Migrations, and Plants
Meteorology and Journey North
ongoing as students make local observations and analyze Journey North
News updates, maps, and data
* Journey North migration and weather maps (from Updates)
* Plant Hardiness
students make local observations and analyze Journey North News updates,
maps, and data, they think critically about the relationship between
weather and seasonal events.
Seasonal and day-to-day changes in weather dramatically influence
the growth of plants and the timing and course of migration. Factors
such as temperatures, wind speed and direction, pressure fronts, and
precipitation can affect a migrating animal's route and timing, energy
use and conservation, and physical health. These can also affect availability
of food sources, such as insects and nectar. (See Tips
on Reading Weather Maps, below.)
is one the most critical weather factors for most species we track.
Warm spring winds from the south and cold fall winds from the north
push migrants forward. Temperature is another key factor. In general
a species arrives earlier than average in early warm springs; cool,
late springs bring later arrivals. Many migrating species avoid rainy,
overcast weather, fog, and high winds. Some will stop in the middle
of their journey if they encounter bad weather while over land.
just for starters. A mix of weather-related factors influence each
species' migration. For instance, robins often move ahead of warm fronts,
arriving just before or along with rainy weather – just when
their food source (earthworms) must emerge from their tunnels or drown! Weather
at a migrating animal's destination can indeed be critical for survival.
Imagine a water bird getting to its northern habitat to find that water
bodies are still frozen! An adaptation for survival? Follow the spring
conditions often combine with local geography to influence migrations.
For instance, because flapping flight is so energetically expensive,
eagles, monarchs, and other species take advantage of rising air currents
called thermals or updrafts. Try the lesson Up,
Up and Away: Thermals and Updrafts.
choices do you make in a day or week that depend on the weather? Once the
class or small groups have generated a list, ask, What patterns do
you notice? How can the weather affect our ability to do things? Next,
have students respond to this question in their journals or discuss it
as a class: How do you think weather might affect animal migrations
and the progress of other spring events? Tell them they'll have
a chance to revisit this question later in the season.
Tip: See what fourth grade teacher Dave Kust
has to say about weather and migration.
does day-to-day weather (and the general climate of an area) seem to
influence animal migrations, plant growth, and other seasonal events?
Throughout Journey North News updates, you'll find suggestions for exploring
this question using current and archived data. If you are participating
in a plant study or following a migration that passes through your area,
your class can set up a schoolyard weather station and use Journey
North’s Weather Observation Chart to track weather phenomena.
some strategies for engaging students in thinking critically about
meteorology and seasonal events.
- If you
are exploring signs of spring locally, have students gather data
from their schoolyard weather station, save the daily weather maps
from your newspaper, or view weather online
With any Journey North study, have students pay attention to the data and
maps on migrations and other seasonal events in Journey North News updates
and then compare this information with weather data and maps from the same
period. They should routinely ask, Where have our species, plants, or
other signs of spring been observed? Are there any patterns or relationships
between weather and these seasonal events? You may want to start simply,
by looking at just one factor, such as temperatures. Eventually, students
can begin to look at a combination of factors.
also want to compare current data with maps in the Journey North archives or
with maps showing how the temperatures depart from normal temperatures
for each period of time. (This assessment
tool provides a visual example that combines both ideas.)
You can find these maps here.
are some general questions to ask yourselves when comparing weather
maps with weekly or archived Journey North maps:
patterns do you notice?
• What general statements can you make?
• Do temperatures (or wind direction or speed, air pressure, weather fronts)
seem to affect migrations or plant growth? If so, how? What's your evidence?
Why do you think that occurs?
• What do you predict will happen next (for instance, with the direction
or pace of the migration)? Why?
tracking local plants or migrations, ask, What is the weather
like the first day or week our species (or plants) appear in your
area? In other areas? What patterns, if any, do you notice? How
would you explain them? What other explanations might exist?
Part 2: Journey North and Plant Hardiness Zone Maps
Plant Hardiness Zone map shows the lowest temperatures that can be
expected each year in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. These are
referred to as "average annual minimum temperatures." (The
divisions are based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference.) The colors
on the map give a picture of "climate bands" and show how cold
it gets. This should give us a glimpse of where spring might come earlier.
the class locate your community on a Plant Hardiness Zone Map and
find the minimum temperature ranges for your zone on the key.
students use these maps to make predictions about the path of your
species or timing of tulip emergence or other seasonal events. Then
ask the following questions throughout the season:
• Do you see any correlation between the colored "Plant Hardiness
Zones" and the path or timing of the events we're tracking? Explain your
it differ from your prediction? Why might that be?
• In which Plant Hardiness Zones do you predict your species or plants
will appear next? Why?
week, students should describe how the migration pattern and plant
hardiness zones compare. Discuss why a vegetation map might be helpful
when analyzing seasonal events, such as a hummingbird or monarch
migration. (In this case, it gives us a sense of where spring might
come earlier as well as where sources of nectar and larval food might
find discussion and journaling questions in Explorations 1 and 2,
in the season, have students revisit the question they pondered in
Laying the Groundwork: How do you think weather might affect
animal migrations and the progress of other spring events? Ask
them to expand on their original responses in their journals, incorporating
what they've uncovered during their Journey North journeys.
Science Education Standards
- Use data
to conduct a reasonable explanation. (K-4)
descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.
critically and logically to make a relationship between evidence
and explanations. (5-8)
have basic needs and can survive only in environments in which their
needs can be met. (K-4)
- The behavior
of individual organisms is influenced by internal cues (such as hunger)
and by external cues (such as a change in the environment). (K-4)
changes from day to day and over the seasons. Weather can be described
by measurable quantities, such as temperature, wind direction and
speed, and precipitation. (K-4)
- How to
use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies
to acquire, process, and report information.