Authors: Abraham J. Miller-Rushing1, Beth Bisson2, Esperanza Stancioff3, and Lynne Dominy1
1National Park Service, Acadia National Park and Schoodic Education and Research Center
2Maine Sea Grant
3University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Grade level: K-adult
Themes: Phenology, climate change
Activity type: Hands-on, group or class discussion
Setting: Classroom, conference room, meeting space
Participants create a month-by-month calendar of phenological events (i.e., seasonal biological events such as flowering, migrations, and fall foliage) on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or large sheets of paper hung up around the room. They then discuss the calendar of events, learn a formal definition of phenology, and discuss possible consequences of changes in phenology timing where they live (see attached handout with examples of phenology-related climate change effects). The activity can be particularly effective if you incorporate discussion of climate change (which is causing changes in the timing of many phenological events), although it is not necessary.
This activity reinforces the idea that phenology is all around us all the time—we already see it and understand it. Participation in Signs of the Seasons (or other phenology citizen science projects) is simply a way to capture important information about local variations in the timing of phenology. Scientists and resource managers use this information to understand how climate change is affecting plants, animals, and humans, and how to best manage these changes.
A1 Unifying Themes – Systems
3-5. Students explain interactions between parts that make up whole man-made and natural things.
6-8. Students describe and apply principles of systems in man-made things, natural things, and processes.
9-Diploma. Students apply an understanding of systems to explain and analyze man-made and natural phenomena.
A3 Unifying Themes – Constancy and Change
3-5 a. Recognize patterns of change including steady, repetitive, irregular, or apparently unpredictable change.
6-8. Students describe how patterns of change vary in physical, biological, and technological systems.
E1 The Living Environment – Biodiversity
3-5. Students compare living things based on their behaviors, external features, and environmental needs.
6-8. Students differentiate among organisms based on biological characteristics and identify patterns of similarity.
E2 The Living Environment – Ecosystems
3-5. Students describe ways organisms depend upon, interact within, and change the living and non-living environment as well as ways the environment affects organisms.
6-8. Students examine how the characteristics of the physical, non-living (abiotic) environment, the types and behaviors of living (biotic) organisms, and the flow of matter and energy affect organisms and the ecosystem of which they are part.
“Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenology)
Phenology is ubiquitous in the world around us, yet, until recently, the word has been relatively obscure. Reinforce the idea that this activity shows the depth and variety of participants’ personal knowledge of and connections with phenological events in their own backyards and communities.
Reflection: Ask participants to share any observations they might have made about the differences in timing among different species. Have they noticed that the timing of some events is changing, while that of others is not? How might we document these changes? Are there records that we could use to find out? What might cause changes in phenology? Are the changes likely to be uniform? What are some consequences (actual or potential) of changes in phenology for people, plants, and animals? Follow up this line of questions with an example or two of ways that different species are indeed changing in different ways, examples of how scientists (or others) have documented these changes, and the consequences seen in these areas.
Formative assessment: Ask students to create their own personal phenology calendar on a piece of large paper or in their science journal. It can either be written or illustrated. Ask them to fill in events for each month (human, plant, or animal) that they feel represent the phenology of their lives and the seasonal changes they look forward to each year.
This activity can be used to identify phenological events that the community is particularly interested in investigating, or sources of historical data that may be particularly valuable. For instance, a coastal community might be very interested in understanding how the timing of fish migrations is changing. Some participants in the group may know of records of past fish runs—e.g., town records, newpapers, journals of family members, etc.—that could be used to investigate the changes.
Signs of the Seasons (http://umaine.edu/signs-of-the-seasons)
USA National Phenology Network (http://www.usanpn.org)
Image Description: Print Friendly
Image Description: UMaine Extension logo
Image Description: Maine Sea Grant logo