Related issues packaged with a teacher’s guide


Survival -- December 2005

Why? How? When? And all that good stuff…


Teacher’s Guide

Teaching Suggestions for
Invisible Highways: The Science of Migrations

      Article / Page

"Birds on the Move," pg. 6
  • Patterns of bird migration are as varied as the species themselves. No matter what the pattern, however, the mystery of migration involves senses, hormones, and rhythms we are only beginning to understand. A sidebar (pg. 8) describes how weather aids the migration of some species.
  • Vocabulary, Cause and Effect
"The Atlantic Flyway: Bird Superhighway," pg. 10
  • The Atlantic Flyway, running some 3,200 kilometers from the Arctic to South America, is the migratory route of half of the bird species of North America. Conservationists are working to preserve habitats along this "bird superhighway."
  • Adaptation, Environmental Management
"Migration Expectations," pg. 12
  • Migration is a dangerous gamble that requires precise timing. Migrators must find an adequate food supply when they reach their destination. Recent environmental changes endanger migrating species more than ever before.
  • Vocabulary, Cause and Effect
"Flyway Traffic Cop" (Brain Strain), pg. 15
  • Four migrating species must arrive at their destinations without colliding. Can you map a safe path for each one?
  • Problem Solving, Spatial Relations
"Compass! Map! Navigate!" pg. 16
  • Some migrating animals use light-detecting and magnetic senses for orientation and navigation. Sidebars explain magnetic fields, latitude and longitude, and the difference between Earth’s geographic and magnetic poles.
  • Experimental Design, Inductive Reasoning
"Got a Map?" (People To Discover), pg. 20
  • Biologist Kenneth Lohmann explains how loggerhead turtles orient and navigate.
  • Interpretation of Data, Analytical Thinking
"Navigate with the Newts" (Activity), pg. 22
  • First, make a model of newt navigation. Then use iron filings to "draw" magnetic field lines.
  • Following Directions, Spatial Relations
"Amazing Migrations," pg. 24
  • Red crabs scurry through human settlements, desert locusts ride the winds for thousands of miles, and Arctic terns fly as far as 40,000 kilometers. Read about these and other species with exotic migratory tales to tell.
  • Adaptation, Cause and Effect
"I Spy with My High-Tech Eye," pg. 26
  • The technology of tracking has improved greatly since the first radio collars were used on large animals in the 1960s. Today, miniature transmitters allow scientists to track crickets, follow fish, and pinpoint an animal’s location anywhere on Earth. A sidebar (pg. 29) lists Web sites where ODYSSEY readers can follow satellite-tagged animals.
  • Applications, Ecological Management
"Faith," pg. 30
  • This short story, told from a surprising point of view, probes the power and the dangers of leadership.
  • Interpretation, Literary Analysis
"Winged Mysteries," pg. 32
  • It takes three or four generations for monarch butterflies to complete their migration of thousands of kilometers. Their routes are well known, but the secrets behind their migratory instincts are still a mystery. Sidebars describe butterfly exhibits (pg. 33), the importance of wing scales (pg. 35), and efforts to conserve the monarchs’ winter habitat in Mexico (pg. 36).
  • Inductive Reasoning, Environmental Activism
"Do Sharks Have a Sixth Sense?" pg. 37
  • Hammerhead sharks are, according to marine biologist Peter Klimley, the "PhDs of the shark world." He believes that they use a magnetic "sixth sense" to navigate their deep ocean habitat.
  • Inductive Reasoning, Scientific Methodology
"What’s Up and Planet Watch," with "You Can Do Astronomy: Did That Star Change?" pg. 40
  • Mars fades as Earth moves away from it, and Saturn rises earlier each day as October passes. After the Hunter’s Moon of October 10 wanes, observe and record changes in the brightness of variable stars. Their locations and some viewing tips are provided.
  • Observation, Following Directions
Think Tank (Discussion Starters to Use Before Reading the Magazine):
  1. What is the definition of migration? Consult a dictionary or science textbook and discuss what the term means. Do all birds migrate? Which animals other than birds migrate? How is migration different from other animal movements, such as the search for food or a mate?
  2. What is instinct? How is it different from learned behavior? What animal behaviors appear to be instinctive rather than learned? Do humans have instincts? If so, what behaviors would you consider instinctive?
Classroom "Syzygy":     Talk, Connect, Assess
Pg. 16 – "Compass! Map! Navigate!"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. Summarize how the experiments described in the article were designed and carried out. What hypotheses were tested? What were the results? What conclusions were drawn?
    2. What senses do migrating animals use in the same way that humans use a compass? How do migrating animals construct mental maps?
  • Connections:
    1. Visual Arts: Divide a piece of poster paper in half. On one side, use pictures, diagrams, or graphics to communicate the concept of "orientation." On the other, represent the idea of "navigation." Use titles and labels as needed to differentiate the terms.
    2. Mathematics: Find a map of the United States that includes latitude and longitude lines. Place pins on your home and on six other cities. Connect your home with each city using a piece of string. Make a table with three columns: the names of the six cities, the latitude and longitude of each, and its compass direction from your home.
    3. Language Arts: Reread the interview with Kenneth Lohmann on page 20. Then, write your own extension to the interview. Ask a question about loggerhead turtles, visit Lohmann’s Web site to do some research, and then answer the question as you think Lohmann would.
  • Student Assessment:
    1. In a clear essay, compare and contrast orientation and navigation. Tell how each is important to animal migration.
    2. Select from the article one hypothesis that attempts to explain how animals either orient in a single direction or navigate long distances. In a brief, informative speech, explain the hypothesis to the class. You may want to use a map, diagram, or other visual aid.
pg. 26 – "I Spy with My High-Tech Eye"
  • Talk It Over:
    1. Why is it important to study the movements of insects, fish, and land animals? What reasons are given in the article? What additional reasons can you think of?
    2. Several tracking systems are mentioned in the article. How does each system work? What are the advantages and limitations of each?
  • Connections:
    1. Mathematics: On graph paper, show how triangulation works in 2-dimensional space (a flat surface). What is the minimum number of bearings needed to locate an object in 2 dimensions? Build a model to show how triangulation works in 3 dimensions (such as on a high mountain or under a deep ocean). What’s the minimum number of bearings required? Explain your graph and your model on accompanying posters. (Bonus: Under what circumstances would a time measurement be needed? Answer below.)
    2. History: How did scientists study the movements of fish and land animals before tracking transmitters were developed? Research the history of tracking research in your library and on the Web and write a report about early migration studies.
    3. Creative Writing: Pretend you are a scientist studying the movements of human beings. The human you have chosen to study is YOU. Follow your movements through a typical day, recording your objective observations in the style of the "field log" a scientist would keep. What patterns of movement can you discern? What conclusions can you draw about the instincts and learned behaviors of your subject?
  • Student Assessment:
    1. Pick one of the transmitting technologies described in the article. In a brief, but detailed essay, explain exactly how it works and give an example of its use.
    2. Write a letter to a senator or congressional representative encouraging funding for research on animal migrations. Make your letter persuasive by including specific examples of how such scientific studies benefit the taxpayer.

Far Out!: Moving Beyond the Magazine (With a few comments on birds . . . )

Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand.
– Muhammad Ali

Large-Group Collaborative Project: Break the class into four groups: fish, birds, insects, and mammals. Challenge each group member to research the migratory route of a species of that kind. On a wall map of the world, draw and label routes for each species researched. Use markers, pins, or colored yarns to differentiate species and routes.

Never look for birds of this year in the nests of the last.
– Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Community Connection: Contact a birdwatchers’ club in your area. Invite a member to speak to the class about local species and their migratory habits. Follow up with a class birdwatching project.

I see my way as birds their trackless way. I shall arrive, what time, what circuit first, I ask not.
– Robert Browning

Small-Group Activity: Break the class into teams of two students each. Ask each pair to construct a list of compass points and distance measurements that lead to a "treasure." For example, "Begin in the middle of the classroom, face NNW, and walk 20 paces, then face ENE and walk 10 paces . . . " After a series of directions (which may also include landmarks), have each pair place a small object to be found. When the pairs have completed their directions, they can exchange maps and try to find each other’s objects. (Several compasses will be needed.)

Spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.
– Rachel Carson

Individual Research: Ask each student to select and research a species that migrates, and write a diary for one of its members, written from the animal’s point of view. The diary should describe in first person the process, route, and dangers of migration. Compile the diaries into a book of migration tales to publish or read aloud to another class.

Connections bonus answer: A time measurement is needed to locate a moving object in three-dimensional space. Accurate time measurements are also essential for the GPS, because distance is calculated from how long it takes a radio signal to reach a satellite. To learn more, check out the tutorial at

Over 1,000 ODYSSEY™ articles and over 8,000 articles from seven other Cobblestone Publishing magazines are available in our subscription-based online searchable archives.
Parents and teachers, try out the FREE index.

Please see our Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2005 Cobblestone Publishing

Last modified: October 31, 2003