Source: Quick and Easy Learning Games: Science

Migrating Monarchs

Players:   2 to 4
Science Topics: life cycle, migration, habitats
Objective: Students infer stages in the life cycle of a butterfly. They learn that some monarch butterflies migrate during the fall and that their declining numbers are due to threatened habitats.
Materials: buttons (one for each player), die, game board

Butterflies that emerge in the fall migrate south toward Mexico and southern California. Here, they gather around trees, waiting for warmer weather. Then they migrate north again. (The individual butterflies themselves don't live long enough to make it all the way north. As they move north, three or four new generations continue on.)

Many children will be familiar with monarch butterflies, which lay their eggs only on milkweed plants. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves almost immediately after it hatches from its egg. Many milkweed fields, however, have been turned into parking lots or building sites. In Mexico, many forests where monarchs winter also face destruction. Loss of habitat has resulted in the monarch's shrinking population.

To Play
Players take turns rolling the die to find out how many spaces to move. Players who land on a box with instructions follow those instructions (for example, move ahead two spaces). The first player to reach FINISH wins.

Think About It

  • How do you think people can protect monarch butterflies' habitats here and in places where they winter? (Answers will vary and may include finding less environmentally harmful ways to solve parking problems, protecting forests from being cut down, and so on.)

Extension Activities

  • Watch Them Grow: Give students a first-hand look at a monarch's life cycle. You can order butterfly eggs from The Butterfly Place, P.O. Box 1541, 120 Tyngsboro Rd., Westford, MA 01886; (508) 392-0955.
  • Tracking Butterflies: Have students trace the route of monarchs on a map. How far do they fly? (Monarchs migrate from the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada to Mexico and coastal areas of southern California.)