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Butterfly Migration Pattern Activities for 2nd Grade

by Sara Ipatenco, studioD

In addition to learning about the life cycle of a butterfly, many second-grade science curriculums include lessons and activities that teach students about the migration patterns of certain monarch butterflies. Incorporating hands-on activities into the classroom will help second-graders learn more about these winged creatures, as well as help them retain what they've learned.

Map the Migration Route

Review the definition of migration. Allow second-graders to discuss that migration means that an animal, a monarch butterfly in this case, moves to a different area of the world during certain times of year.

Look through books or use online resources to find the route that monarch butterflies take when they migrate. Show the students these routes on a large classroom map.

Give each student a blank map and ask them to fill in major details, such as country names and the names of the oceans.

Ask the children to plot the route that a butterfly takes when it migrates by drawing the route with a colored pencil or marker. Tell the students that many monarch butterflies travel 2,500 miles on their migration journey, which is what the line on their map represents.

Migration Countdown

Tell the second-graders that it takes approximately two months for a monarch to migrate from the United States to Mexico. Make that number mean something by telling students that is about equal to the time between Halloween and Christmas and just a bit shorter than summer vacation.

Ask the second-graders to determine how many days the butterflies fly to reach their final destination. This meets a math standard in many second-grade curriculums. The answer is about 60 days.

Make a classroom countdown chain so second-graders know about when the butterflies are arriving in their migration destination. Cut 60 strips of construction paper, each about 2 inches wide. Staple one strip together so it forms a circle. Put another strip through the circle and staple it so it interlocks with the first circle. Continue stapling the paper strips until they are all connected into a chain.

Hang the countdown chain in the classroom and remove one strip at the end of each day. Count how many links are still on the chain so students know how much longer until the butterflies arrive. On the last day of the chain, have students share what they think the butterflies are doing in the warmer climate.

Classroom Migration

Before the lesson, ask each second-grader to choose a friend or family member to mail a letter to. Ask parents to provide the address for their chosen person.

Give the second-graders colored construction paper, scissors and glue, and ask them to make their own monarch butterfly.

Ask the children to write a letter, each pretending he is a butterfly. Perhaps the butterfly could introduce himself, talk about his likes and dislikes and discuss his upcoming migration journey.

Place the letter and butterfly in the envelope and help the children write addresses on the outside. Add a stamp and mail each letter.

Discuss how the butterflies will migrate to new homes with the people they are mailing letters to. Ask the students how long they think it will take their butterflies to arrive and what might happen to them along the way.

Record where each butterfly ends up on a classroom map. Place a sticker on the location where each butterfly is being mailed, which reinforces the concept of migration, but also enhances map reading, a key skill in many second-grade social studies curriculums.

Items you will need
  •  Books or online resources about butterfly migration
  •  Classroom map
  •  Blank maps
  •  Pencils
  •  Crayons or colored pencils
  •  Colored construction paper
  •  Scissors
  •  Stapler
  •  Glue
  •  Lined writing paper
  •  Envelopes
  •  Stamps
  •  Addresses of family members
  •  Small stickers


  • Several websites plot the route that migrating monarch butterflies take. Students might be interested in seeing these maps before they make their own.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images