Keywords: metamorphosis, milkweed, migration, journey; Grade Levels: 2-3; Time: 45 minutes; Setting: Introduction in Classroom and the Activity is a Journey outside across an open space in school yard

Goals for the Lesson

  1. Students will recognize adaptations of a specialist.
  2. Students will actively experience simulated migration journey.
  3. Students will successfully identify the interconnection of a specimen to other natural resources within its life cycle.


  • Migration Journey Script
  • "Research" Stickers
  • Sign posts to mark field, "Leaving USA" and " Entering Mexico"

State Standards: Renewable/Non-renewable Resources
* 4.3.C Environmental Health: Biological Diversity
* 4.8.C Humans and the Environment: Human Impacts

Subject: Science, Consumer Science, Social Studies/Geography

Topic: Migration Journey of Monarch

Teaching Method: Simulation/Experiential


  1. Using a globe or map, ask students to list steps and items needed to prepare for a journey from where you are to Mexico.
  2. Ask students to reflect on whether or not humans migrate? What does migrating mean?
    1. Name creatures that migrate
    2. Name the top three reasons why a bird, butterfly, or mammal needs to migrate.
      1. Food source
      2. Weather/climate
      3. Mating instinct
  3. Monarch butterflies unique migration will be the journey we will focus on today.
  4. Review the metamorphosis life cycle of the monarch and main food source: milkweed.
  5. Explain the butterfly's migratory route and the issues facing its journey.
    1. Trees, the butterfly's habitat in Mexico, are being cut for firewood.
    2. Summer food source milkweed found in US is being cut or replace by human needs: houses, roads, and lawns.
  6. Establish outdoor classroom expectations before traveling outside. Set journey boundaries using signs.
  7. Begin journey with students in a horizontal line facing their destination.
  8. Have students follow your directions to move forward and backward across the field to Mexico.
    1. The Migration with No Map
    2. Watch Out! Power lines ahead. Crawl ahead 4 spaces on your hands and knees. You are the great grandbutterflies who have summered in the Northern United States flying south to Mexico.
    3. Plenty of nectar in this butterfly garden surrounding the Middlecreek Management Area. Smack your lips together 10 times and move ahead 4 spaces.
    4. You land in a polluted tin junked in a swamp near the Susquehanna River and become sick from the foul water. Sit down hold your stomach for a count of 12, groan 3 times, then move ahead 2 spaces.
    5. Look out for that songbird! Freeze, count to 14, then move ahead 3 spaces.
    6. You escaped being captured by a curious cat in Silver Springs, MD but slightly sprain your wing. Slowly, swing your left arm around 10 times and move ahead 1 space.
    7. A butterfly bander in Kansas nets you for research. After tagging you with a research ID sticker, you are set free. (Place stickers on 10 students) Researcher hopes that someone will find you and report the ID number and location to Monarch Watch. Everyone move ahead 3 spaces.
    8. You find a butterfly feeder in a sixth grader's backyard in Texas. Spend a few days enjoying the free food. Chew 12 times and move ahead 5 spaces.
    9. It's raining, it's pouring, and you don't want to fly in a rainstorm. Count to 15 while you wait for the storm to stop, then move ahead 4 spaces.
    10. Finally, the winds support you as you successfully fly into Mexico and find a fir tree to winter over. Fly to the finish line!


Once students reach Mexico have them reflect on the following…

  • Challenges they faced on the journey.
  • Human impacts both positive and negative on the journey.
  • Are conditions of a specialist easier or harder than a generalist?
  • Name one way you or your community could better support the needs of a specialist like the monarch.

Literature Source

Lesson modified from PA Songbird Curriculum.
Contact your regional PA Game Commission office for more information about this curriculum and teacher trainings available.


Sallie Gregory, Lancaster County Conservation District