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Teaching Suggestions
No Food for Five Months?
Surviving the Winter on Stored Energy
(Back to Overview)

Monarch butterflies arrive in Mexico in November and stay until March. During this five-month winter season they can survive with little or no food at all.

Essential Question
Where, when and how do monarchs get the energy they need to survive the winter?

Before Reading:

1. Examine Cover Image and Title
Invite students to examine the cover image of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico. Encourage students to share what surprises them about the title and photo. Ask:

  • How do you think it's possible for monarchs to survive without food for five months? How long can a person survive without food?
2. Reading the Text

Viewing the Slideshow
As a class read through the pages of the slideshow together, stopping occasionally to spotlight key ideas and ask questions. Encourage students to share questions sparked by the information and images.

Reading the Booklet
Determine how you will have students experience the booklet text for a first reading: whole class, small group, partner, or individual. Encourage students to take notes or mark up the text--underlining key ideas and making notes in the margins.

3. After Reading: Interpreting a Graph

Help students examine the Lipid Graph in the slideshow using the Guiding Questions handout.

Try This! Stump the Student
After students are able to answer several of the guiding questions, challenge them to generate their own "stump-the-student" style questions in which they pose questions that can be answered using the graph. Provide time for students to exchange questions with one another.

Sample questions:

  • At what level are lipid reserves when monarch butterflies arrive in Mexico?
  • When do monarchs burn the most fat?
  • When might monarchs run out of fat?
  • A monarch tag weighs 10 mg. How many times that weight does the average monarch lose by the end of the overwintering season?

Graph: Lipids
Line Graph

Guiding questions
Guiding Questions

4. Wrap Up: Summarize and Synthesize Learning

1. Summarize the Facts: Fact Book
Have students use photo gallery images to create their own fact book, using information they learned about monarchs, food, and survival.

2. Showcase Discoveries:
Create a poster or illustrated map to showcase when and where monarchs get the energy they need to survive the winter in Mexico. Include these four sentence starters:

  • As a caterpillar.....
  • As an adult monarch .....
  • During migration, monarchs....
  • Overwintering monarchs....
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