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Mapping the Monarch Migration/Grade 4

Dave Kust investigating damage at monarch sanctuaries in Mexico after January 2002 storm

Contributed by Dave Kust
Grade 4, Breck School
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Class Time Needed
  • Q: How much class time per week do you spend mapping the monarch migration?
  • A: On average, it probably takes about 20 minutes per week (minimum) if you are mapping the migration as a whole group, using one big map. However, for me it can vary between 5 minutes a week to 5 hours a week! For example, if I am doing lessons that relate to the most recent migration update, and having students make individual migration maps, I might spend up to an hour a day.

The Mapping Process
  • Q: Do you maintain a class map or do individual students maintain their own maps?
  • A. We do both.
  • Q: To plot migration data on the map, do your students use the latitude and longitude readings, or the city/state/province information?
  • A. They use both.
  • Q: Do you print out the data from the web and give ALL of the data to the students? Or, if there is a large volume of data, do you map only a few locations so it's simpler for them?
  • A. Sometimes I print out the data sheet, or they retrieve the update from the Web themselves. When students are plotting data on smaller, individual maps I sometimes reduce the number of data points that we plot.
  • Q: What do you use to mark your migration map(s)?
  • A. We use colored dots (stickers) or we make dots with magic markers.
  • Q: Do you divide your students into groups or do they work alone?
  • A. I've done both. However, it works best when students work in pairs or small groups--or in one big group.

Student Skills Needed
  • Q: What mapping skills do 4th grade students need to map the migration?
  • A. My students need:
    1) Basic knowledge about locations of US, Mexican and Canadian states and provinces, as well as how to find cities on a map.
    2) An understanding of latitude and longitude.
    3) Skill at using the distance scale of miles/kilometers on maps can also be helpful.
  • Q: Do 4th grade students have trouble finding the locations by themselves? (One 2nd grade teacher said she had the students try to find locations themselves, then confirm accuracy with the teacher before marking locations on their maps. Do you do anything like this?)
  • A. No, most of my fourth graders can simply look at a map and find the state/province and city. However, a few may need help from the actual Journey North migration map included with the latest update, and/or a map showing latitude and longitude and cities.

Faciliating an Inquiry-based Discussion
  • Q: Do you discuss the map? What kinds of questions do you ask?
  • A. Certainly! I ask all the of the same questions you pose in the updates, and Challenge Questions as well. For example:
    * Where are the butterflies going next?
    * Name all the state/provinces they have flown through and will fly through.
    * What are the past, current, and predicted weather conditions for these state/provinces?
    * What direction are they going, why are they going that way?
    * How long did it/will it take, per day, per week, per month?
    * Do you see any patterns?
    * What is happening west of the Rockies?
    * Can we map this in a different way?
    * etc.