How is a Human Vacation Like Monarch Migration?

1 period and updates throughout the season

Sample Chart (for teachers)
Blank Charts (for students)


When you go on a trip, you have to prepare for it. How is a human vacation different from an animal migration? (For example, have YOU ever traveled without a suitcase?) As you begin the monarch migration season, compare and contrast the purpose of travel, the preparations required, and the challenges faced. You're sure to appreciate the monarchs' remarkable journey even more after comparing their abilities to our own.

1. Ask students to think about trips they've taken. Why did you go? What made the trip fun, comfortable, and safe? What caused problems? Invite stories that illustrate these points.

2. Make two columns on the board or a flip chart. Label one column Human Travel and the other Monarch Migration. Ask questions that spark students to compare the two.

  • What's the purpose of your trip?
  • What things do you need to bring? (Have you ever traveled without a suitcase?)
  • Do you need to get in shape before you go?
  • How do you find your way?

As soon as students get the idea, let them suggest their own comparisons. Record the responses on the Migration/Vacation chart.

3. Continue the "trip" by keeping the Migration/Vacation chart available to students as they learn more about migration. Students could instead maintain individual charts in their science notebooks. You can use these for assessment at the end of the migration season.

Extension: If you track more than one migration this year, have students make and compare migration/vacation travel charts for different kinds of animals.

See what new items students are able to add to their charts during the Journey North season; ask yourself how these reflect student understanding. Check that they're able to identify some of the "whys" and "hows" of migration
and the adaptations (structural and behavioral characteristics) that enable animals to make these journeys.
Optional Assessment Rubric: Understanding of Monarch Adaptations

National Science Education Standards

  • Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. (K-4)
  • Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, reproduction. (K-4)

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