About the Project

Our Work


Autumn Across America

Photo of Autumn in Arlington by Paul Schlichtman
An Internet Project

About the Project

Marci McGowan is back with another wonderful seasonal project. Here is what she has to say about it: "Autumn Across America is a collaborative Internet project for K - 4 classes and for older special education students in USA and Canada. It offers students an opportunity to learn about their country and the fall season through Internet sharing of writing and pictures of their own communities."

Since our theme this year is E Pluribus Unum, this project was a PERFECT match for our work!

Our Work
Arlington, Massachusetts is a suburb of our state's capital, Boston. Autumn in Arlington is filled with the richness of this beautiful season in New England. There are lots of:
  • juicy apples and plump pumpkins
  • breezy days and chilly nights
  • crunchy leaves and snuggly sweaters
But this Autumn, Arlington had something EXTRA special! Read on to learn about it...
Ahhh, Autumn...a time of trees covered with beautiful, colorful leaves, such as those in the photo to the left. Right? Well, not really...

You see these aren't leaves at all. They're MONARCHS clustering after their long 2,500 mile migration!

Yes, these amazing creatures migrate each autumn and became the basis of our work for this project!
Let us explain...
While vacationing in N.H. in late August, my husband and I witnessed something incredible. We were sunning by the lake when we saw first one, then two, then dozens of monarchs flying by us, stopping to "nectar" right in front of us!

I managed to capture some of this magic on my cell phone!

We realized that we were in the midst of "Journey South" - the annual migration of the monarchs to Mexico. We were excited and thought it wonderful, but that was that, until...

I received an email on September 27, 2006 from Rebecca, one of my students. After school she had seen hundreds of monarchs flying over our very own Peirce School playground in Arlington, MA. During a two hour period she counted over 280!

Here is the exact spot of the sighting.

Well, this was too awesome for words! I began to do some research so I could provide her with more information and discovered an AMAZING project from the people at Journey North - Symbolic Migration!

This is a special project where students make paper butterflies which are sent by the people at Journey North to Mexico to "overwinter". Then, in the Spring, butterflies return to the children (not necessarily their own) when the monarchs begin their "Journey North". The children's butterflies are symbolically "migrating" with the monarchs!

In creating our butterflies, we discussed the concept of symmetry. Since this was somewhat of a "fantasy" flight, the children were allowed to create their own designs, although Jamie and Declan preferred a more realistic creation. See below.

Viceroy by Jamie and Spot by Declan

To view all of the children's beautiful butterflies,
click here.

Our butterflies also needed to include a message in Spanish to our hosts in Mexico. Here is the greeting our butterflies carried in Spanish and its translation into English:
Esta es mi mariposa. Su nombre es ______________.

Es feliz estar con usted. Por favor cuiden a esta mariposa durante el frío y el largo invierno del norte.

Un amigo en Massachusetts, USA,

This my butterfly. Its name is _______________.

It is happy to be with you. Please take care of this butterfly during the cold and long winter of the north.

A friend in Massachusetts, USA,

Special thanks to Spanish experts Gloria Magale and Laura Goldstein

We used the book Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way (Smithsonian’s Backyard) by Katie Lee, illustrated by Elizabeth Ring, to help us learn more about the monarch and its migration. This is a terrific book that follows the life cycle of this butterfly, along with its trip to Mexico and its return to the North. I would highly recommend it (also available on tape)!

We also explored the poetry format of acrostic with the book Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic by Steven Schnur, Leslie Evans (Illustrator). Then we listened to Monarch Butterfly of Aster Way again, as the children used white boards and markers to jot down ideas for our own acrostic. Here is what we created collaboratively:

Migrating to Mexico
On your journey South to the oyamel trees
Nectar nourishes you
Along your way to the place of your ancestors
Roosting and resting at night
Clinging in clusters,
Hundreds, thousands, millions of you, until
Spring sunshine will send you North, and back to us again

by Ms. Jacoby's Second Graders - October 2006

We are VERY excited about our "Journey South" and will keep you posted in the Spring when we hope to see new butterfly friends after their Journey North!!

Science Curriculum Frameworks
  • The learner will recognize that people and other animals interact with the environment through their senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
  • The learner will recognize changes in appearance that animals and plants go through as the seasons change.
  • The learner will recognize that plants and animals have life cycles, and that life cycles vary for different living things.

Language Arts Curriculum Frameworks

Learning Standard 2: Students will pose questions, listen to the ideas of others, and contribute their own information or ideas in group discussions and interviews in order to acquire new knowledge
  • Elements: Identify - The learner will be able to identify poetic elements
  • Expand: Vocabulary - The learner will be able to expand his/her vocabulary
  • Writing: Use/Expand - The learner will be able to use an expanded vocabulary when writing
  • Dictate: Poetry - The learner will be able to dictate the writing of a poem
  • Poetry: Original - The learner will be able to write original poetry
Math Curriculum Frameworks
  • The learner will identify shapes that have been reflected (flipped).
  • The learner will identify symmetry in two-dimensional shapes.


Herbicides don’t kill butterflies directly, but they annihilate milkweeds along with other plants. Milkweeds are critical to the species because they are the only plants on which monarch caterpillars can feed. All over the United States herbicides are replacing costly mowing as the primary method of controlling weeds along roadsides, power line right-of-ways, and agricultural fields—areas that together comprise much of the monarch’s breeding grounds.

“Herbicide use at that level,” says Brower, “is catastrophic for monarchs.”

Monarchs are also threatened by insecticides and other methods used to control insect pests. Sprays that kill gypsy moth larvae also kill monarch caterpillars. And the caterpillar’s similarity to the European corn borer makes monarchs susceptible to blowing pollen from corn that has been biologically engineered to kill the corn pests. Sprays that kill mosquitoes can also kill monarchs.

From National Geographic

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