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
Workshop or Classroom Reflection Activity

This reflection sheet can be used after conducting a classroom, training, or workshop session.  It is used to encourage participants to reflect on their experience and think of any unanswered questions they may still have at the end of the session.  Additionally, it provides a space for participants to indicate what could have been done better so educators can continuously improve upon their delivery. 

Sample Species Phenophase Photo Page

This template can be used as a phenophase photo identification page and can be tailored to your site's needs.  This particular sheet was created for use at the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge to help acclimate volunteer monitors to the species and each of the phases.  NOTE: At this time the USA-NPN does not have the capacity to create a sheet like this for each species in our database, although we are working on a general phenophase primer to help address questions we receive related to what each phenophase looks like. 

Groups are welcome to use their own photos of the species and phases they encourage people to monitor throughout the year, as long as they are certain that the species and phases are correctly identified using our described protocols. 

Other examples of how something like this can be used in a monitoring program can be found on the California Phenology Project website, Meet the Species.

Introduction to Journaling & Observation

Making observations in nature is a way to connect with your environment.  If you enjoy spending time in a garden or natural space, taking some time to record what you observe can be a valuable exercise.  Observational records collected through time allow you to remember what you saw, what species visited your space, what the temperature or weather conditions were on a particular date during a particular season, and much more.  Ultimately, observations can become a critical addition to a scientific study about how things may be varying or changing through time.

La actividad es disponible en Español tambien:

Observar la naturaleza es una manera de conectarse con el ambiente natural. Cuando  disfrutas pasar tiempo en un jardín o espacio natural, puedes observar fenómenos que ocurren a tu alrededor. Los registros de la naturaleza a largo plazo te ayudan a recordar tus experiencias, los animales que viste, cómo era el clima en esos días, y mucho más. Al final, las observaciones se pueden convertir en una importante base para el estudio científico sobre como nuestro mundo va cambiando. 

USA-NPN Education Publication Numbers: 2014-005-C; 2014-005a-C; 2014-005b-C (2014-005-CSP; 2014-005a-CSP; 2014-005b-CSP - Spanish)

Nature's Notebook Student Observation Guide

This info sheet can be handed out to students in any setting.  It describes phenology, the Nature's Notebook project and how to create a user account for the program. The editable version allows the instructor space to change the text to reflect the name of the group and sites the participants should join.

USA-NPN Education Publication Number: 2013-001-C (2013-001-CSP - Spanish)



Signs of the Seasons: Phenology Calendar Exchange

Monitor Signs of the Seasons plants or animals on your school grounds or in a local park, and compare your observations with those of a school or youth program in another region of Maine. Created by Signs of the Seasons: A Maine Phenlogy Program.