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Predicting the Greening of Spring
(Global Challenge)


"The seasons, like great tides, ebb and flow across the continents. Spring advances up the United States at the average rate of about 15 miles a day. It ascends mountainsides at the rate of about a hundred feet a day. It sweeps ahead like a flood of water, racing down the long valleys, creeping up hillsides in a rising tide."

The 13 Original Journey North Garden Sites
(See Global Address of Each Site)

So begins the book, North With the Spring (St. Martin's Press, 1951**), by Pulitzer Prize winning author and naturalist Edwin Way Teale. One spring in the 1950's, Teale criss-crossed the United States on a 17,000 mile journey north with the season. The trip is described beautifully in his book.

How long do you predict it will take the spring of 2006 to cross the continent?

In this investigation, students will use the blooming of tulips as a tool to measure spring's journey north. They will predict when tulips will bloom at 13 selected Journey North "Original" gardens in various geographic regions. (Data are collected each year at these same "Original" gardens, so that students can compare spring's pace from one year to the next.)

This investigation will be conducted throughout the year, beginning after you plant your own garden in the Fall. Students will continue to gain new information, and therefore they will continually cycle back to review and refine their predictions and rationales.

Key Concepts: Geographical Concepts, Data Collection and Analysis, Plant Life Cycle and Anatomy, Scientific Drawing


A. Students Work in Groups
Students should work in cooperative groups. Divide the class into 13 groups, and have each group select one of the 13 Original Journey North Garden sites. Over a period of weeks, students will use the Prediction Chart to record and revise their predictions of when spring will arrive at their selected Original Garden site(s). (Your class can gather the same information for your own tulip garden, and use it as a model.)

B. Time Frame for the 7 Research Questions
Have your students conduct the 7 Research Questions one at a time, beginning in the Fall after planting their garden. Conduct each of the Research Questions at least one week apart so the students have time to think, rethink and assimilate new information. Research Question # 7 must be conducted in January.

Important: Do NOT give all these questions to students at one time. (The National Science Standards emphasize the need to give students time to process new information; to build on information they already have and to review and revise their thinking as they gain new information.).

C. The Prediction Cycle is Repeated With Each New Research Question and Tulip Update
As students gain new information, they will continually cycle back to review and refine their predictions and rationales. With each Research Question and monthly Tulip Garden Updates, have students follow the same process:

  1. Discuss each new Research Question and Tulip Garden Update with each cooperative group.
  2. Before their research, have them begin with the KWL process. This will give structure to their inquiry. They should generate a list of "W" ("Want to Know") questions. They may want to create a Web using those questions, as a way to organize the categories they will pursue in their research.
  3. After conducting research, have student groups discuss and consider all of the predictions generated by the individuals of the group. Then, have students record information gained through research, reflect upon it, and record the reasons behind their predictions in their science journals. As they change their predictions over time, have them explain their reasons for changing their minds. Eventually the group will need to come to a consensus for their final prediction in January.
  4. Come together as a class and discuss each group's research and predictions. Revisit the KWL process each week. Add any questions that have been generated by the groups as a result of doing each lesson.

Optional Activity: Global Partner for Journey North Classroom Exchange. Contact a partner class so students can exchange their predictions.

** North With the Spring (St. Martin's Press · 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010 212-674-5151)

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