Flowering Phenology: How do Plants Know When to Flower?

 Author: Kaesha Neil 

AreaLife Sciences 

 Grade Level: 7-12


The purpose of this lesson is to teach about flowering phenology and its importance in ecosystems and to humans. Flowering phenology is the seasonal timing of flowering events. Flowers—and the timing and duration of their appearance—not only allow most plants to reproduce and are a food source for many animals, but are used to study global climate change because they are very responsive to environmental conditions. These concepts are taught by first having the students participate in an activity in which they pretend to be plants with flowers and animals collecting food from the flowers. The purpose behind this is to engage the students in the lesson. After the activity, the students answer questions on a worksheet about the activity so they have coherent thoughts to share and discuss during the discussion/lecture. To help make the concepts more relevant to the students, urban ecology information (i.e., urbanization effects on flowering phenology and the consequences in this case) is provided in the lesson. Students are evaluated based on their participation, their worksheet, and an exam. A report and/or a presentation about a specific species (its flowering phenology, interactions with other organisms, and importance to humans) are an option, as well as conducting phenological studies around the school. In summary, by engaging in an interactive activity and answering questions related to the activity before the “official” lecture/discussion on flowering phenology, the students play an active role in their learning. Lessons on basic plant biology and pollinators should precede this lesson.



  • The following standards are explicitly addressed in this lesson. Additional standards can be reviewed (strongly encouraged) or met during the execution of this lesson.
  • SC03-S4C3-05: Describe how environmental factors in the ecosystem may affect a member organism’s ability to reproduce.
  • SC07-S4C3-03: Analyze the interactions of living organisms with their ecosystem (e.g. limiting factors).
  • SC07-S4C3-05: Predict how environmental factors affect survival rates in living organisms.
  • SCHS-S4C3-02: Describe how organisms are influenced by a particular combination of biotic and abiotic factors in an environment.
  • SC08-S4C4-04: Compare the symbiotic and competitive relationships of organisms within an ecosystem (e.g. native vs. non-native).
  • SC08-S4C4-06: Describe the factors related to pollination that allow for the survival of organisms.
  • SCHS-S4C4-04: Predict how a change in an environmental factor can affect the number and diversity of species in an ecosystem.
  • SC07-S3C1-01: Analyze environmental risks caused by human interactions with biological systems.
  • SC07-S3C1-03: Propose possible solutions to address the environmental risks in biological systems.
  • SCHS-S3C1-04: Evaluate the factors related to urban development that affect the quality of the environment.

 Keywords: `



 Lesson Plan (pdf / doc)
 Student Handout: Plants (pdf / doc)
 Student Handout: Animals (pdf / doc)