Grades 5-8

By grades 5-8, students are ready to deepen their understanding of plants and ecosystems through the study of adaptations, populations, and interactions between organisms and the environment. Current issues surrounding climate change can generate many questions for students. By participating in Budburst, teachers can bring these topics together for students as they explore first hand how plants respond to changing environmental cues. Budburst can also be a springboard for students to plan and conduct their own investigations on how plants respond to the environment. Most importantly, Budburst helps students understand the process and nature of science by including them in a scientific community of practice.

We have developed curriculum resources for Grades 3-5 to facilitate the integration of Budburst phenology observations into your classroom during hybrid or remote learning. The curriculum is housed here.

Educational Standards

According to Educational Standards, by grades 5-8, students build upon a foundational understanding of plants and ecosystems through study of adaptations, populations, and interactions between organisms and the environment. Participation in Budburst can provide an engaging, real-world context for learning more about plants, living systems, and environments. It also provides opportunities for students to gain experience with scientific practices such as making observations, collecting data, and contributing to scientific research. These are important knowledge content and skills for middle school students to learn, as defined by today’s educational standards.

Incorporation of Budburst in classroom instruction can help meet various educational standards. Because Budburst is a national program, this document addresses national education standards. District and state requirements of course vary, however many base their standards on common national standards.

Next Generation Science Standards emphasize the integration of scientific practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas, and sets the expectation that educators incorporate all three dimensions throughout instruction.

Guiding principles that underlie the structure of the framework include the natural investigative nature of children; the emphasis on a limited set of core ideas to allow for deeper exploration and understanding; and the recognition that science requires both knowledge and practice. The framework also describes learning where students “build progressively more sophisticated explanations of natural phenomena” rather than focusing only on description in early years and leaving explanation for later grades. In general, the Framework and subsequent standards that will come from this framework stress the importance of giving students experience with authentic scientific practices in the context of important core ideas. Inviting students to become citizen scientists through Budburst is a natural fit for this type of instruction. Budburst students engage in plant studies in their own environment, collecting their own data over time and making connections between observed events and natural phenomena.

A summary of the Framework’s practices, concepts and core ideas is listed below, with samples of specific understandings at the grades 5-8 level included.

Scientific and Engineering Practices

Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

“Students at any grade level should be able to ask questions of each other about the texts they read, the features of the phenomena they observe, and the conclusions they draw from their models or scientific investigations.”

Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations

“Students should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher

–in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own – to those that emerge from students’ own questions.”

Analyzing and interpreting data

“Students should have opportunities to learn standard techniques for displaying, analyzing, and interpreting data; such techniques include different types of graphs, the identification of outliers in the dataset, and averaging to reduce the effects of measurement error.”

Using mathematics and computational thinking
Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

“Students should be encouraged to develop explanations of what they observe when conducting their own investigations and to evaluate their own and others’ explanations for consistency with the evidence.”

Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Crosscutting Concepts


“It is important for students to develop ways to recognize, classify, and record patterns in the phenomena they observe. … by upper elementary grades, students should also begin to analyze patterns in rates of change – e.g., the growth rates of plants under different conditions.”

Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation

“By upper elementary grades, students should have developed the habit of routinely asking about cause-and-effect relationships in the systems they are studying, particularly when something occurs that is, for them, unexpected. The questions should move from ‘Why did that happen?’ towards ‘What conditions were critical for that to happen?’”

Scale, proportion, and quantity

“As size scales change, so do time scales. Thus, when considering large entities such as mountain ranges [or populations], one typically needs to consider change that occurs over long periods.”

sytems and system models
Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation
Structure and function
Stability and change

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Life Sciences

LS1: From molecules to organisms: Structures and processes

LS2: Ecosystems: interactions, energy and dynamics (in particular C. Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience)

What happens to ecosystems when the environment changes?

“When the environment changes in ways that affect a place’s physical characteristics, temperature, or availability of resources, some organisms survive and reproduce, others move to new locations, yet others move into the transformed environment, and some die.”

“Ecosystems are dynamic in nature; their characteristics can vary over time. Disruptions to any physical or biological component of an ecosystem can lead to shifts in all of its populations.”

LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and variation of traits

LS4: Biological Evolution: Unity and diversity

Earth and Space Sciences

ESS1: Earth's place in the universe

ESS2: Earth's systems (in particular D. Weather and Climate)

“Weather is the minute-by-minute to day-by-day variation of the atmosphere’s condition on a local scale. Climate describes the ranges of an area’s typical weather conditions and the extent to which those conditions vary over years to centuries.”

ESS3: Earth and human activity (in particular D. Global Climate Change)

“If Earth’s global mean temperature continues to rise, the lives of humans and other organisms will be affected in many different ways.”

“Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming).”