Phenology Wheel Activity

All around us, things are constantly changing. Spring rains come and bring new flowers, baby birds are hatching from eggs, and new green leaves emerge on trees. Can you think of some ways you have observed changes in nature? 

Artwork by Ivy Kae from The Art of Nature Exhibit
Artwork by Ivy Kae from The Art of Nature Exhibit
  • Phenology is the study of cycles and patterns in nature. You can practice phenology by making observations in nature and noticing how things change over time! Create a phenology wheel of your own as a tool to record your observations about a natural phenomenon in your own life! 
  • A phenology wheel is simply a way to keep track of the observations you are making about your chosen subject in nature.
    • Here is a detailed guide for creating your own wheel.
    • Or you can use this template!
  • To use the wheel, spend some time making observations in nature for a day, week, month, or even an entire year! You can focus on one species or a special spot outside your window or place of your own choosing

Here  are some prompts to help inspire you to create your own wheel! Check out the detailed guide below for even more ideas. 

  • Look outside your window each day for a week. What do you notice? What has changed? 
  • Look up at the sky! Each night, record your observations of the moon throughout its phases on your phenology wheel.
  • What’s the weather? Track the weather where you live for a week/month/year. 
  • Do you see any animals regularly near your home? Such as a bird? What do you think it is doing?

Post by Ellen

Weather Observation Activity | 3rd grade

fog in santa cruz

Careful observation and data collection are practices that all scientists and naturalists employ to aid in exploring and understanding the natural world. Weather provides a great way for students to practice both, as they watch from their window or take measurements outside. As students begin to detect patterns and notice differences in weather, questions emerge: how do clouds affect temperature? What about wind? Is what I’m seeing normal for this time of year? Diving into weather observations reveals a world of phenomena at play all around us every day.

This lesson is designed to run over the course of a week or more, requiring small time commitments of 5-10 minutes each day from individual students and then either group or self-reflection and analysis at the conclusion.

Materials:

Optional: Pair this lesson with our Cloud Observation Activity.

Post by: Spencer

Natural Pigments

Sourgrass with bright yellow blooms
Sourgrass produces a bright yellow color

Experiment with creating art from nature! Many plants and rocks have pigments inside of them that you can paint or draw with. You can even go one step further and try making your own paint brush from found natural materials! 

How to find materials

Look in sidewalk cracks for leaves or flowers and look in dirt patches for different types of rocks. Look on bushes or trees for berries, flowers, and leaves. My favorite is oxalis, more commonly known as sourgrass (pictured to the right). It is a yellow flower that is common in Santa Cruz and makes a highlighter yellow color when used as natural paint. Bonus: this plant is invasive and is often considered a weed that you could completely remove.

A cluster of blueberries
Look in your kitchen for pigment materials!

On the other hand if you want to create art from nature but want to stay inside you can do that too! Some of your food can be used to paint and draw. For example, you can use colorful spices such as turmeric or paprika to create paint by mixing the powder with water. Beets, purple cabbage, and berries will also work – they often turn my cutting board different colors when I am chopping them! If you have a fireplace you can even use the small pieces of burnt wood that are left behind to draw with or you can grind it up and mix with water to create black paint. 

Collecting plants

  • Be respectful of the plants you collect
  • Only take what you need or take less than 10% of a plant (If there are 10 leaves on the plant, take only 1 and find other plants to pick from if you need more)
  • Collect with permission on private property and do not collect in State Parks
  • Stay away from harmful plants such as poison oak and stinging nettle

Creating Paint

  • Use your hands or a spoon to grind up the plants or rocks 
  • Try adding water or soaking items in warm water to soften them
  • Be patient, making your own paint is an experiment and it will often give you interesting surprises! See what happens if you add baking soda or vinegar- sometimes this will change the color of a paint!

Questions to ponder

  • What colors do you predict will be created from your items?
  • Did any of the colors surprise you? Why?
  • How did the colors change over time?
  • How did the colors change when you added different things (like baking soda or vinegar)?

Post by Elise

Observing Clouds Activity

Learn about different types of clouds, recording daily observations of clouds on your cloud chart, making weather predictions, and an experiment to make your own cloud at home!

What are clouds?

Clouds are made up of water droplets or ice crystals that float in the sky. We can learn a lot about the weather by looking at clouds.

Types of Clouds 

Types of clouds, including contrails, cumulus, cumulonimbus, cirrocumulus, nimbostratus, altostratus, cirrostratus, stratocumulus, fog, cirrus, altocumulus, and stratus clouds

Go outside and observe the clouds. Based on the diagram above, which clouds do you see today? If there are no clouds in the sky think about why that might be. Identify your clouds using this NASA Cloud Chart (Guía de las Nubes en español), and learn more about each type of cloud here

Each day go outside and observe the clouds for one week and record your observations in this downloadable cloud chart. Make weather predictions based on what you have learned about different types of clouds. At the end of the week you can look back on your weather predictions and reflect on if they were correct or not. Use your data to see which clouds were most common during that week. 


Download and print this worksheet to aid in your observations — or make your own!

Guiding Questions for Cloud Observations

  • Are they high, middle, or low clouds?
  • What do they remind you of? Do you notice any familiar shapes in the clouds today?
  • Are the clouds blocking the sun or moon?

Try This: Make a Cloud in a Jar! 

Materials: a jar, water, lid, and hairspray. 
Kid-friendly instructions for making your own cloud: https://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2015/03/make-cloud-jar-kitchen-science.html

Post by: Elise