Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

You are here

Educators around the country are developing materials to use with Nature's Notebook.

Image credit:
Brian Powell

Nature's Notebook Activities

Explore Nature's Notebook materials created by the National Coordinating Office Staff and partners.

Title Description
Phenology, Ecosystem Analysis, and Ecological Mismatches

This lesson helps students become familiar with plant and animal species present in an oak tree ecosystem. They are also asked to explore the USA-NPN's Visualization Tool and, from the data, draw conclusions about how climate and climate change affect plant phenology.

This lesson was submitted by Peter Malecki for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Exploring Phenology Using Seed Balls By Lexie Barrell

The following activity is an introductory lesson in the basics of observation skills for young children. Observation is a crucial component to scientific inquiry as well as many basic life skills. This activity encourages young children to take notice of their surrounding environments and reflect on their observations.   

This activity was submitted by Lexie Barrell from the Science Museum of Virginia for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Using your senses to make observations by Amie Cox

This activity will introduce phenology to students and will serve as a ‘warm up’ to conducting more complex observations to be submitted to Natures Notebook. Students will observe one specimen on their own and practice making simple observations. Followed by a group discussion, students will have the opportunity to share out their process and submit one Nature’s Notebook observation into the database for Red Butte Garden.

This activity was submitted by Amie Cox from the Red Butte Garden for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Phenology for Master Naturalists

This phenology class was presented in a 3-hour training course for Master Naturalists.

The learning outcomes for the course are as follows:

  • Define phenology and explain how it is an indicator of climate change.
  • Summarize basic principles of ecology and how they relate to phenology
  • Describe the difference between weather and climate and describe the climates change through time
  • Describe phenology from a historical perspective, culturally and ecologically.
  • Define how data collect for Nature’s Notebook is utilized for research
  • Define citizen science and describe how it is utilized for research
  • Revisit/summarize the importance and value of nature journals

You may wish to assign Master Naturalists reading before hand, including famous naturalists' writing on the timing of phenological events through time. For this course the following reading assignments were given:

Phenology required reading:

Natural History of the Sonoran Desert:

  • Chapter 5, pages 27-35. “Sonoran Desert Natural Events Calendar.”

Phenology Suggested Reading:

  • Krutch, J.W. (1985). The Desert Year. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

The class included examples of phenological mismatch for the Sonoran Desert. This information can be swapped out for other geographic regions. It also included several hands-on activities in the field, exploring the Nature's Notebook protocols. Worksheets for the activities are included above. Homework assignments are also included.

Offered in addition to this lecture was a 3-hour field lab session designed to take a further look into the protocols and learn how to collect observations on species of interest at a nearby partner group site.

You can browse other Master Naturalist presentations in our workshop archive or here and here.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-001-W

What can a lilac tell us about national climate change? Using the USA-NPN's Spring Indices to measure the impact of weather on biota

This lesson can be used as a supplement in a course designed to demonstrate climate change impacts on biotic species or a course designed to study the natural history of species in a given range.

Prior to presenting this lesson the instructor should familiarize themselves with the USA-NPN’s Visualization Tool (usanpn.org/data/visualizations) and First Leaf and First Bloom maps (Spring Index Maps; usanpn.org/data/maps). Both tools have accompanying technical documentation on the website, including tutorial videos and info sheets.

The instructor should also identify a study range and at least two species of interest for student to explore, found on the Nature’s Notebook Plant and Animal list (usanpn.org/nn/species_search). In this example the Tucson Basin was chosen for exploration of the Spring Anomaly and the Northern red oak and Blue Jay were chosen to demonstrate the species phenophase overlap in the Activity Curve. The Activity Curves are designed to display phenological information such as resource availability in an ecosystem. Included with this assignment is an editable student page where the instructor may edit the range and species to be explored.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-001-C

Investigations in Phenology by Sol Henson

Conduct this activity before students are introduced to data collection using the Nature’s Notebook observation protocols. This activity will familiarize students with some of the main phenophases present on select species during certain times throughout the school year. After students do this activity you may wish to have them make observations using the Nature’s Notebook observation protocols and then at the end of the year students can view their collected data in conjunction with the data they viewed during this activity.

This activity was submitted by Sol Henson from the Sierra Streams Institute for partial fulfulment of the requirements for the Local Phenology Leader Certification Program in the Spring of 2018.

Phenophase Photo Guide Activities

This activity introduces adult audiences to the concept of taking useable photos of phenophases for identification. Use this activity with a group of docents at a Local Phenology Program who may also be able to help collect photos to complete the photo guides.

USA-NPN Curriculum Resource Number: 2018-002-C

Phenophase Scavenger Hunt Activity - By Michelle Coe

To acclimate people to looking closely at the plants and animals for observation in Nature's Notebook, use this activity outdoors.

Print out the letters to the word PHENOPHASE on 8 1/2 by 11 paper, one letter per page. On separate pages create descriptions or definitions that start with each of the letters in the word PHENOPHASE. Use brightly colored paper and laminate the cards for use later.

Hide the description cards in the garden or around the site. Retain the letter cards to pass out to the group. Have people work in pairs or in threes. Do not tell them that the word spells PHENOPHASE.

Depending upon the letter selected the team has to seek a card with a definition that matches the letter on their card. Once they locate it they should find and identify the item described and have a conversation about how it is related to phenology and the importance of it to the ecosystem.

Bring everyone back together to debrief the activity after they've found their cards. Have them arrange themselves such that they are spelling out the word PHENOPHASE. Ask each team to share what they found.

This activity was developed by Michelle Coe from the Community and School Garden Program at the University of Arizona.

 

Sample agenda for 3-hour field lab using Nature's Notebook at a Local Phenology Program location

Here is a sample outdoor-only workshop conducted at a Local Phenology Program location. This 3-hour workshop followed a 3-hour classroom session with hands-on activities designed to introduce participants (in this case, Master Naturalists) to Nature's Notebook observing. See the classroom session materials in our workshop archive.

Included here are pre-workshop information and email, the sample agenda, the phenophase scavenger hunt activity, a phenophase photo guide activity, and a final evaluation. For this lab we used the Pre-Post Evaluation form on the Evaluation Activities link.

Materials used for this session, in addition to those included:

  • A map of the location indicating plants marked for observation
  • Phenophase photo guides for the species marked for observation
  • Paper datasheets for the species marked for observation
  • Clipboards and pencils (for those using paper data sheets)
2017 UArizona Insect Festival Tabling Materials

At the 2017 University of Arizona Insect festival the Nature's Notebook Education team presented several activities having to do with insect phenology. 

Three excellent resources we used were the books:

  • Insectigations- 40 Hands-on Activities to explore the insect world by Cindy Blobaum
  • Take-Along Guide: Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies by Mel Boring
  • The Life-cycles of Butterflies: From egg to maturity, a visual guide to 23 common garden butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards

The files above are scanned pages from each of those books. Activites described below:

1. We purchased crickets at a local exotic pet store (and after the event donated them to a critter keeper who feeds crickets to his pets). We created the Insect Amplifier (as shown in example #1a above) and asked the students to count the chirps to determine the ambient temperture (as described on example #1 above). They were asked to record their data on a sheet at the table and as the day got warmer, the chirps became more abundant. We talked about the timing of their chirps, what chirps are used for, and how it is related to the surrounding environment. When during the year do crickets chirp?

2. We collected several tomato hornworms and queen butterflies from the garden, in various stages, and had magnifying glasses on hand for students to look at each up close. We also had print outs of life cycles of these species from the Life-cycles of butterflies book referenced above

3. We used our simple data sheets and students were able to go outside to a marked plant and collect observations using Nature's Notebook. If they returned their data sheet to us with correct answers, they were given a Nature's Notebook pencil. 

4. We had a phenology bingo game available for students where they could review the phenological events present on the bingo card and put a stamp next to the ones they had experienced. #3 above includes a sample of the bingo card and the full Phenology Bingo lesson can be found on our website, here

5. We created a series of What am I cards and used them as a matching game. #4 above includes a sample of two of the cards. On the reverse side is a photo of the plant with the common and scientific name below. Students can either guess what the answer to the question is or use them as a matching game to match the picture to the definition. 

Pages