Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Phenology is an excellent way to teach science, technology, and math standards such as inquiry, observation, creating relevant questions, making predictions, graphing and analyzing information, problem solving, conducting basic research, and communication of results.

Resources for 5-8 Grade Classroom Teachers

Phenology and Nature’s Notebook can also be used to teach subjects other than science. 

Phenology can be used to teach:

  • English and Language Arts such as reading comprehension, writing, speaking and listening
  • Social Studies such as American History, World History, Cultural Studies, and Geography
  • Healthy Living and Physical Education
  • Foreign and Native Languages including communication, culture, and comparative studies
  • Arts such as music, theater, and visual arts

Where do I begin?

Adding a phenological monitoring program to your classroom is easy as long as your project is well-planned.  Consider involving other like-minded teachers and staff in your project to make it a meaningful, multi-year experience. Nature's Notebook is designed to be a multi-year program, for students to experience seasonal changes throughout the academic year. If you are only interested in and able to take students outside one time to make observations, you might consider another wonderful citizen science project instead.

If you can commit to establishing a site at your school for at least 2 years, take a look at our Nature's Notebook Planning Resources to help you get started. 

We suggest setting up a group for your school where individual students can each make and enter observations. Plan to take students outside to make observations once a week, building the other activites and topics you are teaching around phenology monitoring. Continuing your project for multiple years creates a local record of what is happening and students in subsequent years can learn from what students in prior years recorded.  

Can you take a field trip to a local nature center, wildlife refuge, zoo, botanical garden, museum where they may be monitoring phenology? Check with the local educators to see if they have other curriculum ideas and resources for monitoring phenology at their locations as well.

Helpful resources:

If you can't commit to a long-term monitoring program at your school, consider instead using some of our phenology activities and lesson plans to supplement your student learning. Search the table below for activities appropriate for middle school learners.


Nature's Notebook and the Next Generation Science Standards

A long-term, Nature's Notebook phenology monitoring program in the classroom can help address the following Next Generation Science Standards Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI): 

 


 

More Curriculum Ideas

The table below contains lesson plans and ideas for implementing Nature’s Notebook in Grades 5-8.

View Nature's Notebook curriculum materials developed for 5th-8th grades in the table below.

Title Description
Driven to Discover Citizen Science Curriculum Guide: Phenology and Nature's Notebook

This curriculum series supports student engagement in ecology-based citizen science and science practices: asking questions and defining problems, planning and carrying out investigations, and communicating findings. The citizen science projects provide a natural springboard to these practices and also connect students to real-world research.

This implementation guide is designed to provide context and activities related to collecting observations on deciduous trees in temperate forestes using Nature's Notebook protocols. It includes four content areas: Building science skills; Contributing to citizen science; and Conducting independent investigations. There are options for a condensed version and extended version, covering the span of an academic year.

View the companion video to the curriculum here:

 

It is also linked on the USA-NPN NCO YouTube Channel, Videos created by our Partners PlayList.

The guide was produces by a team of authors at University of Minnesota Extension. 

Suggested Citation
Thompson, Ami; Strauss, Andrea L.; Oberhauser, Karen S.; Kooman, Michele H.; Montgomery, Rebecca; Andicoechea, Jonathan; Blair, Robert B.. (2018). Driven to Discover Citizen Science Curriculum Guide: Phenology and Nature's Notebook. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy, http://hdl.handle.net/11299/198624.
Local Phenology Program Sustainability Plan

The purpose of this Nature’s Notebook Sustainability Plan is to provide documentation of your Local Phenology Program that can be shared with stakeholders, coworkers, or volunteers. This can be a valuable document in the event that you and other founding Leaders are no longer able to work on Nature's Notebook for your organization. Designed outcomes, a list of partnering groups, potential funders, and information about the Local Phenology Program in Nature’s Notebook can help ensure the program’s sustainability in the event of staff or volunteer turnover.

Local Phenology Program Planning & Evaluation Resources

Local Phenology Program Planning Guide

This resource guide describes how to develop a program plan for monitoring phenology with groups of people. It walks you through the steps to creating a long-term phenology monitoring program for Nature's Notebook, with education, research, management, or all three as an overarching objective. It also includes a checklist on page 13 detailing the succesful elements of a Local Phenology Program designed for sustainability.


Guidance document for developing Nature's Notebook Outcomes and Objectives

Includes details about how to draft and write sound program outcome statements, objectives, and developing a logic model.


Needs Assessment Worksheet

Before you embark on designing any type of long-term phenology monitoring program consider doing a needs assessment to decide what "need" something like a Nature's Notebook might fill. The first link above is a simple needs assessment form which can be used to determine your first steps in program development. You can also share your information with the National Coordinating Office staff by completing the web form linked from that page.


Nature's Notebook Program Planning Activity

Before you dive into writing up a Program Plan for your long-term Nature's Notebook phenology monitoring program, consider using this worksheet to help you think about short, medium, and long-term measurable outcomes. You also may wish to document some of the information you've gathered from your Needs Assessment Form if you've got stakeholders and resources now available to you. If you've decided upon your needs, decided how Nature's Notebook can help you meet those needs and the resources you have available, then you can work backward to determine what specifically you need to do to get you there.

We also offer a planning worksheet in Spanish if you are working with Spanish speaking audiences.

Program Mapping Worksheet

This worksheet will help you think more specifically about the objectives and action steps you need to do to achieve your stated short, medium, or long-term outcomes for your program. Use this to help you better articulate the Short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes and objectives after working through the Program Planning Activity Worksheet.

Logic Model Worksheet

If you'd like to use a more traditional planning template, check our our Logic Model Worksheet for documenting measurable outcomes.

For more information on Program Planning and Evaluation visit the following helpful websites:


Action Planning Template

How are you going to get from point A to point B? This template helps you to document the steps you are taking (your objectives and activities) and provides a place to record what resources you need for each, who is responsible for completing activities and tasks, and documentation for when it is complete.


Sustainability Plan

We also offer a Sustainability Plan where you may wish to document aspects of your LPP in the event that you leave your position and someone else must take over the Program.

Needs Assessment Worksheet: USA-NPN Education Resource Number: 2017-002-C

Program Planning Guide: USA-NPN Education Resource Number: 2014-007-C (2014-007-CSP - Spanish)

Logic Model Worksheet: USA-NPN Education Resource Number: 2017-001-C

Phenology, Ecosystem Analysis, and Ecological Mismatches by Pete Malecki

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.

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.

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