Discussion Questions and Writing Prompts
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As your class explores the world of monarchs overwintering in the mountains of Mexico, use questions like these to stretch students’ thinking and writing skills. Throughout the winter season, choose questions that will lead to thoughtful discussions and reflective journal responses. Encourage students to add their own research questions to this list.

Open-ended Observation-building Questions
  • What surprises you as you look through the photo gallery?
  • What questions and “I wonder…” thoughts do you have as you study each photo?
  • What clues can you find in these photos to learn about how monarchs survive in their winter habitat?
  • What details can you find in different photos to predict weather and climate conditions?
  • How are the monarchs' survival needs met in these unique forest regions?

Content-focussed Questions

  • What do overwintering monarchs need to survive?
  • How do oyamel trees protect monarchs from different weather conditions?
  • What range of temperatures are typical during the day? At night?
  • Where do monarchs form colonies?
  • Why do monarchs cluster in oyamel trees?
  • What are the unique conditions of the overwintering regions in Mexico that provide for monarchs’ survival needs?
  • How do cool temperatures help monarchs survive?
  • What are the “just-right” temperatures monarchs need to survive the winter?
  • Why is the forest floor a dangerous place for monarchs?
  • How do monarchs survive for four or five months with little or no food?
  • When do monarchs cluster in trees?
  • When do monarchs cling to trees with closed wings? Why?
  • When would observers see open-winged monarchs on the tree branches?
  • Why do monarchs shiver?
  • What is basking behavior?
  • What is microclimate and how does it relate to overwintering habitats of monarchs?
  • What questions are scientists trying to answer about overwintering monarchs and their habitat?
  • What climatic factors affect the survival of overwintering monarchs?
  • Why are monarchs hard to see when they cluster closed-winged on oyamel trees?
  • What environmental conditions pose dangers to monarch butterflies? Which environmental conditions benefit the butterflies?
  • What human actions are putting monarchs at risk?