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Winging It: The Buzz About Saving Monarch Butterflies

April 4, 2023

Winging It: The Buzz About Saving Monarch Butterflies

Ask Students: How much have monarch populations decreased in the past 20 years? How can connecting culture to conservation help prioritize saving monarchs?


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Have you ever witnessed the stunning sight of a monarch butterfly fluttering through the air? These iconic insects are known for their vibrant orange and black wings, and their impressive migration from Canada and the United States to Mexico. Unfortunately, the population of monarch butterflies has been in decline in recent years, and there are several reasons why.

From habitat loss to climate change, the monarch butterfly faces numerous challenges that threaten its survival. In this lesson, you will take a closer look at two videos that discuss some of the factors contributing to the decline of these butterflies, what you can do to help protect them, and why they are so important to certain cultures. You’ll also have a chance to learn about other endangered species and about nonprofit organizations.

Educators: Choose which parts of this lesson are most appropriate for your students and adapt the lesson to the required level.

Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  • When did the monarch population start declining? What are some of the causes?
  • When does the monarch butterfly migration start, and how far do they typically travel?
  • What is one of the reasons for the diminished food supply for monarch butterflies in North America?
  • What is ecotourism? What has it done for this local community? Do you think ecotourism could have negative effects? If so, why?
  • How does the support from local communities affect the success of conservation projects
Remote video URL

Discussion Questions

  • How much have monarch populations decreased in the past 20 years?
  • What plant is necessary for monarch caterpillars to survive?
  • What is a pollinator garden? How can it help monarch butterflies?
  • What does the monarch butterfly symbolize in Mexican culture?
  • How can connecting culture to conservation help prioritize saving monarchs?
  • Nature might not be a priority in many underserved communities. Do you think community events like the Festival de la Monarca can help raise awareness about the importance of conservation? If so, why?

Activity: Explore Endangered Populations Near You

You’ve learned about monarch butterflies, but what about creatures that live near your home? This database from the International Union for Conservation of Nature is like a report card that tells us how healthy the world's plants and animals are. It's not just a list of species and whether they're doing well—it's also a helpful tool that can help us figure out what we need to do to protect them. The report tells us things like where the plants and animals live, how many there are, what's harming them, and what we can do to help. All of this information can help us make smart decisions to take care of our planet and the living things that call it home.

Explore the database by yourself or with a partner and consider the following while you conduct your own research:

  • Look up an animal or plant in your home state or elsewhere. What did you choose, and why?
  • What is the current population trend? Is it decreasing or recovering?
  • Where can you typically find this plant or animal?  Have you ever seen one?
  • What are some of the threats it faces?

Extension Activity: What’s a Nonprofit Organization?

In one of the videos, scientists and workers from the World Wildlife Fund talk about their work in Mexico preserving monarch butterflies, so what else does this organization do, as well as others like it?

A nonprofit, also known as a not-for-profit, is an organization that exists to serve a public or social cause and is not driven by the goal of generating profit or financial gain for its owners or shareholders. Nonprofits can range from small grassroots organizations to large, well-established charities and foundations. They often rely on donations, grants and other forms of fundraising to support their work, and their earnings are typically reinvested in the organization's mission and activities.

Take a look at the World Wildlife Fund’s website to find and discuss the following:

  • How long has the WWF been around? What is it known for?
  • What other places, species or issues does it focus on?
  • What do you think the organization’s first priority should be?
  • What is the main source of donations to the WWF, and what percent of its spending is directed toward its policy goals?
  • Do you think it’s important to know who funds nonprofit organizations? If so, why?
  • Look up other organizations like the WWF; how are they similar or different?

Lesson Plans on Climate Change

Explore more resources for educators to find a wide-range of relevant preK-12 lessons on climate change or supporting young people as they continue to lead the conversation around the climate change crisis.

Andy Kratochvil
Andy Kratochvil is an SML team member who loves hiking, video games, scary books, Mexican food, and finding great content for the Share My Lesson community. He studied political science and French at California State University, Fullerton and received his Master’s in International Affairs from... See More

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