Search for Resources

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

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Collecting and analyzing data
  • Using data to make predictions
  • Presenting information in different ways
  • Calculating migration rates
  • Interpreting patterns and trends in data
  • Using tools and apparatus to carry out investigations
  • Working cooperatively with team members to develop and carry out a plan
  • Identifying and using a variety of sources and technologies to gather information
  • Using an on-line tool to record data


  • 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

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
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

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

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
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:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
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 the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Good
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered

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

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

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:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

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

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
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.

Integrated Learning Good

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

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


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 student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Very Good
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
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 included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  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.