Analyzing Journey North Maps

As students look at ever-changing Journey North maps, they will be challenged to think and act like scientists as they make predictions and puzzle out the mysteries of migrations and other seasonal changes. In this "teacher's lesson," you'll find guidance for helping students analyze what's happening and interpret why it's happening as the season progresses.

Help From Journey North
In each update we include a series of open-ended questions to accompany the current map. These are intended to help you build students' observation and reasoning skills. For example:

  • What patterns do you notice?
  • What do you think might account for that sighting?
  • Where do you predict the migration will reach by next week?

In addition, we often provide observations and interpretations of maps. These are intended to help guide your questioning. Rather than share these with students, let students try to make sense of maps on their own.

We sometimes provide a map from a previous year for comparison or link to a weather, vegetation, or climate map. These are meant to prompt thinking and hypotheses about how migration and plant growth patterns relate to other phenomena.

General Map Questions and Activities
As as students try to make sense of the season's progression of Journey North maps, have them write observations, questions, predictions, and hypotheses in journals, and discuss their ideas with peers. Here are some general prompts to spark their thinking:

  • What do you notice? Describe any patterns you see on the map.
  • Make a general statement to describe what's happening.
  • Try to explain underlying reasons for this pattern. Form a hypothesis and record it your science journal.
  • How does the map relate to your earlier predictions?
  • Predict how you think the map will change by next week (or month).
  • Compare the current map to the previous map. What changes did you notice? How would you explain those?
  • How did the "pace" of spring change from one week to the next? What factors might have influenced this?

More Analysis and Interpretation Activities
Use these, as appropriate to your study, focus, and age group:

Plant Hardiness Zones
Click to Enlarge)

  • To show how far a migration has progressed, have students look at the color- coded map key and notice how often the colors change (e.g., every 2 weeks). After each update, draw a line to connect the dots of one color (e.g., the current color indicating the furthest progression). Ask, What general statement could you make about how the migration (or spring) is moving? What do you think is influencing it? (You may want to follow up by comparing the map to a national climate/temperature or hardiness zone map.)
  • Ask, Are sightings more frequent in some parts of the country than others? What does that tell us?
  • Ask, Are dots clustered in particular areas? What could that mean? (In this case, it could indicate peak migration in an area or simply reflect the number of observers there!)
  • Ask students to hold a string at the bottom of a map and look at farthest south reports for each date. As they move up for each color, they'll see the southern range for first sightings. (They can do the same for first sightings by moving a string down to identify the northern progression.) Ask, What do you know about the spring migration of this species (or progress of spring) from looking at this? What can you infer? How could you test your inference?

Digging Deeper: Related Map-Reading Lessons

Assessing Map Analysis Skills

National Education Standards

Science as Inquiry
Use data to conduct a reasonable explanation. (K-4)
Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. (5-8)
Think critically and logically to make relationship between evidence and explanations. (5-8)

How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information.