Return to the Wild - Evolving perspectives on Canadian wildlife

Lesson plan: The monarch butterfly and climate change: a great traveller in peril


Grade Level:

This Learning and Evaluation Situation is designed for students in Secondary 2 (grade 8). It could be adapted or abridged, however, for students in Secondary 1.

Time Required:

The total time required for preparation and performance is two 75-minute periods. The integration step can be longer or shorter at the teacher's discretion and depending on student interest in the suggested activity.


Students submit a grant application showing their understanding of the link between climate change and the dangers it can pose to the energy levels of monarch butterflies during their long migration. This understanding can be expanded during the integration activity, when students are asked to imagine a Canadian ecological reserve for protecting the monarch from extreme temperature variations.

This learning and evaluation situation (LES) is organized as provided by the geography curriculum of the Québec Ministère de l’Éducation.

The plan is divided into four specific components.

  1. Brainstorming (LES preparation)
  2. Triad research (LES performance)
  3. Presentation of migration plan and predictions (LES performance)
  4. Creation of an ideal ecological reserve (LES integration)

Main Objective

  • Lead students to learn about the general characteristics and migratory route of the monarch. 
  • Lead students to identify the major characteristics and issues related to the monarch's wintering territory. 
  • Lead students to consider the impact of climate change on migratory insects.
  • Lead students to devise solutions that take account of their research findings. (Integration)

Curriculum Connection

Geography, Secondary 1 (middle grades), Québec.

Central Concept: a natural park

Territory: protected

Competency 1,  To understand the organization of territories: 
Competency 1 components: decode the landscapes of a territory; understand the meaning of human actions in a territory; use mapping language

Competency 3, To construct a consciousness of global citizenship:
Competency 3 components: examine human actions in terms of the future; show the global nature of geographic phenomena

Learning Outcomes

Following these various activities, students will be able to:

  • Describe the characteristics of the monarch in relation to geography;
  • Recreate the migratory path of the monarch on a map;
  • Describe the characteristics of the monarch's wintering territory;
  • Explain the impact of climate change in the territories within the monarch's migration route.



Preparation (20 minutes)

Show the photograph of the monarch butterfly and ask students to identify it;

  • Engage in brainstorming on existing knowledge about the butterfly in the chart;
  • Ask students whether it is an endangered species, and what might be the causes. Enter this information on the board;
  • Present the following role-play: You belong to a Canadian research team studying the monarch butterfly. You are concerned about a number of issues related to this insect, including: how does the climate of the territory in the monarch's range affect its migration? To answer your questions, you decide to take a study trip during which you follow the path of the monarchs. The trip will be expensive, and you have to complete a grant application to obtain a research grant;
  • Form groups of three students;
  • Hand out the grant application workbook to each group.

Performance (90 minutes)

  • Explain the research work by reading each page of the grant application workbook;
  • Prepare students for the research by assigning them to a computer station or arranging a work space;
  • Give students a list of mandatory sites for starting their research;
  • Give research ideas using the recommended Internet sites and the Canadian Geographic map;
  • Supervise time spent on research work and workbook completion.

Integration (50 minutes)

  • Lead a review with the entire group after completing the workbook;
  • Compare the information acquired with past knowledge;
  • Propose the following integration activity: imagine that you have to create a Canadian ecological reserve to protect the monarchs from extreme temperature variation. Identify the geographic characteristics of this location;
  • Lead a general discussion on the imagined ecological reserve;
  • Summarize the main items of knowledge acquired during this learning and evaluation situation, before ending the lesson.


Preparation (20 minutes)

  • Participate in general discussions;
  • Identify the grant application workbook.

Performance (90 minutes)

  • Become familiar with the grant application workbook;
  • Divide up research work by consulting the available resources;
  • Consult together to verify their information;
  • Take notes while performing Internet research;
  • Talk together to come up with a research hypothesis;
  • Complete the grant application workbook.

Integration (50 minutes)

  • Participate in feedback discussion;
  • Use the knowledge acquired to come up with a Canadian ecological reserve;
  • Summarize their new knowledge during the closing discussion.

Other approaches or alternative methods

A longer integration phase could be used, with oral and visual presentations by each of the teams. For students having difficulty or where Internet access is not readily available, a series of documents could be provided as student reference material for the research phase.

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