Monarch Butterfly Migration Update: August 29, 2003
Today's Report Includes:
Welcome to Journey South's Migration Season!
At the same time, a magical event takes place in the animal world. Perhaps traveling over your own head right now--or clustered by the hundreds in a nearby tree--the annual monarch butterfly migration to Mexico is underway.
It's such an unlikely story! As if autumn leaves could arrest their fall, point southward, and float all the way to Mexico. The butterflies are born knowing everything they need to survive, so we look on with wonder:
Come travel with the monarchs as we explore questions like these. In the weeks ahead, we'll see what scientists know about these mysteries, and how much more there is to learn.
Highlights From the Migration Trail: Northern Monarchs Begin the Journey
Here are comments from some observers:
How much class time does it take to map the monarch migration? Fourth grade teacher Dave Kust spends anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours a week, depending on his goals. Here's a recent interview:
Monarch butterflies are born knowing the way to Mexico--do you? Guess which way they should fly from your home town. Then use an atlas and compass to find out if you're right. Measure the distance to the Mexican monarch sanctuaries, then make a road sign in your classroom that points the way to Mexico and reads "This Way to Mexico: ___ Miles"
How Do Monarchs Know the Way to Go?
Observing the Sky Like a Butterfly
The first step in the long journey to Mexico begins by going in the right direction. Knowing the correct direction to travel is called "orientation." Monarchs orient by 1) knowing what time it is and 2) watching what the sun does during the day. Scientists call this inborn knowledge a "time-compensated sun compass."
It's easier to understand monarch orientation if you observe the same cues monarchs use while they travel. Here's how: On a sunny day, go outside with a compass, some stones and a long stick. Once every hour, place stones on the stick's shadow. Collect your observations exactly one hour apart at least 2 times. Then answer Challenge Question #1:
Challenge Questions: A Central Tool for Student Learning
Journey North provides "Challenge Questions" in each weekly monarch update. Challenge Questions model the thinking/questioning process that scientists use in their work. For more information and suggested classroom use see:
As you learn about monarchs during the school year, keep a list of everything monarchs are born knowing how to do. For fun, compare the age at which humans learn to do the same things. Just think: All that information is carried from generation to generation inside an egg that's smaller than the head of a pin!
Remember: We can't track migration without your help. Please come to the web and share your observations. Thanks for your help!
How to Respond to Today's Challenge Question
1. Address an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. In the Subject Line of the message write: Challenge Question #1
3. In the body of the message, answer the question above.
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