Migration Rate Activities
Exploring Standard Units to Compare Migration Rates

Teaching Suggestions

Help students understand how and why standard units of measurement are used to analyze migration data. With standard units, we can compare observations from one place to the next, one person to the next, and one time to the next.

Essential Question: Where was the strongest migration?

The migration rate is a standard unit of measurement. The rate is a measure of monarchs per hour (or monarchs per minute). To find the migration rate we need know two things:

  • How many monarchs a person saw and
  • How many hours (or minutes) a person was observing.


Migration Rate Activities
Try these migration rate activities, and encourage students to use standard units when they make their own monarch migration observations.

Monarchs per Minute

Online Challenge

Migration Rate Math

Practice Activity

My Migration Rates

Data Sheet

This Fall's Record Flights

Data Sheet

Follow these steps to introduce students to the concept of migration rates:

1. Consider the number of monarchs observed.
First, have students consider the information that people most commonly provide, the number of monarchs they see. Write the following on the blackboard:

Observer A: I saw 80 monarch butterflies.
Observer B: I saw 79 monarch butterflies.

Ask students, Which observer saw more monarch butterflies? (Observer A.)

2. Consider the length of the observation period.
Now add the following information about each observation:

Observer A: I was watching from 8 am to 4 pm.
Observer B: I was watching from 8 am to 9 am.

Ask students, Describe the new information that was added. Ask, What do we know that we did not know before? (We know how long each observer was watching, the observation period.)

Why is this new information important? What does it tell you about the migration in each place? (This is important because only if we know how much time a person was watching can we compare migration sightings from one time to the next and from one place to the next in a standardized way.)

3. Calculate the length of each observation.
Now ask students, Exactly how long was each observer watching? Give your answer in hours.

Observer A: 8 am to 4 pm = 8 hours
Observer B: 8 am to 9 am = 1 hour

4. Explore the term, migration rate.
Intuitively, students will conclude that the migration was probably much stronger where Observer B was watching. Help them find language to explain this. Ask, Where would you rather have been watching monarch migration with Observer A or Observer B? Explain why.

What words could we use to make the two observations easier to compare? Give students time to develop the concept of “monarchs per hour.” If they need help, give them a sentence starter such as: Observer A saw ___ in ___ but Observer B saw ___ in ___.

5. Calculate the migration rate (in monarchs per minute or hour).

Migration Rate

1) Number of monarchs and
2) Number of minutes (or hours observing.

Have students complete the calculations and write a sentence so the observations can be compared easily.

  • Observer A saw 1 monarch per hour.
  • Observer B saw 79 monarchs per hour.



Continued Practice

The following two activities give students a chance to practice calculating the migration rate.


Real-world Applications

Who Will See the Record Flight This Fall?
Review this fall's actual observations. Record impressive flights on the data sheet. Predict where the strongest migration will occur—then see what actually happens!


Data Analysis

Challenge students to look at data carefully.
While reviewing observations reported on the migration maps ask students:

  • Which observations are the most valuable?
  • Which observations leave you with questions?
  • Can you find observations that are missing information you need in order to calculate the migration rate? If so, what information is missing?

National Science Education Standards