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Why fly south? How climate change alters the phenology of plants and animals

Liz Schultheis, Dustin Kincaid, Michigan State University; Kellogg Biological Station

This activity introduces students to plotting and analyzing phenology data. Students use 30 years of data that shows the date of the first lilac bloom and the number of days of ice cover of nearby Gull Lake.

This activity could be completed in two half-hour discussion periods with graphs being completed at home or in class.

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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • If you have access to Microsoft Excel, you can use the plotting and statistical functionality in Excel to also teach statistics on this type of data. For example, you can tell Excel to fit a trendline to the data and quickly get the function and R2 of the line.

About the Content

  • The scientific data is sound and is a good introduction into the phenology of plants and animals.
  • Students learn about the scientific process and the analysis of data.
  • Phenology data ends in 2003 - would be helpful to see it continue to the present.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Great resource! Could also let the older high school students pick a selection of years from the raw data sources, but would make extra work for the grading
    Scientific strengths:
    - use of creating graphs from raw data
    - thinking about a wide variety of how climate change affects wildlife
    - active learning/discussing
    - promotes further thought

About the Pedagogy

  • The teaching tools included are effective and well thought out. There is a detailed teaching plan that would be effective for most groups.
  • Activity is very scripted. Graphing tasks are simple; students are asked to speculate about why bloom dates might be shifting and ice cover might be changing, based only on several supplemental readings (that are not referenced in the student materials).

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The activity is easy to use as it is contained in PDF files and a PowerPoint presentation. Note that the PowerPoint presentation contains a typo.
Entered the Collection: April 2018 Last Reviewed: September 2016

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