26 September 2007Add to My Folder
Use interactive maps and atlases to introduce children to migrating animals
Migration is the seasonal movement of animals to and from areas offering an abundant food supply or suitable place to breed. Many migratory animals cover incredible distances, following the same routes from generation to generation, either in large groups or completely alone.
Their amazing stories can be used to teach children about the ways in which living things and the environment need protection. Trace the long distance routes detailed here and ask your class to consider what would happen to these animals if one or more of the habitats disappeared. The current threat to the South African roosting grounds of British swallows makes a topical environmental case study.
When children learn about how animals and plants are suited to their environment, they could investigate why some habitats are only suitable at certain times of the year and the adaptation strategies that have evolved to deal with this. Migration itself can be considered as a form of adaptation, since only those animals that survive such an arduous journey will be able to breed and ensure the continuation of their species into the future.
- Monarch Butterflies make a once-in-a-life time two-way migration of about 3000 miles between the eastern states of the USA and the mountains of Mexico. Unable to survive long, cold winters, they fly south in masses to their winter roosts – often to the very same trees as their predecessors.
- North Atlantic Blue Whales winter in the tropics, where they mate and give birth, and migrate to summer feeding grounds in the Arctic waters around Southern Greenland and Iceland. As winter returns, they make their journey south along the eastern seaboard of the USA and down the coast of Panama.
- Loggerhead Sea Turtles take between five and ten years to complete a lonely 8000-mile circuit of the seaweed-strewn Sargasso Sea. Their North Atlantic journey begins and ends on the coast of eastern Florida, taking in the Azores, the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands along the way.
- British swallows overwinter in South Africa. Their journey south begins in late September over western France, the Pyrenees and eastern Spain and then across the Mediterranean towards Morocco, the Sahara and on to southern Africa. They will begin their return flight in February, travelling up to 200 miles in a day.
- Sooty Shearwaters fly nearly 40,000 miles a year, completing a migration loop across the Pacific Ocean and back. From their winter breeding grounds in New Zealand, they head to the summer coasts of California, Alaska, or Japan in search of food.
- How do they know? Solitary cuckoos find their own way to and from ancestral wintering grounds in the tropics.
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