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Fall Monarch Migration

Elementary, Middle


This resource engages students in a study of wildlife migration by tracking the fall flight of monarch butterflies to Mexico. Using an on-line tool, Canadian students track monarch butterfly sightings in early fall, along with students from the United States and Mexico.

Before beginning the tracking activity, students learn how to identify a monarch butterfly, relate changing seasonal habitat to the timing of migration, and are trained to calculate migration rates and submit sighting reports. 'Migration Journals" are used to chronicle each step in the process.

The package includes parent letters, maps, slide shows, planning guides, journal pages, many reproducibles, related links, suggested activities, and word glossaries.

A  brief description of each lesson follows.

Lesson One: The Magic of Monarch Butterfly Migration (3X60min)

After reading "The Migration of Monarch Butterfly", students locate their home province and the monarch's winter home on a map of North America. Research questions are then explored and keywords defined in "Migration Journals".

Lesson Two: Do You Know A Monarch When You See One? (3X60min)

After reading "Do You Know  A Monarch When You See One?", students do a scientific illustration of a monarch butterfly, compare and contrast a monarch and viceroy butterfly using a Venn diagram, and discover words and concepts related to butterfly parts and identification. Students share and discuss their work.

Lesson Three: When, Where and How To Watch Fall Migration  (5X60min)

After viewing a Power Point presentation, students describe three ways to monitor fall migration, read and analyze real monarch observations, calculate migration rates, list essential items in a sighting report, and submit a practice sighting report to the Journey North website.

Lesson Four: Fall Habitat Observations (7X60min)

After discussing how a monarch's habitat provides the basic needs for survival, students collect and analyze data on how seasonal changes relate to the timing of fall migration. They use this data to predict the timing of fall migration in their community. Findings are summarized and presented in booklets, scrapbooks, or discovery posters.

Lesson Five: Follow The Migration

Students use the on-line tool to report regularly on monarch butterfly sightings in their areas. They continue to record interesting data and information in their journals as well.

General Assessment


  • Very interesting and provides a unique learning opportunity for students
  • Easy to use and all handouts/reproducibles are very student friendly
  • It is up to date
  • Has an out-of-doors experience
  • Fun interactive activities are included
  • Related lessons and links are outstanding
  • All lessons have a Power Point option to use for those who would have trouble reading articles
  • Planning guides are excellent
  • On-line tracking tool is easy to use
  • Lessons are written so that most students can be successful, although no adaptations are provided for modifying work
  • Touches on a number of subject areas
  • Students have an opportunity to contribute to and be part of an international initiative


  • Resource needs to be initiated in the fall
  • The monarch butterfly does not migrate to all parts of Canada
  • Assessment tools must be developed by the teacher
  • There are no suggestions for modifying work for struggling students
  • There are few opportunities for students to to clarify and express values

What important ideas are implied by the resource, but not taught explicitly?

  • Students have an important role as "citizen scientists".
  • Tracking migration rates and patterns of monarch butterflies may help us to identify environmental stresses and habitat issues before they become catastophic
  • We should appreciate our natural world and the wonders it possesses

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Community-Building and Participation
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Appreciating the Natural World
    • Habitat Loss

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Bias Minimization Satisfactory

A positive bias about the importance of students gaining an appreciation and responsibility for the natural world is presented.

Bias Minimization: Presents as many different points of view as necessary to fairly address the issue(s).
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory

The resource emphasizes the need for society to take notice of important biological phenomenon and appreciate the natural world.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

The resource effectively addresses multiple dimensions of problems and solutions. These should include the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

Respects Complexity Satisfactory

The resource provides thought-provoking activities that encourage both discussion of the students role as "citizen scientists" and as stewards of our natural world.

Respects Complexity: The complexity of problems is respected. A systems-thinking approach is encouraged.
Action Experience Good
Action Experience: Provides opportunities for authentic action experiences in which students can work to make positive change in their communities.
  • Poor = action activities poorly developed
  • Satisfactory = action opportunities are extensions instead of being integral to the main part of the activity
Action Skills Good

Students learn to work cooperatively, collaborate on results, and brainstorm ideas leading them to an appreciation of the importance of biodiversity. This may lead them to take further action in tracking other species through the Journey North website.

Action Skills: Explicitly teaches the skills needed for students to take effective action (e.g. letter-writing, consensus-building, etc.).
Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Very Good

There is an excellent out-of -doors experience.

Personal Affinity with Earth: Actively encourages a personal affinity with non-humans and with Earth. For example, this may involve practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors.
Locally-Focused Good

The tracking of monarch butterflies in their own community gives this resource a local focus.

Locally-Focused: Encourages learning that is locally-focused/made concrete in some way and is relevant to the lives of the learners.
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

There is no discussion of the past. The activity focuses on real-time results and monitoring. It encourages students to continue the tracking of monarch butterflies and other species in the future.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Satisfactory

A combination of structured and guided inquiry is used.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Learning Good

Although primarily a science resource, opportunities are also provided to explore concepts in geography, math, art, and language arts.

Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Learning: Multidisciplinary= addresses a number of different subjects Interdisciplinary= integrated approach that blurs subject lines Good: The resource provides opportunities for learning in a number of traditional 'subject' areas (eg. Language Arts, Science, Math, Art, etc.). Very Good: The resource takes an integrated approach to teaching that blurs the lines between subject boundaries.
Discovery Learning Good
Discovery Learning:

Learning activities are constructed so that students discover and build knowledge for themselves and develop largely on their own an understanding of concepts, principles and relationships. They often do this by wrestling with questions, and/or solving problems by exploring their environment, and/or physically manipulating objects and/or performing experiments.

  • Satisfactory = Students are provided with intriguing questions, materials to use & some direction on how to find answers. The learning involves unique experience & provides some opportunity for an 'ah-hah' event
  • Good = Students are provided with intriguing questions, materials to use, & make their own decisions on how to find answers. The learning involves unique experience & provides definite opportunity for an 'ah-hah' event.
  • Very Good = Students choose what questions to investigate as well as the materials/strategies to use to answer them.
Values Clarification Poor/Not considered

Poor- Students have limited opportunities to identify and express their values.

Values Clarification: Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
  • Poor = Students are not explicitly given an opportunity to clarify their own values.
  • Satisfactory = Students are given a formal opportunity to clarify their own values. The range of perspectives in the resource is limited, therefore, students do not have an appropriate amount of information to clarify their own values.
Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Both cognitive and affective domains are addressed. There are no accommodations suggested for struggling learners, although appropriate groupings would address some of these challenges.

Differentiated Instruction: Activities address a range of learning styles/different intelligences. They teach to both cognitive and affective domains. Accommodations are suggested for people with learning difficulties.
Experiential Learning Very Good
Experiential Learning: Direct, authentic experiences are used.
  • Satisfactory = simulation
  • Good = authentic experience
  • Very Good = authentic experience related to the primary goal of the lesson
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning: Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
  • Satisfactory = students work in groups
  • Good = cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good = cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered

Poor- although reflection questions and answers are provided the lesson guides have no assessment tools for capturing formative or summative information about learning and performance.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory
Peer Teaching: Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
  • Satisfactory = incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good = an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

Although no relevant case studies are given in the lesson, links provide a wealth of information.

Case Studies: Relevant case studies are used. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events in real situations that can be used to examine concepts in an authentic context.
Locus of Control Satisfactory

Although the resource is specific with regards to program content and the medium in which students work, there are opportunities in extension activities to go deeper into chosen issues.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.