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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
Species Phenophase Photo Guide Templates

Phenophase Photo Guides are species-specific guides that provide a photo reference for each of the life cycle stages on the Nature's Notebook protocols. The National Coordinating Office is slowly working on creating useable guides that will eventually appear on our species profile pages. In the meantime, we invite you to help us by using our templates to create your own Phenophase Photo Guides. If you do make photoguides, please consider sharing them with us by emailing them to

You may also wish to consider using our Phenophase Primer for Training and Education. This Primer includes photographic examples of sample species in each of the Nature's Notebook plant functional groups.

Templates for creating Phenophase Photo Guides

The National Coordinating Office has created Phenophase Photo Guide templates for you to use in your programs. There are editable PowerPoint templates for several of the functional groups we identify in our protocol. You can begin by viewing the Species Profile page and reviewing the details for your species. In the top left corner of the printable datasheet linked from the species page, you will find the corresponding functional group for your species of choice. 

The blank templates include the full definitions as described in our protocol. You do not need to edit the definitions (see the image below), simply add photos of your individual example of the species where indicated. You may wish to add your logo at the top of the page. Each of the plant functional group templates can be downloaded from the list at the top of this page.


Please do not re-interpret the phenophase definition and display what you believe to be an abridged version containing the same meaning - it compromises data quality by introducing inconsistency across observers. See the details below for more information. 


For some guidelines for creating the Phenophase Photo Guides from these templates, download this PDF document

At this time these Phenophase Photo Guide templates are designed only for plants. However, if you wish to create Phenophase Photo Guides for the animals you may be observing please be sure to use the exact definitions for each of the phenophases found in our protocols.

A few things to keep in mind when creating your own Phenophase Photo Guides

  1. Pairing the Nature's Notebook definitions with photos is a best-practice - if you are going to create your own photo guides, the National Coordinating Office recommends utilizing the standard phenophase definitions, verbatim, to ensure high-quality data collection. Please do not re-interpret the phenophase definition and display what you believe to be an abridged version containing the same meaning - it compromises the data quality by introducing inconsistency across observers. If you feel you need to use a shorter definition, please use our Simple phenophase definitions, but make it clear to your observers they still need to refer to the full phenophase definitions found in the Nature's Notebook mobile app or on the phenophase definition sheet linked from the species' profile page on the Nature's Notebook website.
  2. The full phenophase definitions were designed to standardize the way data are collected by observers participating in our nation-wide program. Changing the wording and content leaves too much room for different interpretation of what is meant to be observed in Nature's Notebook, thus compromising the consistency and quality of the data in our database. Researchers who use the data want to be confident that information collected in Maine or Florida or Oregon is as similar as possible, and the only way to make that happen is to ensure everyone is starting from the same place in terms of the phenophase definitions. For more information about how and why the standardized phenophases in Nature's Notebook were developed, please read our reports in the USA-NPN Technical Series entitled, "USA-NPN Phenology Protocols" and the "Plant and Animal Phenophase Definitions."
  3. Groups are welcome to use their own photos of the species and phases they encourage people to monitor throughout the year, as long as they are certain that the species and phases are correctly identified using our described protocols. 
  4. If you collect photos for your own guides, please consider contributing them to our USA-NPN SmugMug Phenophase Photo Galleries (previously our Phenophase Photo Flickr Page) by following guidelines outlined in the Phenophase Photo Guidelines. Please only submit photos taken by you or one of your volunteers who has given permission to share them. We cannot upload photos collected on the internet via Wikimedia Commons or another similar source. 
  5. Consider adding natural history information and photos of the plant in full form to help participants locate and understand the reason the species has been selected for monitoring.
  6. We encourage groups to keep the USA-NPN logo and the Nature's Notebook logo on materials they develop for use with the Nature's Notebook program, in addition to adding logos from partnering organizations.
  7. Once your Phenophase Photo Guides are complete, share them with us at


Nature's Notebook Observation Guide - Join a Group

This info sheet can be handed out participants in any setting.  It describes phenology, Nature's Notebook and how to join your Partner Group. It is an editable document that allows the Local Phenology Leader the space to change the text to reflect the name of the Group their participants should join.

USA-NPN Education Publication Number: 2013-001-C (2013-001-CSP - Spanish)



Signs of the Seasons: Phenology Calendar Exchange

Monitor Signs of the Seasons plants or animals on your school grounds or in a local park, and compare your observations with those of a school or youth program in another region of Maine. Created by Signs of the Seasons: A Maine Phenlogy Program.

Signs of the Seasons: Monarch-Milkweed Ecology Graphing

Students learn to graph a small dataset about the timing of monarchs and milkweed appearance in Maine.  The exercise involves graphing comparisons between groups, making predictions, and thinking about variability, an important concept in statistics and data literacy. Created by Signs of the Seasons: A Maine Phenology Program.

Signs of the Seasons: Mapping and Graphing Your Observations

Using dandelions, since they are numerous and easy to identify, students learn basic mapping and graphing skills, and practice making sense of the phenology data they have collected. Created by Signs of the Seasons: A Maine Phenology Program.