It’s the migration season for 100 million monarch butterflies, as they fly from Canada and the northern US, south to Mexico for the winter. In February, they’ll star their journey back up north. Kids: can you follow their migration path on a map? Why would monarch butterflies (and some birds!) go south for the winter? In Texas this October, we’ve seen the travelers pass through our garden to sip on some of our butterfly weed and lantana. Here are some great resources for teachers and parents to use to teach their kids about the amazing monarch butterflies.
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Books about Monarch Butterflies
Gotta Go! Gotta Go! by Sam Swope. “I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go to Mexico!” The creepy crawly caterpillar knew she had to get to Mexico, but didn’t know how she would get there. She crawled on her way until she began to grow tired, and hung from a branch, tucked into her chrysalis. When she woke up, she continued her journey until she finally came across a valley with millions of butterflies just like her. “Welcome to Mexico” one said, just as she was falling asleep. This charming story is enjoyed even by the littlest ones!
Hurry and the Monarch, by Antoine Ó Flatharta also tells the story of a monarch traveling from Canada to Mexico. This time she meets Hurry, an old tortoise from Wichita, Texas. On her way back from Mexico to the north she stops back to visit Hurry and even lays eggs in his garden. I love the illustrations of the life cycle of the butterfly- science for kids, set in a story they can understand.
Isabel’s House of Butterflies, by Tony Johnston tells a story about 8 year old Isabel, who lives in Michoacán. Outside her bedroom, she loves watching the oyamel tree growing in her garden, that attracts monarch butterflies every winter. Her family must make a decision to help them earn money: will they cut down the tree to sell the wood, or can they come up with another way to survive and save the butterflies’ winter sanctuary? Your kids will love the poignant story, while learning about the overwintering site in Mexico, and the people’s reality that live in the region.
For a non-fiction book, try Monarch Butterfly by one of my favorite authors, Gail Gibbons. Clearly written, beautiful illustrated, and packed with scientific facts for kids, this book touches on the life cycle, habitat, migration, body parts, and behavior of monarch butterflies.
Another nonfiction book- this time with gorgeous photographs as the illustrations is “How To Raise Monarch Butterflies A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids,” by Carol Pasternak. Firefly Books, 2012. Covering the life cycle, the care of, and the threats the monarch butterflies face, this book was recommended to me by a reader:
it is highly acclaimed by Time Magazine for Kids, the Washington Post, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and countless others… it packs a lot of information into just 48 beautifully photographed pages. Kids are encouraged to ‘save the world for butterflies’ with the closing words, “Discover it. Love it. Protect it.”
Web Sites about Monarch Butterflies
Monarch Watch is an award-winning educational web site and outreach program from the University of Kansas that “engages citizen scientists in large-scale research projects,” whose collected data assists conservation efforts. Monarch Watch provides a wealth of information on the biology and conservation of Monarch butterflies, and its tagging program, and suggestions to grow butterfly gardens and waystations involve children of all ages in science.
The Monarch Butterfly web site is packed with free articles available to copy and use with your children.
Journey North is a wonderful database of activities related to monarch butterflies. Kids can collaborate with others from the US in Mexico in tracking their sightings of monarchs, view photos and videos of the arrival in Mexico, and teachers will appreciate the many exercises and lessons in math, science, and social studies, and the environment- all tied to state and national standards.
Journey North begins in February when the monarchs are at their winter refuge deep in central Mexico. The monarch’s unique winter habitat is found on only 12 mountaintops on the planet, and the monarch’s story is one of nature’s most incredible examples of adaptation and survival.
Spring migration begins in March, and an announcement comes from Mexico that the monarchs are on their way… tens of millions of monarch butterflies head northward. With just a few weeks to live, they race to produce the next generation.
In a unique partnership, you can join students and scientists across North America this spring to track the monarch butterfly’s migration from Mexico.
At the University of Minnesota’s Monarch Lab, teachers will find lesson plans tailored to grade level, support materials, student research projects, and links to workshops for teachers. There are even plans to help grow a school garden that attracts monarch butterflies!
Videos with Monarch Butterflies
First, watch this video from BlueMarvel.com, about the monarch butterfly migration to and overwintering in Mexico.
Check out this video of the amazing Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Angangueo, Michoacan, Mexico. Millions (!!) of butterflies concentrated in the forest:
Finally, here is a great time lapse video of the life cycle of monarch butterflies.
Monarch Butterfly Craft
Finally, here is a cute and easy craft that even the little ones will enjoy as you learn about these fascinating creatures.
Do you love monarch butterflies as much as we do? Do they travel through your neck of the woods?