Signs of the Seasons: A Maine Phenology Project
Phenology Calendar Activity
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
What is phenology?
When do natural and human events happen in your community?
Is the timing of some events changing? If so, how?
What might be the consequences of these changes?
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.
Maine Learning Results (Science and Technology)
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.
15-20 minutes for participants to create calendar
20 minutes for discussion and reflection
“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/FORMATIVE ASSESMENT IDEAS
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)
Signs of the Seasons Partners
In complying with the letter and spirit of applicable laws and pursuing its own goals of diversity, the University System shall not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, including transgender status or gender expression, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, or veteran’s status in employment, education, and all other areas of the University System. The University provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request. If you are a person with a disability and will need any accommodations to participate in this program, please contact Esperanza Stancioff at 1-800-244-2104 to discuss your needs. Please contact us at least 10 days prior to this event to assure fullest possible attention to your needs. Questions and complaints about discrimination in any area of the University should be directed to the Executive Director of Equal Opportunity, The University of Maine, Room 101, 5754 North Stevens Hall, Orono, ME 04469-5754, telephone (207) 581-1226 (voice and TDD). Published and distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the Land Grant University of the state of Maine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Cooperative Extension and other agencies of USDA provide equal opportunities in programs and employment. 02/11
Image Description: Maine Sea Grant logo
Image Description: UMaine Extension logo
Image Description: Colorful graphic showing fruits, leaves and birds