Science ideas for young children: Spring flowers

Enjoy the emergence of spring plants flowers and learn about the science of phenology.

As the seasons change and the weather warms up, more flowers pop up in yards and gardens throughout the community. Phenology is the science to when nature wakes up from winter and plants and insects emerge.

The prediction of how plants and insects emerge is based on growing degree days (GDD). To determine GDD, add the high temperature – in Fahrenheit – for the day and the low temperature for the day, then divide by two. Subtract the base temperature, which is usually 50, from that number to determine your GDD. Usually, these are tracked from March 1 on.

For example, if you had a day with a high of 65 F and a low of 55 F, the GDD base 50 would be [(65+55)/2] – 50 = 10 GDD50

Below are some observations, questions and activities Michigan State University Extension suggests you can do with children about the emergence of plants and flowers.

• What are the GDD days in your part of the state? Go to Michigan State University Enviro-weather to find maps and charts for different parts of Michigan.
• Show children pictures of flowers and ask them to guess what order they will arrive in. Good examples are crocuses, daffodils, tulips and roses. Why don’t all flowers bloom at the same time? Why might some bloom early in the spring and others wait until summer?
• Do the same type of flowers bloom at the same time in different locations? Why might that change? Could it be the temperature, or how deep the flowers are planted?
• Report your signs of spring and see how you compare to other parts of the world.
• How long do you think the blooms will last? Observe the same flower each day and make observations. Note any changes in the bloom’s color or appearance.
• Will the bloom last longer if you water it? Set up an experiment with plants in a similar situation and see if daily watering will affect the life of the bloom.
• Are there any insects hanging around the plant? Are ants or honey bees pollinating the plant? Does it appear that anything is eating the plant?

Get out and enjoy the spring blooms and do some science observation and predictions at the same time.