Who hasn’t been captivated by the sight of the colorful, delicate wings of the earth’s most fluttery creatures? Has anyone not marveled at the hearty 2,000+ mile migrations these otherwise fragile insects undertake? What gardener hasn’t welcomed the magical creatures that pose no threat, yet perform such valuable services? And what child hasn’t watched gap-jawed as the insect undergoes the metamorphosis from larva to pupa chrysalis to four-winged flyer, revealing one of nature’s most miraculous transformations and breathing hope into ugly ducklings everywhere?
If you have lost touch with your sense of wonder at this gift of nature, it’s time to step lively to the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Situated at the northernmost end of Lincoln Park, the new educational center hosts thousands of nature’s beauties from seven different countries in a 28 ft tall greenhouse. Here you will see butterflies you‘ve never imagined, and will be astounded at the variety of colors, sizes and patterns that flicker by.
Not solely a haven for butterflies, children and photographers are particularly fond of the moist, warm shelter. If, during your trek to Costa Rica or Malaysia, you missed your shot, you’ll find the perfect photo op here.
This is the only butterfly breeding lab in North America. Visitors are intrigued by the chrysalis rack, where hundreds of butterflies hang upside down by a cremaster awaiting emergence of their new forms. Children witness the miracle of nature and learn butterfly facts; that butterflies are cold blooded; when their wings are open, they are gathering heat, when closed, they are warm enough. (One area of the shelter is known as "the beach" since so many butterflies gather there for sunbathing.)
Many believe it is good luck for a butterfly to light on your shoulder yet, guests are encouraged to check themselves in the full-length mirror for "passengers" that may unwittingly hitch a ride. (It‘s a cold, unlucky world outside the shelter for butterflies).
The Nature Museum is more than just butterfly fancy. Walk through the wilderness and examine specimens from the extensive collections of the nature museum, develop your own water works, or explore the ecology center "Extreme Green House."
The Nature Museum’s mission is to bring awareness of the area’s natural resources and ecology to the public. As an extension of the Chicago Society of Science, founded in 1857 by my personal local hero, Robert Kennicott, who grew up in Glenview at the Grove, the nature museum serves to connect urban dwellers with their natural world and develop enrichment and educational programs. Although many special events and exhibits are held onsite, there are many more outreach programs offered through the society via schools and clubs.
Currently, a special exhibit called "Magic: the Science of Illusion" is drawing big crowds. Expect a true frenzy when the Jane Goodall and Galapagos exhibits open in September, 2003.
Thrill a child and bring them where astonishment abounds. No kids? Take the one residing in your heart.