Monarch Butterflies: Join the Migration!
Millions of monarch butterflies are on their way to Mexico, part of one of the world's most spectacular migrations. And there are almost as many websites devoted to these extraordinary insects! We check out a few of the best.
"We're expecting a spectacular migration this year!" says O.R. "Chip" Taylor, an entomologist at the University of Kansas. "The monarch butterflies' departure for Mexico should begin any day now, about the time the next cold front hits South Dakota and Minnesota."
Any day now millions of monarchs will be on their way from their summer homes in the northern United States and in Canada to their southern nesting sites in the forests of Mexico. Millions of people will be watching this migration. Many will be "watching" online! A number of wonderful Web sites provide students and teachers across the globe with a "butterfly's-eye view" of the annual trek south and with an assortment of activities for getting actively involved! Among the activities:
For more information about these activities, read on.
"A CHARISMATIC INSECT THAT CAPTURES THE IMAGINATION OF STUDENTS
Many students track the incredible migration of the monarchs on Monarch Watch, a Web site launched by scientists at the University of Kansas. Monarch Watch is under the "watchful" eye of entomologist Chip Taylor. The project was initiated as a research project, but soon the educational potential of the migration became obvious.
"It became apparent that the monarch is a charismatic insect that captures the imagination of students," says Taylor. "We can use the magnificent biology of this insect to introduce students to a wide range of scientific concepts."
"Young students can track the migration, learn about the life cycle of a butterfly, and learn to tell the difference between a male and a female monarch," says Taylor. "At the high school level, students can learn about all those things plus population genetics, population control, aerodynamics, and a host of other sophisticated science concepts."
"Monarch Watch has three basic and simple objectives," says Taylor. The objectives are:
WANT TO TAG MONARCHS?
This year, students in thousands of classrooms will follow the migration. Many will get involved in Monarch Watch's Tagging program, which distributes thousands of all-weather polypropylene tags -- most of them to teachers. Each tag is marked with a code number and the message "Return to the University of Kansas" and the university address. When a monarch is returned to the university, Taylor can tell from the code number on the tag exactly which class tagged the butterfly.
"Those who get involved in Monarch Watch are getting involved in scientific research too," adds Taylor. "Data from each year's migration and from previous migrations are analyzed. When the analysis is complete, a report is issued."
And scientists have students to thank for a good part of that data!
Information about tagging monarchs, raising (rearing) monarchs in the classroom, a monarch curriculum, and monarch supplies and posters -- and much more -- is available on the Monarch Watch Web site.
Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2005, 2105 Education World
TRACKING MONARCHS ON THE WEB