USA NPN National Phenology Network

Taking the Pulse of Our Planet

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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. 

Depending on the subject you are teaching and time constraints, you can make your experience with Nature's Notebook as holistic as possible.  We suggest setting up a group for your school where individual students can each make and enter observations, on their own.  If time permits, plan to take students outside to make observations once a week, building the other activites and topics you are teaching around phenology monitoring.  Do that for as much of the academic year as possible so students are able to see and record changes through time.  Continuing the project for multiple years creates a local record of what has happened, and students in subsequent years can benefit from seeing what last year's class saw, making hypotheses and predictions about what they will see.  You can also compare your observations to those made in your region, or across the country, for the same species. 

Depending on the age and ability of your students, plan to monitor as many or as few of the phenophases in Nature's Notebook as is appropriate.  

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.

Here is an example of a middle-school appropriate class introduction to phenology.  Middle School Introduction to Phenology. This middle school teacher has a site site up at her school and visits, weekly, a local Audubon Society property to make and record observations on sentinal species.  The students engaged in the introduction to the program before visiting the Audubon site, and prior to that, generated their own questions about phenology and phenology monitoring after reading information on the main USA-NPN website.  

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
The Life of Corn

The following activity can be used as an introduction to the concept of phenology. It demonstrates the life cycle of a corn plant, a plant familiar to many, putting this plant into a new perspective. The Life of Corn highlights the importance of the developmental life-cycle, something which all organisms experience in a predictable manner. The activity increases science literacy by teaching about life-cycle events, encourages people not only to recall experiences outdoors but also to spend more time outdoors and observe things they may not yet have experienced. This activity was adapted from Dandelion Life, presented by NatureBridge.  It is adapatable to all grade levels.

USA-NPN Education Publication Number: 2014-014-C

Making Basic Phenology Observations

The following activity is meant as an introduction to phenology, the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle stages. Students make scientific observations of plants and record their observations and record them for Nature's Notebook.

USA-NPN Education Publication Number: 2014-011-C

Phenology Word Searches

These word searches can be used as activities in the classroom or in an informal setting.  The first, suitable for younger grades, contains six words to find and corresponding questions.  The second has a list of words to find. 

Annual Phenology Calendar

Use this monthly phenology chart to record what species of animals you see, and what species of plants are leafing, flowering and fruiting.  Use as a quick reference in addition to what you record in Nature's Notebook. Print it out on large paper and hang it in a classroom or nature center for an annual view of what you might see.  

USA-NPN Education Publication Number: 2014-003-C

Phenology and Seasonal Change Study Guide

This KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) Chart can be used prior to introducing a Nature's Notebook monitoring program in a classroom (grades 5-12).  This activity elicits critical thinking skills and can be used in context with making weekly observations for a semester or year. 

USA-NPN Education Publication Number: 2014-004-C