Monarchs in the Classroom

Autumn is full swing at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. While the leaves are changing and the temperatures are cooling, our monarch butterflies are continuing their 3,000 mile journey to Mexico. On their great trek, they will encounter tough storms, ocean winds, cold temperatures and more. This inspiring butterfly has caught the interest of local 4th graders and their teachers at Penrose Elementary and they show how monarchs can be used as an interdisciplinary tool in the classroom!

Earlier this month, we held an event with several partners at Penrose Elementary to designate the Philadelphia Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. During the event, each student learned how to tag and release butterflies. Having experienced these beautiful  insects first hand, students at Penrose are incorporating their memorable experience of releasing butterflies into their work assignments for class. The monarch butterfly can be easily adapted to subjects across the curriculum, including Language Arts, Math, Science, Art and Geography.

Students at Penrose have been reading poems and writing essays about monarchs as part of their Language Arts assignments. Below, a student uses details from the poem to reflect on its meaning and how the poem emphasizes the importance of being happy with who they are. Using a personal experience and tying it into language arts can be extremely helpful and allow the students to better relate to conservation and nature.


An essay that cites details from the poem and draws conclusions.

Monarch migration can also be adapted into a math or geography lesson. Using map skills and identifying migration routes can help students visualize the United States and the surrounding countries. They can also get an idea of how far away 3,000 miles is and where Mexico is in relation to Philadelphia. Students also used butterflies to solve more complex math equations and as an inspiration for art.


A water color monarch!


A math problem solved using the four operations.

While insects and butterflies are commonly used as a lesson in science, Penrose Elementary students have shown how monarchs can easily be used in other subjects as well. This truly shows how invaluable the story of the monarch is and how it can have a lasting impact on young students.

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