Teacher's Guide
Tulip Bulbs: A Survival Tale
Web Slide Show and Story

Review these reading and questioning strategies before diving into the slideshow/booklet with students. Select those that fit with your teaching goals and grade level.


Make Predictions
Invite students to draw what they think a tulip plant looks like during each season.

Discussion: Connections to Self

  • How does your life change from season to season?
  • What weather or climate challenges do you face?
  • How do you overcome those challenges (e.g., get warmer clothes out)?
  • How do you think plants with bulbs survive in different seasons? (Keep a running list of student ideas and observations.)

Explain that plants can't decide to make changes like we can. But over thousands of years, they have developed life cycles and parts that make them more likely to survive in their changing environments.


Organizing Information/Making Connections
As you read or re-read the story, create a class chart in which students list "summer challenges" and "winter challenges" faced by the earliest wild tulips. After reading, go back to this list; for each item, ask students to explain which adaptations (life cycle changes and plant parts) helped the plants survive.


  • Ask students what they learned from the story about the geography and latitude where the tulip is buried.
  • Tell the class that the longitude of the tulip in the tale is 57 degrees E. Challenge students to pinpoint the tulip's location on a world map or globe.
  • Ask the class to estimate where the 46th "parallel" (latitude line) falls on a North American map; have them identify or mark Journey North tulip gardens planted near that latitude. What can they discover about the climates in those regions?

Compare and Contrast

  • Have students compare their original seasonal drawings with the images in the slideshow/booklet. How are they the same and different? How might they revise their drawings based on what they learned? Ask them to make flipbooks depicting a tulip's life cycle.
  • Ask, How is the climate in our schoolyard the same as or different than the climate where tulips first developed? Our schoolyard is further _____ (north or south). We are ______ (higher or lower) in elevation. Our lowest winter temperatures tend to be (higher or lower).

Cause and Effect

  • Ask, What conditions seem to cause tulips to lose their roots and leaves?
  • What do you think causes the soil to warm up in the spring? What does the soil temperature influence?
  • What signals the plant that conditions are right for growing?
  • What happens in the summer that lets a bulb get through the winter underground?

Other "Making Connections" Questions

  • How can a bulb plant survive without any leaves or roots?
  • Why do you think the sun seemed to stick around longer in the spring?
  • After reading this story, why do you think people in the southern parts of the U.S. can't easily get tulips to bloom?
  • If it takes "4 to 7 years to go from a seed to a flowering size bulb," how do you manage to bloom each year?
  • What questions do you still have about tulip survival or adaptations? How could you try to find answers?

    Wild Tulips, Designer Tulips
    You may wonder why tulips in your schoolyard lose their leaves and go dormant during the summer. After all, you may not have extremely hot and dry summers like the regions where tulips originated. The fact that the bulbs still have a similar life cycle reflects their origins.

    But humans have also "bred" tulips for many hundreds of years. Those we have today no longer look or "act" much like their ancestors. (Early wild tulips had rather small flowers, for instance.) Plant scientists create new varieties to meet human desires for unique colors, designs, and bloom times. They do this by moving pollen between plants and saving seeds or growing "clones" from tissues in laboratories.

  • Try This! Dig up one of your bulbs in mid-winter to find out what's up: What's Happening Underground? Bulb Life Cycles.
  • Try This! Ask, How do you think people in areas with warm winter climates might "trick" tulips into blooming? Try it yourselves! Simulating Winter: Indoor Bulb Experiments.
    Hint: Tulips require at least 10 weeks of temperatures between 34 and 50 degrees F. in order to bloom. People in warmer climates can simulate underground winter temperatures by planting bulbs in containers and keeping them in a cool place for two months or more.
  • Try This! Use a digital camera to create a photo story or flipbook of the life cycle of tulips in your own garden. First watch this cool time-lapse sequence of a tulip blooming.
  • Try This! Tell students that tulips are found in the wild in Southern Italy, Southern France, Turkey, China, and Korea. Have them draw a line connecting each of those countries. What does it tell them about the general latitude in which tulips naturally grow? How does it compare with the latitude of your school?