Massive Migrations

National Wildlife Foundation Arctic NatureScope Kit
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Model , Simulation , Activity
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



On the home page link choose Massive Migrations, K-4 and download the PDF. In this activity students are guided in creating a physical simulation of bird migration. They participate in three stations simulating the three habitat types of migratory birds, which include nesting areas, non-nesting areas, and stopover locations. Students record and compare data on the migration of four birds, and show their understanding through written descriptions and or illustrations of their migratory stops.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that animals need to take in food but plants do not; the different kinds of food needed by different types of animals; the requirement of plants to have light; and, that all living things need water.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Teachers need to emphasize the needs of birds and how they meet those needs along their migratory routes. Have students compare the routes of the four birds in the activity and how each met their needs. Ask students to identify and compare patterns in each of the four routes. Set up the activity in advance and have other adults on hand to keep students on task, man the various stations, and assist in recording data. Be sure to check for understanding several times throughout the lesson.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Prepare data sheets for each station and part of the activity. Allow students to record their data at each stop (station) throughout the activity. Collect the data at the end of the activity and organize it into a large chart for whole class analysis. Have students review both their own and the whole class data. Ask students to describe patterns and answer questions about what each of the four birds needed during migration in order to survive and how they met their needs.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Reinforce the idea that migratory birds need to eat in order to survive along their migration routes. Have students demonstrate this during their stopover station by engaging in hunting or gathering food (according to their type of bird). Provide toys and or pictures of such objects for them to gather, or engage in the fishing activity as described in the lesson.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
While are at the nesting and stopover stations, have them discuss how they change the environment by collecting and manipulating items for nests, or feeding on the plants and animals in their stopover locations.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Gather and share resources from videos or books about the four birds to compare real life information with the data they gathered during the activity. Guide student discussions about the pattern of migration for each bird, citing their data as evidence of those patterns. The lesson plan also suggests other resources that explain migratory patterns that can be used to reinforce this Crosscutting Concept.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson allows students the opportunity to act out a simulation to represent relationships between migratory birds and the environment. They analyze and interpret data they collect throughout the simulation and use the data to make comparisons among the simulations as well as between the simulation and real-life. Disciplinary Core Ideas LS1.C and ESS2.E, are directly addressed and the Crosscutting Concept of patterns is easily obtained through a little explicit instruction.

  • Instructional Supports: The activity allows students to engage in a simulation of an authentic phenomena in a fun activity. It presents materials in a scientifically accurate way that is appropriate for Kindergarten learners with guidance by the instructor. It is imperative to note that this activity requires adult helpers, depending on the developmental level of the students. However, the teacher can easily adjust the activity and the recording sheets for early elementary students.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: It is important to follow through with the foldable activity where students create drawings or sentences about the types of habitats migratory birds visit, and the definition of migration, to assess learning. Also, it is quite easy to monitor student understanding through the discussion and student actions throughout the activity and to provide feedback along the way to increase understanding.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The lesson is downloaded as a PDF and set up by the instructor.