Signs of the Seasons (Phenology)
students observe the natural world closely, make drawings, and record
data, they see patterns of seasonal change. As they do so, they
begin to note webs of connections.
What is Phenology?
Phenology is the study of the seasonal timing of life cycle events.
You are studying phenology when you record the date a certain plant
flowers, a tree's leaves emerge, an insect hatches, or a migratory
bird appears on its nesting grounds. The dates on which these happen
each year are affected by factors such as daylength, temperature,
Are These Observations Important?
The observations students contribute become part of a permanent
database that scientists can use to monitor how living things are
responding to changes in our climate. By studying the timing of
seasonal changes, students think like scientists who look for clues
about how climate and other factors affect living things.
to Record Seasonal Observations
in a Journal.
(Click journal photos for links)
on a Checklist.
the Seasons Change
Spring / Fall
to Look For
At least once
each month, go outside as a class and record the changes you see.
Use journals, checklists, or both. Try to begin on the Fall
Equinox in September or as close as you can. (You can also start
in January.) Go outside one month later and see how things have
changed. Journey North will send a monthly e-mail reminder. Check
the Signs of the Seasons News
page for links to monthly reminders and activities.
Watch what happens as sunlight decreases and temperatures drop in
the fall. Plants die or go dormant, so food is less available to animals. Some
migrate, some hibernate, and others rely on physical adaptations.
Each season, changing sunlight triggers changes in food chains —
from sunlight to plants to animals.
SPRING: Watch how the
food chain rebuilds in the spring as the season progresses. Energy
from the sun increases, temperatures rise, ice melts, and plant growth
begins. The animals that eat plants appear first, followed by their
predators — and so on up the food chain.
You Can Do With Your Observations
them to Journey North.
on the word "Sightings"
on any navigation bar. Notice
which specific events we collect data about. Report your other
observations as "Signs of Fall" or "Other Signs
you have a photo or drawing that captures what
you observed, be sure to mention it it in your report. We might
ask you to submit it so we can share it with other Journey North
about what others have observed this season.
data with a partner
the seasons changing in the same way throughout North America? Find
out by pairing up with a partner class and exchanging fall or spring
observation data! Can you figure out where your partner is located?
your own historic observation records.
Your Journey North reports are stored permanently
in our database. What patterns do you notice from year to year?
Own Historic Records >>
a display or seasonal timeline.
Encourage other classes in your school to help track various seasonal
events. Then make a display that tells the story of spring or fall's
journey through your hometown — and across the hemisphere.
(Click on photo, right.)
Questions to Ask
What signs tell us that fall (or spring) is approaching?
(You may want to add these to the Journey North list, or create
What sounds, smells, colors, and feelings accompany these
the season — and from year to year.
Lesson Links: Exploring the Seasons