the need to “be the change you want to see.” Ingbretsen discovered the Butterfly Effect in August. With the help of fellow teacher Christy Tilley, she reached out to Wahl and sought to become part of the Butterfly Effect.

Ingbretsen explained to Wahl about the damage the Cranston Fire created and need to help the community. “She loved our story and granted my request for the Help Center to become one of the benefiting organizations,” Ingbretsen said of Wahl. “I felt really strongly that it could benefit our community.”

Verbal concurrence and agreement were only the first steps. But Idyllwild needed a butterfly. So, Ingbretsen designated Saturday, Sept. 29, as the day to bring the butterfly to Idyllwild. In fact, there are two 6-foot high butterflies.

One is a permanent mural on the side of the Idyllwild School gymnasium and the other is mobile, the “traveling butterfly.” This one can move from site to site, from event to event. This weekend, look for the Butterfly at the Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Wahl began the Butterfly Effect at the Mall of America in Minneapolis in 2013. Originally, Wahl hid the butterfly, and people had to find it and take a photo before a donation was made.

But now there are human-sized butterflies all over the country. Idyllwild’s traveling butterfly has already been to the Art Alliance’s Art Walk and Wine Tasting, Idyllwild Arts parents weekend and, most recently, it graced Middle Ridge Winery Tasting Gallery over Halloween.

Wahl has raised the money to pay the donation to the groups across the country. “Take the photo and text it to me,” Ingbretsen said.

A butterfly’s life span is relatively short in human time. The life span of the Butterfly Effect for each organization is 12 months, according to Ingbretsen. This is the reason for gaining permission for a traveling butterfly. She hopes to gain greater exposure and more photos than if it were only at the school.

And the school has embraced the project through her purpose and energy. Principal Matt Kraemer, in an email, wrote, “One of the goals in our school’s Action Plan for this year is to provide opportunities for students to be involved in their community and find ways to give back to others. The Butterfly Effect is one of those activities we do to achieve this goal. I believe when students do things for other people it builds their self-esteem and they gain more confidence in themselves.”