Year of the Butterfly

From spring through fall 2021, we joined with local partners to bring awareness to our community about how to support a healthy habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. The collaborative effort was inspired and guided by the Village of Oak Park’s Year of the Butterfly proclamation and the Illinois Monarch Project.

Community member and West Cook Wild Ones board member Douglas Chien on why monarch populations are in trouble and what we can do to help.

How did it go?

1. Distributed 100 free milkweed seed packets

Monarch butterfly populations have been in decline for years. One main reason is habitat loss, especially the decline in native plants such as milkweed, which feeds monarch caterpillars. To help our neighbors help monarchs, we distributed 100 packets of milkweed seeds to Oak Park residents, for planting this fall.

2. Planted two new native pollinator gardens

In May, a team of library staff and volunteers planted new pollinator gardens filled with native plants outside the Main Library entrance and at Maze Branch. We registered both gardens as Monarch Waystations.

These new pollinator gardens encourage meaningful intergenerational interactions with individuals about the environment, as well as contribute positively to creating habitats where butterflies can thrive.

Elise loves the purple prairie clover in the Main Library pollinator garden.

3. Held community activities for all ages

With Oak Park and River Forest school groups, congregations, nonprofits, and more, we offered events and activities to help inform residents about butterflies, especially monarchs, including some of the dangers they face and what can be done to help.

Some highlights:

Families learning together (and sharing their photos with us!)

All summer, kids and families were busy drawing, observing, crafting, and reading about plants and pollinators in this year’s summer reading program, with special activities that tied into the Year of the Butterfly. See photos and stories they shared with us »

Pollinator programs at the Oak Park Conservatory

In June and August, we partnered with the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, the Park District of Oak Park, and Wonder Works Children’s Museum for two fun events at the Oak Park Conservatory. We rode the library’s Book Bike to the Conservatory to explore pollinators with families through activities, rhymes, and storytime picture books.

Students sharing their learning

Benjamin, a Brooks Middle School seventh grader, created a poster all about monarchs that hung at the library this summer. Benjamin is on the Brooks Environmental Action Team (BEAT), which drove the effort to make 2021 the Year of the Butterfly in Oak Park. Brooks science teacher Laura Stamp told us, “I admire his passion and interest in all of these subjects and am so glad he’s a part of the BEAT!” Read more »

Bicycle tour of native gardens

In August, we partnered with Bike Walk Oak Park for a bicycle tour of native gardens throughout Oak Park. “I loved it,” said one participant. “It was a wonderful collaboration with Bike Walk Oak Park, and I appreciated how family-friendly and community-building it was.” Read more »

Tutorials, at-home activities & more

We also shared resources and activities, including this video tutorial on how to make butterfly origami and a two-part series of at-home activities for grade schoolers (check out part 1 and part 2).

More about the year-long initiative & participants

Event recaps & more

More Year of the Butterfly posts »

Illinois Monarch Project

Formed in 2016, the Illinois Monarch Project is a coalition of agencies, organizations, and individuals committed to helping monarch butterflies thrive throughout Illinois.

As part of a regional effort, the project is committed to the goal of adding 150 million new milkweed stems and other nectar resources to the Illinois landscape by 2038. Read the Illinois Monarch Action Plan to learn more »

Oak Park’s Year of the Butterfly proclamation

In December 2021, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service postponed listing the monarch butterfly as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. After learning this, students on the Brooks Middle School Earth Action Team (BEAT) got the idea to launch a community-wide effort to declare 2021 the Year of the Butterfly.

Year of the Butterfly collaborators