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Using Blooming Dates to Study Climate Change

This video takes students to the Tulip Time Festival in Pella, Iowa. It is designed to get students thinking about how annual blooming dates for flowers and trees can be tracked using festivals and then used to study regional climate change.  

Pella, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • Define phenology and give 2 examples of other biological events that could be used to show evidence of climate change.
  • Do you think it is a big deal if trees and flowers bloom/sprout earlier in the spring?  Why?

Classroom Suggestions

  • The lessons provided in the resources take about three 50-minutes class sessions to get through. I would recommend having students divide the climate and blooming dates data since there are 85 data points. Additionally, the data only goes through 2017 so the students could research the more recent temperature and Tulip Time Festival dates to extend their graph. I would not recommend dropping the earlier data since it shows a clear progression of earlier blooming dates and warmer temperatures in central Iowa. The article provided in the resources gives a clear explanation about why plants blooming earlier is not a good thing, and helps to clear up a few misconceptions that students may have. Finally, if you would like to extend this learning about phenology into other biological events such as reproduction, hibernation, migration, etc., the PowerPoint in the resources is a great template to help students structure their research. A couple of successful animal examples that have worked well in my classroom are the leatherback sea turtles’ reproduction (gender assignment) and the monarch butterfly’s migration schedule. There are many, many more examples as well!      

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment


Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Credit Info

Phenomena submitted by Courtney Giesel


Have you used this resource in your classroom? Do you have ideas for improvement? Share your ideas, experiences and feedback about this phenomena.

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