Monarchs Fly, Students Walk
Who Will Reach the Monarch's Winter Home in Mexico First?

Fourth grader racing monarchs to Mexico, with his pedometer

I'm Jo Zimmel, the physical education teacher at Garlough Elementary Magnet School in St. Paul, MN.

When we released monarchs to fly south the students started wearing pedometers during their school day. At the end of each day they record their steps. At the end of the week they add them up. We are combining all of the students steps and recording mileage.

The distance to the monarch's winter home near Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico from St. Paul, Minnesota, USA is 1,836 miles.

Who will get to Mexico first, the students or the butterflies? What do you think? Read about our project and find out!

  Our Journey South Map  

Pedometers (1 per student), calculators, "responsibility book"

Before the migration
One week prior to the start students were reminded in their Physical Education classes about use of pedometer: how to put on, how to read the numbers, how to put it away in the box, etc.

Each 4th grade class has pedometers for each student, so there is a possibility of 63 pedometers every school day. I wore a pedometer each day and included my steps, too.

During the migration
Every day
Each morning of the week the students come into their classrooms and put their pedometers on. They wear them the whole school day. When the day is over they record their steps on the sheet in their "responsibility book" and put the pedometers back in the box. (If you need more information on how to organize pedometers I can send that.)

On Monday the students use their calculators and add up the steps and convert them into miles. The miles are then e-mailed to me and I do the recording on our Journey South map. I also do morning announcements to the whole school about where the 4th graders are and where the butterflies are.

We are looking forward to doing it in spring to track the butterflies coming home to the northern region.


Our Results

Our start date was Thursday, Sept 11.

By October 2nd (Week 3) the Garlough Elementary Magnet School kids made it to San Antonio, Texas. The butterflies were arriving in Dallas, Texas.

Last fall it took 6 weeks to arrive at our destination. (See box to right.)

How would the math work out in your school?

Last fall, Garlough Elementary had 51 people wearing pedometers. It took 6 weeks (30 school days) to log 1,836 miles. That's 61.2 miles per day, or 1.2 miles per person.

Comments from Students
Here are comments about the project from last year's 4th graders:

Question: Should 4th graders do it again next year?
Answer: YES

Question: Why?

  • It was fun to compete with the butterflies.
  • When we got behind the butterflies we wanted to win so we started moving more at recess.
  • I paid a lot more attention to how the butterflies were migrating because I wanted to beat them.
  • The butterflies were slowed up by weather. We were slowed up by not moving enough, some people loosing their pedometers, not remembering to put on our pedometers away and leaving them at home, not recording their steps before removing them, and having vacations.
  • I am glad it was hot in Texas so we could get ahead.
  • I had to think of games to exercise more at recess.
  • Our teacher knew were having a hard time getting enough steps so as a class we all took a long hike over at the nature center.

Comments from Teachers

  • Finding a time when we had everyone together was big problem.
  • The math was difficult but became easier by the end.
  • Real life application of addition is worth the time.
  • Chart will be revised to make the math easier.
  • Teachers thought is was well worth it.
  • First time project has a few problems but all want to do it again.
  • Was this math difficult for 4th graders? YES! The teachers decided it was worth the effort.