Lesson 1:
Monarch Butterflies as a Shared Natural Resource

Monarch Migration Route

The migration of the monarch butterfly is one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world — but it is considered "endangered." Scientists fear the migration may not continue beyond the next decade.

On their annual migrations, monarchs fly freely between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. (Click on the map to see their route.) None of these countries "owns" the monarchs. They are a shared natural resource. Just as the migration crosses borders each season, so does the responsibility for monarch stewardship. All North American neighbors share responsibility for protecting these fragile natural resources and the habitat that is critical to their survival.

  • Physical map of North America (landforms only: click example)
  • Political map of North America (shows state and national boundaries); bookmark it online or make copies of the student handout.
  • Student Handout
Students will imagine seeing the world through the eyes of a migrating monarch butterfly!
  1. Display a physical wall map or online map of North America.
  2. Find the approximate location of your school and the location of the Mexican monarch sanctuaries (19N latitude, -100W longitude).
  3. Trace the monarchs' migration path to and from the sanctuaries in Mexico. (Note: the monarchs fly over land and NOT over the Gulf of Mexico.)
  4. Now look together at the political map of North America. Ask, How are the maps the same? How are they different?
  5. Pass out copies of the Student Handout. Have students work in small groups to complete them — or work together as a class.)

Making Connections

  1. Compile a class list of the borders monarchs crossed. Point out that for each border crossed, the monarch relies on good neighbors for survival. Because monarchs migrate and travel freely among borders, they are shared treasured resources; we are all responsible for their safe passage.

  2. Questions like these will help the students make the connection between caring, sharing, and responsibility for protecting what is important to us.
  • What do you share with other members of your family?
  • Are there things you wish you didn't have to share? Why? How do you feel when something you care about isn't treated well by other people?
  • Imagine that each member of a family feeds the dog one day a week. What would happen if someone forgot to act responsibly and missed a day, or more? What might you say about sharing responsibility for the dog's well-being?
  • What types of things do you think monarchs need along the way to survive their long journey? How could humans help them or get in the way of their survival?


  • Use words or pictures to explain this statement: "We protect only those things we care about."
  • Brainstorm a list of other natural resources that are shared across global boundaries.
  • Make a poster to encourage others to join in protecting the natural resources we all share.