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Activities and Lesson Plans

Mysteries of the Monarch

You may print Mysterious Monarchs children's pages from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. We hope you'll consider a subscription to our magazine. Be sure to check out the Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine special offer for teachers. And please let us know your suggestions for future issues at:

Suggested Topics: migration, food webs, adaptations, conservation

Related 4th Grade TEKS

Language Arts:

4.1 A,B,C: Listening, Speaking, Purposes : Listens Actively and Purposefully in a Variety of Settings

4.5 C: Listening, Speaking, Audiences: Speaks Clearly and Appropriately to Different Audiences for Different Purposes and Occasions

4.9 E: Reading, Vocabulary Development: Acquires Extensive Vocabulary through Reading and Systematic Word Study

4.12 D: Reading: Recognizing genre

4.15 A, D: Writing, Purposes : Writes for Variety of Audiences and Purposes in Various Forms

4.16 A: Writing: Compose original text

4.18 A, B, C, D: Writing, Grammar, Usage : Applies Grammar and Usage to Communicate Clearly and Effectively in Writing

Social studies:

4.6 A, B: Geography: Use geographic tools such as maps

4.7 A, B, C: Geography: Regions: human activity, landforms, climate, vegetation from physical characteristics

4.9 A, B, C: Geography : Humans Adapt to and Modify their Environment

4.24 A, B: Social Studies Skills : Problem Solving and Decision Making


4.1 A: Scientific Processes : Conducts Field and Laboratory Investigations

4.3 C, D: Scientific Processes : Uses Critical Thinking and Scientific Problem Solving to Make Informed Decisions

4.4 A, B: Scientific Processes : Use of Tools and Methods to Conduct Science Inquiry

4.5 A, B: Science Concepts : Parts Removed from Complex Systems

4.8 A, B: Science Concepts : Adaptations Increase Survival


4.8 A, B, C: Geometry and spatial reasoning: Identify and describe geometric figures

4.9 A, B, C: Geometric and spatial reasoning: Congruence and symmetry

4.11 A, B: Measurement: Estimate and measure length and area

4.14 A, B, C, D: Underlying processes and mathematical tools: everyday usage and problem solving

Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the mysteries of monarchs?
  • Discuss the migration of monarchs. Trace migrations on a map. Note that this is actually generations of butterflies, not an individual, that migrates. What factors will affect the success of monarch migration? (habitat, food supply, weather, etc.)
  • What is the importance of plants to butterflies? Which kinds of plants?
  • How many differences are there between viceroy, monarch and queen butterflies? Consider the advantages of looking similar to the monarch, which has a mild poison that is distasteful to predators. This is called "mimicry" camouflage and is an adaptation that helps survival in the other species.
  • Can you spot the difference between a male and female monarch? See the image on the student and background online pages.) Click on the image for an unaltered, larger version of the picture.
  • Discuss metamorphosis.
  • What are good things about butterflies? Why do we want butterflies? (pollinators (second to bees and moths), part of the food web, relaxing and pleasant to watch, indicator of habitat health and diversity)
  • How can children help monarchs and butterflies?


  • Have a vocabulary challenge! Some of these are tongue twisters! Check out the vocabulary page. Match words with definitions either on paper or as a game (randomly hand out cards with either a definition or term and have children find their match). Or, have students do an image search on the web to illustrate the vocabulary words.
  • Plant a butterfly garden. Attract butterflies to your garden with nectar-producing flowers like eupatorium, lantana, butterfly weed, sage, Mexican mint marigold, black-eyed Susans or purple coneflower. Most butterflies visit between spring and fall, but migrating species will need flowering plants even through November. Monarchs lay their eggs only on butterfly weed (aka milkweed), but adults will sip nectar from other flowers. Learn to identify species with a field guide. from: 50 Ways to Hook Kids on the Outdoors

Here are some programs where citizens can get involved in collecting important data on these unique butterflies:

Monarch Watch

Monarch Watch is a collaborative network of students, teachers, volunteers, and researchers dedicated to the study of the monarch butterfly. It is an educational outreach program at the University of Kansas. For information about the University of Kansas Monarch Watch Tagging Program and how you can get involved, contact via phone (1-888-TAGGING), web site ( or E-mail ( The Monarch Watch Tagging Kit (sent just prior to the fall migration each year) contains tags, a PreMigration Newsletter, a datasheet and complete instructions.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

There is still much to learn about monarch butterflies. The monarchs that pass through our state in the spring after overwintering in Mexico seek various species of milkweed on which to lay their eggs. But we know very little about the abundance and distribution of milkweed and monarch eggs and larvae in Texas. Where are monarchs breeding in Texas? Where do they lay their eggs? How does the abundance of milkweed in Texas impact monarch numbers? Many of these questions are being researched through the University of Minnesota's Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. For information on this important project and how you can get involved, contact via phone (1-612-624-8706), web site ( or E-mail: Karen Oberhauser, Director: or Dina Kountoupes, Program Assistant:

Journey North

Journey North engages students in a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change. This web site is a free, Internet-based program that tracks the journeys of monarch butterflies and other migratory species each season. Students share their own field observations with classrooms across the hemisphere. In addition, students are linked with scientists who provide their expertise directly to the classroom. Several migrations are tracked by satellite telemetry, providing live coverage of individual animals as they migrate. Through this site you will not only be able to track monarch migration but also report sightings of your own. For more information on this program, contact their web site.

Project WILD

Interesting Links for Further Research

Learn About Texas Insects Activity Book
Science Museum of Minnesota  
Monarch Butterly Site: Information about gardening, rearing, and student activities
Life Cycle of the Monarch  (Chicago Nature Museum YouTube video)