Butterflies! At-home activities for grade schoolers (part 1)

The Village of Oak Park has proclaimed 2021 as the Year of the Butterfly, and we’re doing our part to ensure everyone knows all they can to protect the monarch butterfly!

Want to help? Find facts, fun activities and resources, books to check out, and programs to attend below. Plus, stay tuned for more this summer and beyond!

Anatomy of a butterfly: A butterfly’s body has three main parts: (1) the head, (2) the thorax, and (3) the abdomen. These drawings show the chief external features and internal organs of a female monarch butterfly.
World Book illustrations by Sandra Doyle, Wildlife Art Ltd., and Patricia Wynne

Discover facts about monarch butterflies

About the monarch butterfly

  • Scientific classification: Danaus plexippus  [dah-knee-us plehx-ip-us]
  • Family: Danaidae of milkweed butterflies [dahn-ay-day]
  • Scientific order: Lepidoptera [leh-pih-dahpt-era]
  • Migration: The monarch butterfly exists around the world (North, Central, and South America). In North America the monarch butterfly migrates in big groups in the fall, south to California, Florida, and Mexico each winter.
  • Wing color: Adult monarch butterflies have reddish-brown wings, with black veins and black borders with two rows of white dots. The bright orange color warns predators that the monarch is poisonous. The poison comes from the monarch’s food source, a plant called milkweed.
  • Extinction: Climate change disrupts the butterfly’s cycles of reproduction and migration. Also, removing milkweed plants stops the monarch’s food supply. These create the extinction of the monarch.

Key terms to know

  • Migration: Movements of animals from one place to another, often over large distances, at regular times of the year.
  • Milkweed: A flowering plant. The only plant where monarchs lay their eggs. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed leaves.
  • Extinct: No longer existing.

See sources below »

Check out these titles/kits available on Hoopla and at your library

  • How to Raise Monarch Butterflies by Carol Pasternak: This book is a step-by-step guide to raising monarch butterflies and understanding their lifecycle (grades 1+).
  • Monarch Butterfly Kit: Kit includes three milkweed seed balls, one puppet, one informational sheet, and How to Raise Monarch Butterflies by Carol Pasternak (grades K-5).

Explore these online resources

  • Illinois Monarch Project: Learn about the Illinois Monarch Project statewide initiative to conserve the breeding and feeding habitat of the monarch butterfly and other regional pollinators (grades 4+).
  • Journey North: Track the progress of monarch butterflies migrating north (grades 3+).
  • ASL Information About Monarch Butterflies: Watch this fun, educational video created by the National Mall, Memorial Parks, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to learn more about these wonderful creatures (grades 4+, 2 min. 10 sec., National Park Service).
  • Monarch Joint Venture: Find out what type of milkweed seeds are good for your region/state (grades 3+).

Attend these virtual programs

Hosted by your library

Join us virtually for butterfly facts and fun!

  • Year of the Butterfly Storytimes, Wednesdays, May 5, 12, 19, & 26, 10-10:30 am. Learn about butterflies through songs and stories with Miss Eileen!
  • Gardening Party With Girl Scouts, Sunday, May 16, 11 am-12 pm. Join us at a Spring Gardening Party, co-hosted by the Girl Scouts! At this event, we will read a story about gardening, talk about why gardening is important, and make a planter out of a recyclable container. Families of all ages are welcome!

In your community

Check out these events in your neighborhood, to do your planet some good!