Teaching Suggestions

Symbolic Migration Project 

Supporting Activities For Classroom Study

Participating in the Symbolic Migration Project can help engage students in learning about the wonders of the natural world. It can also serve as a platform from which students can learn important scientific processes such as the life cycle and annual cycle of monarch butterflies. The Symbolic Migration Project can also help to build bridges across North America. Below are suggestions for a wide array of lesson ideas and investigations that students may pursue to enhance their participation in the Symbolic Migration project. There are so many creative ways to integrate the journey of monarch butterflies into curriculum. This list is not to be exhaustive; rather this list is to inspire you to find your own “best approach” to facilitating student learning.

Activity #1: Introduce the Symbolic Migration Project: Use these three slideshows: The Symbolic Migration; Life in the Monarch Sanctuary Region; and, Symbolic Monarchs Arrive in Sanctuary Schools to introduce the project to students. 

Activity #2: Learn about the life cycle and annual cycle of monarch butterflies: Build an understanding of monarch butterfly migration and give context for the Symbolic Migration Project by exploring the Journey North monarch webpages

Activity #3: Explore the concept of ambassadorship: An ambassador is a goodwill representative or messenger. Anyone can be an ambassador. For example, a student can be an ambassador for your school when visiting another school. A country’s official ambassador is the person who is designated to represent his or her own country in a foreign country. The role of an ambassador is to cultivate friendship and build cooperation. Tell students they are about to design a Symbolic Monarch that will travel to Mexico as an ambassador.

Explain that the role of an ambassador is to cultivate friendship and build cooperation. Use students’ familiarity with friendship and cooperation to help them understand ambassadorship. Ask your students to brainstorm answers to questions such as: How would you describe our school community? What do we share with our school friends? What do we want to show with our butterfly? How can we show our interest and concern for monarch butterfly conservation? 

Activity #4: Explore how far Symbolic and real monarchs travel: Monarchs fly between Canada, the United States, and Mexico on their annual migrations. Use the maps included on this page to discuss monarch migration. Measure the distance your symbolic monarch will need to travel to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. (Angangueo and Ocampo are the two of the nearest towns to the larger monarch sanctuaries open to the public). Count the political borders the monarchs must cross.

Activity #5: Explore the concepts of shared natural resources and shared responsibilities: Just like the water we drink and the air we breathe, monarch butterflies are a shared natural resource which means no country or person “owns” the monarch butterfly. All North American neighbors share responsibility for protecting monarch habitat. Monarchs depend on cooperation between us all. Each person, town, state, province, and country can be important in preserving the monarch’s magnificent migration by preserving and planting more habitat. Discuss the actions, laws, and responsibilities of people in the many backyards, towns, states, provinces, and countries along the monarch’s migration path.

Activity #6: Involve the whole family: Use this family letter (English | Spanish) to invite families to learn alongside their children. The whole family can join the fun while also supporting their child’s learning in several ways.

  • Become a citizen scientist with Journey North. Register and submit your observations of monarch butterflies, monarch eggs, monarch larvae and milkweed. 
  • Read Monarch Migration News Updates starting in September on the Journey North website monarch butterfly news and watch the monarch migration happen on real-time maps
  • Read Estela Romero, educator and official courier of Ambassador Monarchs for Symbolic Migration project in Mexico. Estela writes weekly blogs as she delivers Symbolic Monarch Ambassadors to schools in Mexico.