Informal Education

Budburst works well in multiple venues: from National Parks to local nature centers, from botanic gardens to forest preserves.  The two observational protocols are simple enough to use with grade school field trips and hardy enough to support staff reports on plant changes over time.  

Since most people notice and comment upon plant changes -- spring wildflowers, fall leaves -- phenology provides a gateway to learning about plants, and drawing connections between plants, pollinators, weather and climate.

Plant phenology touches upon biology, environmental science, horticulture, geography, and even art. It is also an important component in research on current scientific issues like climate change. Budburst, therefore, can enhance programming in informal educational settings and can prove to be a useful tool to add to your educator and volunteer toolkits.

Fitting Your Program Needs

Budburst employs two protocols, providing options on how you can customize Budburst to your programmatic needs.

  • One-time Report protocol - Develop observational skills using a one-time observation of a plant at any point in time. Useful with field trip groups or casual family visitors.
  • Recurring Reports protocol - Volunteers or staff can make observations throughout the growing season to explore their plant’s response to the seasons. Individuals working on scouting or other individual projects can follow a plant through a growing season.

Your staff or volunteers might want to investigate whether their plant’s annual cycle is responding to variability in climate by comparing their observations with local historical data.

Project Ideas

Thinking about incorporating phenology into your programming? Here are some quick thoughts and project ideas from our partners:

With Children:

  • I have had several positive experiences using Budburst with students. They enjoy giving their tree a 'check-up.'
  • The kids really get into looking at the plants and flowers, and the pollinators!  
  • Use Budburst to help children observe and learn about the sometimes subtle differences among plants to accomplish a task such as seed dispersal. For example, Common milkweed uses the wind, New England asters intice birds to eat and then "poop out" the seeds in another location. 

With Teachers:

  • The most impactful thing about it is our ability to spread the word to others. I have told many teachers about Project BudBurst during our teacher workshops, and quite a few of them left excited to try it at school. It is simple enough that you can easily participate with any age with minimal effort, so it works great as a classroom activity.

With the General Public:

  • We use Budburst to help visitors to look - really look- and observe.
  • Our volunteers have taken weekly photos of the trees we collect data from.  We share the progression with our visitors. This is a neat way to engage visitors with phenology, even if we've not successfully had them participate in data collection. 

With Volunteers:

  • Encourage volunteers to become more involved with citizen science, we empower our volunteers to upload their own data to Budburst.org.

With Staff:

  • We have used Budburst data in our seasonal and year-end reports.

Email us at mailto:budburst@chicagobotanic.org to share your project idea.