Nature’s Notebook

Connecting People with Nature to Benefit Our Changing Planet

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Phenology studies implemented in higher education courses can provide a framework for teaching critical thinking skills, offer insight into science careers, supplement core science and ecology skills, and serve as a window to community-based research.

Image credit:
Brian Powell

Resources for Higher Education

Where do I begin?

Technology in education allows for collaboration in new and exciting ways, including remote data collection and analysis, collaborative webspaces and blogging. Developing a monitoring project that meets multiple course objectives will not only create a sustainable program but provide opportunities for cross-course and community collaboration. 

Some faculty choose to do a one-time introduction to phenology and using Nature's Notebook.  Others choose to create a semester-long project where students make observations, develop hypotheses about what they are seeing on campus, record their observations in Nature's Notebook, and then analyze data at the end of the semester. Doing a project such as this, over multiple years, helps to create a base of observations that faculty and students can use for comparison.  We recommend creating a Group for your campus, to which you can add multiple sites, and invite individuals to make and enter observations on their own.  You can track who is monitoring, for course credit, by becoming an administrator of the group.  Consider partnering with other local non-profits and government agencies to provide multiple monitoring experiences. 

Any semester-long implementation of a Nature's Notebook monitoring program can help address the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education call for transformation.  It teaches science and applications, modeling, critical thinking, and promotes learner-centered investigations and inquiry.  

It would be wonderful to hear about universities encouraging monitoring in multiple classes, over multiple years, so students entering as freshmen can observe throughout their career at the school and then, as seniors, truly see what their data show and how things have or have not changed. 

More Curriculum Ideas

Biological science courses use phenology monitoring in lab settings to track seasonal changes on campus throughout the semester and over multiple years.  Dendrology courses use phenology to teach tree identification.  Ecology courses use phenology data to teach statistical analysis and applied concepts such as climate change.  Pre-service teacher courses use citizen science and Nature’s Notebook to provide future teachers with ideas about how to incorporate environmental education into their classrooms.

The table below includes links to some examples of how phenological monitoring is being used in higher education. On the link for Sample Nature's Notebook Higher Education Semester-long Program, you can see some recent examples of syllabi created and executed by faculty teaching at the college level. 

Don't forget to ask students to explore the data using our online tools. The Visualization Tool allows students to summarize their data and compare it to across geographic locations. The Phenology Observation Portal allows students to download the data via an excel file and work with it to analyze trends through time.

 

View Nature's Notebook curriculum materials developed for higher education students in the table below.

Title Description
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

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

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.

 

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