Back to school

Kids are going back to school this week in the northeast United States, where I live. And some of them will learn about the seasons in their classrooms. One of the great things about plant phenology is that it’s so accessible to people of all ages.

The Harvard Forest Schoolyard LTER Program teaches K-12 teachers how to integrate authentic ecology research experiences in their classrooms. And through this program, we have deployed several PhenoCams to schools that mount them on their roofs. You may have seen some of these sites on Season Spotter:

Austin Prep School, Reading, Massachusetts

Austin Prep School, Reading, Massachusetts

Academy Hill School, Springfield, Massachusetts

Academy Hill School, Springfield, Massachusetts

North Attleborough High School, Attleborough, Massachuetts

North Attleborough High School, Attleborough, Massachuetts

We are currently developing K-12 education materials in collaboration with a school teacher that will use PhenoCam images. But there are lots of opportunities to study phenology with kids in your life. If you have young children, point out trees and plants to them and talk about the leaves (if there are any) and what they look like. Show them how the leaves change (fall off, maybe change color) over the seasons. Show them flower buds, and then that flowers are there a few days later.

If you have older children in your life, consider getting involved with one of the many observational citizen science projects. In these projects, you observe trees and plants near your home (or school) and record your observations online. These observations are then used by scientists like us to learn more about the timing of seasons around the world. In the United States, there is Nature’s Notebook and Project Budburst. In Canada, you should check out PlantWatch. In the UK, Nature’s Calendar. And in Australia, ClimateWatch.

And, of course, you can enjoy all the seasons all year round on Season Spotter right here on your screen.

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About Margaret Kosmala

I am an ecologist exploring the complex dynamics of plant and animal systems. I am especially interested in understanding how species communities change over time and how humans impact them.
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