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Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program

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Resources for Educators

The resources below were developed to support formal and informal educators who are interested in linking Signs of the Seasons data collection with classroom activities and student-driven investigations related to phenology and climate change.

The overall goals of these lessons are to:

  • Introduce students to the concept of phenology and its importance to climate change science.
  • Support the citizen science component of Signs of the Seasons (registering as Signs of the Seasons observers, making field observations, and entering data online) with student-driven investigations of phenology changes in their own communities.
  • Provide educators with a local, relevant, and immediate context for teaching students about current and potential affects of climate change in Maine.
  • Provide opportunities for students to practice the process of science (ask questions, conduct investigations, analyze data, and share their observations), while collecting useful data for climate change scientists.
  • Help students understand the role that climate plays in ecological relationships.

Target Audiences
Middle and high school teachers and students.  Informal educators.

Instructional Time
Variable. The lessons could be included individually in other teaching units related to ecology, climate change, history, data literacy, or visual art. Or, they could be taught in sequence for an intensive unit focused on local effects of climate change. They vary from 20 minutes to several hours in length, and some work best when parsed out over several weeks or months.

Lesson Plans:

Note: Some of the lessons below span all of the stages of an investigation, as they are written so they can be used individually or as part of a larger unit. Additional lessons will be posted as they are developed.

Introduction to Phenology

  • Interactive Phenology Wall Calendar: Students create a month-by-month phenology calendar on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or large sheets of paper hung up around the room.  Download the pdf.
  • Plant and Animal Life Cycle Drawings: Instead of the traditional circle-shaped life cycle drawings that you see in many books, have your group/class use their species observations to help them draw a life cycle for one or more of their Signs of the Seasons species that is stretched out in a line and matched to the dates on a calendar year (estimate, based on guidebook information, if you didn’t observe all phenophases). Download the pdf.
  • Species Life Cycle Match…or Mismatch? Use the life cycle calendar activity above to draw two species that depend on one another for food, pollination, reproduction, or habitat (such as the monarch caterpillar and common milkweed). Download the pdf.


  • Bird Feeder Notebook: Watch a feeder as a group/class and keep records of what you see. Compare your notebook with historical records for the same species in your area, if you can find any.  Download the pdf.
  • Phenology Snapshots: Students compare phenology of the current season with historical phenology changes by comparing dated historical photos with present-day photos of the same locations. Download the pdf.
  • Festival Dates: Comparing Celebrations of the Past and Present: Students visit the local library or a historical collection to look through source materials (newspapers, magazines, photo collections, etc.) to find dates and/or photos of annual festivals related to phenology (apple festivals, lilac festivals, maple sugar festivals, etc.)  Download the pdf. 

Data Analysis

Download a modifiable student activity sheet (docx)

Science Communication

Supplemental Resources:

  • What is Phenology?: An introductory PowerPoint that includes key ideas for students to understand about phenology.  Slides can be used as an introduction to the topic or as part of a wrap up for the Phenology Wall Calendar Activity.  Download the pptx.
  • Graph Choice Chart: A flow chart developed by the Maine Data Literacy Project to assist students in determining the type of graph that is appropriate for their data.  Download the pdf.
  • Data Analysis Practice SheetTiming of Fruit Production in Wild Strawberry Plants: Compare the yearly appearance of fruit from 2011-2014 using actual data from Nature’s Notebook.

Download the full activity with Teacher’s guide (pdf)

Download a modifiable student activity sheet (docx)

  • Data Analysis Practice SheetTiming of Red Maple Leaf-Out: Compare the first appearance of leaves from 2011-2014 using actual data from Nature’s Notebook.

Download the full activity with Teacher’s guide (pdf)

Download a modifiable student activity sheet (docx)

We welcome your feedback! Please contact us with any comments about Signs of the Seasons lesson plans that you have used, or suggestions for others you think might be useful for your students.

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USA National Phenology Network: Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Maine Sea Grant

Contact Information

Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program
377 Manktown Road
Waldoboro, Maine 04572
Phone: 207.832.0343 or 1.800.244.2104 (in Maine)E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
A Member of the University of Maine System