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Planning Your Journey North Focus

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Advice from Teachers on Getting Started
How many migrations or other studies should my class follow? Which ones are recommended for the grade level I teach? How much time will each take? As you review the Journey North Project Descriptions and Year-at-a-Glance Timeline and begin to plan your Journey North focus, be sure to read these recommendations.

Review Your Curriculum Goals
Growing pressure to meet local, state, and national standards makes this a vital step. Are butterfly life cycles a key science focus for your grade level? Is map-reading part of your geography curriculum? Do you organize your curriculum around integrated themes?

Your responses to these will help you choose Journey North studies to tackle. (All projects support using an inquiry approach to science.) Consider using Journey North to bring these types of teaching themes to life:

seasons life cycles weather and climate
birds, butterflies animal adaptations ocean biomes
solar system plant growth mapping

Look through our Journey North Correlations to National Standards for links to lessons and other Journey North features that address national standards in science, math, reading and language arts, and geography.

Consider Your Grade Level
Each Journey North Study can be used for a variety of grade levels. Mystery Class is the one project that is most appropriate for grades 4 and higher because of the calculations required. However, many early primary teachers have used it successfully with students. Here are some features and strategies for adapting Journey North to your students' developmental levels:

  • Introduce students to one of our studies via our nonfiction "Journey North for Kids" booklets, which you can read as a class or individually. We currently have these reading booklets for Monarchs, Whooping Cranes, Robins, Gray Whales, and Plants (tulips). Watch for more this season!
  • When you receive Journey North News updates, select only the highlights and activities that are most appropriate for your focus and grade range.
  • Read how other teachers have adapted Journey North for their grade levels in our Teacher Advice section.
  • In Journey North activities and lessons, look for specific grade level adaptations and options.

Choosing Projects: Start Small
Teachers who have participated in Journey North overwhelmingly advise new teachers to start small. You can always add more next year! Involve your students in choosing projects, when appropriate. Here are some common configurations:

  • Tackle just one project that supports your curriculum goals. Consider a project such as tulips, monarchs, or other signs of spring, that enables students to make observations in the schoolyard. Your class can get their feet wet online by reading weekly updates and viewing real-time maps, or they can dig deeper by reporting sightings and tackling challenge questions and activities.
  • Combine an animal migration project with the tulip plant study. This enables students to draw parallels between what drives spring's arrival in the plant and animal worlds.
  • Observe and Exchange. Students can track the seasons' progressions by observing seasonal changes in sunlight, temperature, plant growth, animal life, and more. The Phenology Data Exchange (good for grades K-5) enables them to share these observations with another classroom.
  • Use our Fall Checklist and/or Spring Checklist. These can inspire students to watch for certain migrations and signs of spring/fall. Even if you don't track a migration yourself, please send your observations so we have enough data to make meaningful maps.
  • Follow spring via highlights from a number of Journey North species. See the Highlights of the Season approach.
  • Combine the Monarch Migration project with the Symbolic Monarch Migration.
  • Combine the Mystery Class project with another study to help students see the connections between physcial science (light, climate) and life science. (Mystery Class is most often used by grades 5 and above.)
  • Select one migration tracked by satellite (e.g., eagles) and one that enables students to make local observations (e.g., robins).

Imagine Sources of Support
Think about potential resource people in your school or community who could help you implement a particular Journey North project. Here are some examples:

  • A local garden club or center might be willing to work with your class on putting in tulip gardens.
  • Staff from an environmental center might help students raise monarchs in the classroom to supplement their Journey North experience.
  • Other teachers in your school may want to collaborate on a specific Journey North project so you and your students can share resources and experiences.
  • High school or university geography students might want to mentor your group on the Mystery Class project.
Consider the Timing and Duration of the Projects
Migrations Peak
at Different Times
Journey North's Year-at-a-Glance Timeline offers a broad overview of project timelines. The sample calendars for Fall's Journey South and Spring's Journey North detail when news updates will be posted for each study. (These are generally weekly.) The timing and pace of migrations vary. The chart on the right shows how many sightings of each species per month are typically reported. These will give you an idea of when each project is most active. Because the timing of fall and spring varies by location, only you can estimate when your young observers should be most active.

Consider Your Classroom Context and Internet Access
You can integrate Journey North if you are a self-contained classroom teacher, library/media specialist, or science specialist. How and how often you do so will depend on many factors: your curriculum goals, students' developmental levels, available time, and your Internet access.

In an ideal setup, you would have multiple classroom computers with high-speed Internet access. The online graphics, reporting forms, and links will capture students' imaginations and allow them to research areas of interest. Computer access also enables students to work more independently.

However, you and your students can have a robust experience even with limited online access. Here are some ways in which teachers have set it up:

  • Take students to a computer lab to log onto Journey North at least once a week.
  • Gather the class around one machine for weekly updates.
  • Have small groups work together at one or a few computers on specific Journey North tasks and challenges. The rest of the class can be otherwise engaged.
  • Print Journey North reports, updates, and maps on a home computer and bring them to class, or save selected pages to a disk and bring that into class.

Make Your Fall/Spring Calendar
Once you have selected the migrations and fall/spring events your class will follow, make your own calendar. Use the dates provided on the full Journey North program calendar and include only those events your class will track. Involve students in organizing this.

Expect the Unexpected
After more than a decade, we've come to expect the unexpected: Animals migrate later than anticipated, the batteries in satellite transmitters lose power, or an unusually warm season changes the timing of events by several weeks.

We recognize the inconvenience such unanticipated events can cause in a classroom full of students. Journey North will help you turn them into teachable moments by sharing research ideas, tips for puzzling out these problems, and links to our "expert" scientists. Unexpected events can generate much enthusiasm in the classroom and enable students to gain an appreciation for the challenges scientists face. Here's what Patricia Freeney of Raymond, Maine, has to say about this:

"Though it made for creative last-minute lesson planning, the fact that the things didn't always go as planned showed the students what it's like to work with real science. In fact, that is the best part of Journey North. The students are learning about things that are happening right now in their world. This is inherently motivating, just as the content of migratory animals is."