Monday, April 3, 2017

Migration and Robotics: A Rich, STEAM Activity for Primary Grade Students

Here's a wonderful, cross disciplinary STEAM activity submitted by Carmela N. Curatola Knowles. She's taken the classic Life Science resource, Journey North, and adapted it to become a fascinating, expressive robotics activity for her 2nd graders.
Monarchs 2017 from Carmela Curatola Knowles on Vimeo.

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Migration and Robotics: Primary Style

By Carmela N. Curatola Knowles, Technology Integration Specialist at the Armenian Sisters Academy in Radnor, PA

One of my favorite units is a blend of developing an understanding of migration and its physical demonstration through the use of robotics.  I’ve used this for monarch butterflies and also hummingbirds with 2nd graders; however, it could certainly be adjusted up to 3rd grade easily.

One of the two main concepts in the unit are that monarch butterflies are the only insects that migrate 2,000 to 3,000 miles each year.   They make the trip every year as the 5th or 6th generation of monarchs in the migrating year; however, their job is to migrate for the winter and then return northward toward Texas and Oklahoma to lay their eggs before they die. 

The first generation of the new migratory year, and the second, third, and fourth generations will only live about 2 months flying north and laying eggs.  Then that 5th or 6th generation will be the ones who live about 6 months to make that momentous journey to keep their species alive!

After the students have been introduced to the monarch butterfly through Journey North’s website ( they practice word processing skills using a template about monarch butterflies to reinforce basic information about the butterflies. 

Next, they begin to work in LEGO Education’s WeDo 2.0 kit in groups of 2 or 3.  Using LEGO’s Firefly model, they build the basic structure using the tilt sensor.  The butterfly is a creation of their own after the basic structure has been built.

Returning to Journey North’s website, the students go into the Maps section and identify which sightings they want to use in their programming. 
Using the LEGO tilt sensor, the students then program their robots to leave their own city (Radnor, in our case) on the first tilt, arrive for food at the first stop, or next tilt, identified by their selected location on Journey North’s map, stop at the next location they identified on the map, and the final tilt to land in Mexico. 

Finally, the students have an opportunity to give a filming to demonstrate their monarch robot’s migration to Mexico!
Through the research, the building and programming of the robot, and the demonstration of the path, there are numerous opportunities for students to reinforce the concepts from the standards addressed.  Because of the hands-on activities, the students can construct their learning as they progress through the project.

The National Science Education Standards addressed are:
1.   - Organisms have basic needs. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met. (K-4)

2.   - Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, reproduction. (K-4)

  Click on book cover for information

Click on book cover for information
Getting Started with LEGO Robotics. Anyone who works with kids can do LEGO Robotics, a rich and highly motivating platform for important STEM Learning! (surprisingly affordable, too) This books explains it all!


  1. Excellent!!!! Greetings from Uruguay.

  2. A Bricks 4 Kidz workshop uses LEGO Bricks that youngsters love, to pass on hands-on lessons identified with cross-disciplinary instructive projects targets. The Bricks 4 Kidz approach to manage learning is innovative, multi-material and Junior robotics, making a dynamic learning foundation for your understudies.