Question Sheet: Springing forward

Question Sheet: Springing forward


Before reading:

  1. What natural events signal the beginning of spring?
  2. How reliable is the date at which these events occur each year?
  3. What do you think is responsible for the timing of when they occur?
  4. What do you think might happen if some of these events occurred sooner or

    later than they traditionally have been? How might this affect the ecosystems

    and their inhabitants?

During reading:

  1. The timing of some spring events is changing. What do scientists think might

    be responsible for the changes?

  2. What might happen if there is a change in the cycles of when certain plants

    and animals emerge or mature?

  3. Why are scientists so interested in diaries from the mid-1800s belonging to

    Henry David Thoreau?

  4. How might changing cycles of when plants and fungi emerge affect people?
  5. What is phenology? What are citizen scientists who belong to the National

    Phenology Network doing?

After reading:

  1. How serious do you think it is that natural environmental cycles are

    changing? Is it a problem now or something to worry about only in the future?

    Explain your answer.

  2. If you were to join the National Phenology Network, which elements of

    wildlife would you like to watch and report on? Why?

  3. If global warming is behind the changes, what might people in your community

    do to help slow that warming?

  4. Is there anything particularly special about changes occurring in spring?

    Would you expect that changes in summer, fall or winter would have similarly

    important impacts? Explain your answer.


  1. How might the changes that scientists have been observing affect farmers in

    your region? (Hint: How are farms affected by temperatures, birds, insects and

    other wildlife?) Give three examples of potential changes and describe why you

    think each would be either good or bad for these farmers.

  2. What other industries or groups of professionals could be affected by major

    changes in the timing of when animals and plants emerge and develop? (Hint: What

    causes allergies? And consider people who must manage landscapes.)

  3. Some insects that can’t stand cold weather may be able to move further north

    as climate warms. Think killer bees and fire ants. If they were to suddenly

    establish colonies in a northern state – like Ohio –how might this affect the

    economy and culture of towns in that state?


  1. Write three paragraphs about phenology and whether you think changing cycles

    of plants’ and animals’ emergence are a curiosity or something to really worry

    about. Explain your reasoning.

  2. Hold a classroom debate about whether the phenology changes that are being

    witnessed around the world today are sufficient justification to spend money on

    changing the types and amounts of energy that we use.