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Predicting the Route
of the Monarch's Spring Migration

Overview
As the monarchs pour out of Mexico in the spring, where do you think they will arrive first, and what pathway do you suppose they will travel? Think about this question and make some predictions as you watch the butterflies spread throughout their northern breeding range. Then form a hypothesis as to why the monarchs travel where they do.

Preparation
Print a copy of the blank monarch migration map and the Migration Route Prediction Chart for each student or student group.

Time
1-2 periods; revisit regularly during weekly migration updates

Standards

Teacher Tip: Mapping the Monarch Migration

Laying the Groundwork

  • Challenge students to predict the route of the monarch migration from Mexico, as the butterflies enter the United States in the spring. Ask, In which U.S. states do you think the butterflies will arrive first, second, third, and so on? Have them draw their predicted route on the blank migration map. They should then record the names of the states where they predict the monarchs will arrive in the left-hand column of the Migration Route Prediction Chart.
  • Ask students to explain the thinking behind their predictions and respond to one or both of these questions in their journals:

    Why do you think the migration will travel in the direction you predicted?
    (What do you already know or what have you observed in the past?)

Exploration

  1. As the monarch migration progresses, have students record the names of the states where the butterflies actually arrived, in chronological order.
    Adaptation for younger students:
    Simply have students count and name the states where the monarchs have arrived.
  2. Have students routinely revisit their predictions and explanations each time they receive a new update. If they make changes, ask, What new information or observations caused you to revise your thinking?
  3. At the end of the season, ask students to describe the patterns they saw and compare them with their initial predictions. Ask them to form hypotheses to explain why the butterflies traveled when and where they did. (For instance, "Butterflies move to areas near water where the temperatures are warmer.") Ask, How could we test our hypotheses?

Making Connections — Journaling and Discussion Questions

  • In what ways was the migration similar to your original prediction?
  • In what ways was the migration different than you predicted? Explain what you did not know originally that caused your prediction to be off.
  • What did you learn about climate and geography from tracking the migration?
  • What did you learn about monarch biology?

Assessment
As you listen to discussions, review student journals, and see how students revise prediction charts and maps, use the Making Predictions Using Data rubric.

Education Standards >>

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