The Rangers in the Classroom program, SPROUTS (Student Phenologists Researching Oaks to Understand Trees and Science) engages students in recording and observing phenological events of oak species in their school yard. The SPROUTS program provides students with a hands-on learning opportunity utilizing two relatively new sciences: phenology and citizen science:
Citizen science is a research and education tool that allows everyday people to use methods such as biological inventory, long-term monitoring and research to form real and meaningful conclusions about their environment. Citizen science is specifically focused on creating opportunities for non-scientists to experience science first-hand and to develop a connection with the natural world. On a large scale, citizen science may inform the broader community through increasing sense of stewardship and data collection and application.
Methods used in citizen science such as biological inventory and long-term monitoring are also tools for phenology. Phenology measures the timing of life cycle events in plants, animals, and microbes, and detects how the environment influences the timing of those events. As life cycle events vary from year to year based on weather, climate and resource availability; phonological observations are simple ways to measure environmental changes such as climate change.
The SPROUTS program uses digital web cameras or phenocams located in the Foothills region of Sequoia National Park to provide students with opportunities to make comparisons between Valley Oak in their schoolyard and Blue Oak or Interior Live Oak found inside of the park’s boundary. Using the webcam images, students can monitor tree canopy phenology while also recording budburst, first leaf and leaf shedding using the camera’s telephoto capabilities.
Download the SPROUTS Lesson Plan to learn more.