Year of the Butterfly

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. In response, our community has come to together to celebrate 2021 as the “Year of the Butterfly.”

About the Year of the Butterfly

The Village of Oak Park has proclaimed 2021 as the “Year of the Butterfly.” This proclamation, that butterflies inspire hope and renewal, was written by the Brooks Middle School Earth Action Team.

Inspired and guided by this proclamation and the Illinois Monarch Project, your library has joined with local partners to bring awareness to our community about how to support a healthy habitat for butterflies and other pollinators. By working together, we want to spark hopeful action through activities, engagement, education, and stewardship.

Oak Park and River Forest school groups, congregations, nonprofits, and more are offering 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.

Request a free milkweed seed kit

Monarchs need milkweed. That’s why we’re giving away a limited number of butterfly milkweed seed kits to Oak Park residents this September.

Oak Park residents can request their seed kit (limit one per family) by filling out the form below. Kits will be delivered to homes by library staff the first week of September. The kits will include:

Library staff and volunteers planting a new pollinator garden at Maze Branch.

See the new pollinator gardens at the Main Library & Maze Branch

On Saturday, May 22, a team of library staff and volunteers planted new pollinator gardens filled with native plants outside the Main Library entrance and at Maze Branch.

These new pollinator gardens will encourage meaningful intergenerational interactions with individuals about the environment, as well as contribute positively to creating habitats where butterflies can thrive. We hope to register both gardens as a Monarch Waystation.

At Maze Branch, the pollinator garden is a welcome addition to the Community Sensory Garden, which provides an accessible and inclusive space for all, with a variety of learning opportunities.

Plan your own pollinator garden

Here are some resources to help you start thinking about planting your own pollinator-friendly gardens:

Design ideas

Find & buy plants

Native plant sources from West Cook Wild Ones »

More from your library

Butterfly origami

Watch a video tutorial and find more resources »

At-home activities for grade schoolers

Children’s Middle School Librarian Beronica shares facts, fun activities and resources, books to check out & more:

Kids summer reading challenges

Kids ages 3 through rising 9th graders can complete several butterfly and nature activities in this year’s kids summer reading program »

Butterfly storytimes by phone

Call to listen to unique stories, songs, poems, jokes, and more, including ones about caterpillars, butterflies, and gardening »

Reading lists


Adults & teens

More about the 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.

From its website: “Over the past 20 years, the eastern monarch population has faced a significant decline in migratory habitat. The Illinois Monarch Project collaborates with public and private partners, in addition to individuals across the state, to protect and enhance existing habitat and establish new habitat that supports monarch butterflies and other pollinators.”

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 »

More about Oak Park’s Year of the Butterfly proclamation

In December 2021, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decided to postpone 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, according to Oak Park Elementary School District 97.

The students’ proclamation, which was adopted by the Village of Oak Park in February, is timely and hopeful, and it encourages action. It reads in part:

WHEREAS, butterflies as a symbol of hope and immortality can inspire us to keep going through a difficult time; as a symbol of beauty, they can remind us that the smallest things are also important; as a symbol of transformation, they remind us that things can get better.

Some of the library staff and volunteers who worked together to plant new pollinator gardens outside the Main Library and Maze Branch on May 22. Clockwise from top left: Emily Minor, Lucy Horkavy, Linda Miller, Doug Chien, and Dean Horkavy.

Year of the Butterfly collaborators

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