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Monarch Butterfly Migration Map



  • Mathematics
  • Science
    --Life Sciences
  • Social Studies


  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Create a map to illustrate the migration of monarch butterflies.



  • learn that color-coded maps can be used to illustrate many different things.
  • use data to create a color-coded map that shows the monarch butterfly's migration.


monarch butterfly, migration, map, color-coded map, map key

Materials Needed

  • a North America map that includes lines of latitude (sample map)
  • crayons, markers, or watercolor (tempera) paints of different colors

Lesson Plan

In this lesson students will create a color-coded map that illustrates the approximate timeline of the fall migration of monarch butterflies.

To start the lesson, you will want to introduce students to color-coded maps. A great place to start is by sharing a map from the weather page of the newspaper that shows the temperature bands for a given day. You might project that map (or the map of the day at for all to see and then ask questions such as Will the high temperature today be in the 60s or 70s? or What will today's high temperature be in northern California?

Share some other color-coded maps, such as these:

  • U.S. Gas Price "Temperature" Map
  • Lightning Strike Map
  • 2008 Presidential Election Map
  • U.S. Metropolitan Areas Map
  • U.S. Hispanic Population Map

    Provide each student with a copy of a North America map that includes lines of latitude. If you do not have such a map, print out this North America map with latitude lines; when printing, choose the "Landscape" (rather than "Portrait") print format so the entire map prints on a horizontal page. Review with students the location of the lines of latitude. Since most maps will show only latitude lines such as 20 North, 25 North, 30 North, and so on, ask students to point their finger at the approximate location of some of the in-between lines of latitude -- for example, 27 North and 42 North. Go around the room making sure that students grasp the concept of the location of "in-between" lines of latitude.

    Next, share with students that each fall monarch butterflies fly from the cooler northern climates to warmer areas of California, Mexico, Texas, and Florida. The Journey North Web site provides lots of good information about the monarchs' migration. Monarch Migration and Monarch Watch Migration & Tagging are two other good sources of information.

    Write on a board or chart the following information. This data shows the approximate latitude of migrating butterflies throughout the fall migration:

    August 15 49 North Latitude
    September 1 47 North Latitude
    September 15 41 North Latitude
    October 1 35 North Latitude
    October 15 29 North Latitude
    October 30 25 North Latitude
    November 1 20 North Latitude
    Source: Peak Monarch Migration Dates

    Have students draw on their maps the approximate locations of the lines of latitude listed above.

    Then have students use crayons or markers to color each band on their map a different color.

    Finally, have students create a map key that shows the approximate date represented by each band of color.

    Extension Activity
    Use the Do-It-Yourself Color-Coded State Maps tool to create a map that shows the population of each of your state's counties. You can use this tool to "color" counties by their population. You might assign a different color to counties with populations of

    • Fewer than 100,000
    • 100,000-250,000
    • 250,001-500,000
    • 500,001-1,000,000
    • More than 1,000,000


    Did students accurately draw and label the color bands on their monarch butterfly migration maps?

    Lesson Plan Source

    Submitted By

    Gary Hopkins

    National Standards

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
    NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms

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