Grades K-4

Children are natural explorers. If you are looking for ways to channel your students’ endless curiosity into simple investigations about their environment, Budburst can help. Color, texture, amount, location, width, height, circumference - so many things to look at, count, measure, draw, collect, compare, and display. Through story and active observation, Budburst offers K-4 teachers ways to integrate science into classroom instruction, bringing the subject to life for young learners.

It is easy to customize Budburst to your classroom needs. Teachers with limited time often use Budburst to teach observational skills, making a phenology observation of a plant on a day that works for you. Teachers with more time in their curriculum often have students explore their plant’s response to the seasons by reporting phenology observations throughout the school year. Both are great ways to give students direct experience making observations and collecting authentic data. 

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

Early elementary students are typically introduced to simple life science content such as the major structures of plants, plant life cycles, and simple plant/environment interdependencies. Participation in Budburst can help make these topics real for students as they explore first hand how plants change through the seasons.  

Because Budburst is a national citizen science project, we focus on national education standards. District and state requirements vary; however, many base their standards on these common national standards.  

The Next Generation Science Standards emphasizes the integration of scientific practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas, and sets the expectation that educators incorporate all three dimensions throughout instruction, even in elementary grades. 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, this Framework and its subsequent, resultant standards 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 studies of living plants in their own environment, collect their own data, and learn to see patterns in these data.

A summary of the Framework’s practices, concepts and core ideas is listed below, with samples of specific understandings at the grades K-4 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 scientific investigations.”

Developing and using models

“Young people should be encouraged to devise pictorial and simple graphical representations of the findings of their investigations and to use these models in developing their explanations of what occurred.”

Planning and carrying out investigations

“In elementary years, students’ experiences should be structured to help them learn to define the features to be investigated, such as patterns that suggest causal relationships.”

Analyzing and interpreting data

“At the elementary level, students need support to recognize the need to record observations – whether in drawings, words, or numbers – and to share this with others. As they engage in scientific inquiry more deeply, they should begin to collect categorical or numerical data for presentation in forms that facilitate interpretation, such as tables and graphs.”

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. For example, elementary students can describe and predict the patterns in the seasons of the year. Similarly, they can investigate the characteristics that allow classification of plants (e.g., trees, shrubs, grasses)…”

Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation

“In the earliest grades, as students begin to look for and analyze patterns – whether in their observations of the world or in the relationships between different quantities in data (e.g., the sizes of plants over time) – they can also begin to consider what might be cause these patterns and relationships and design tests that gather more evidence to support or refute their ideas.”

Scale, proportion, and quantity

“The concept of scale builds from the early grades as an essential element of understanding phenomena. Young children can begin understanding scale with objects, space, and time related to their world and with explicit scale models and maps. They may discuss relative scales – the biggest and smallest, hottest and coolest, fastest and slowest – without reference to particular units of measurement.”

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

“Even very young children begin to explore stability and change. The role of instruction in the early grades is to help students to develop some language for these concepts and apply it appropriately across multiple examples, so that they can ask such questions as ‘How fast did the plants grow?"

Disciplinary Core Ideas - Life Sciences

LS1: From molecules to organisms: Structures and processes

How do organisms grow and develop?
“Plants and animals have predictable characteristics at different stages of development…Plants and animals grow and change.”

How do organisms detect, process, and use information about the environment?
“Plants also respond to some external inputs (e.g., turn leaves toward the sun).”

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

What happens to ecosystems when the environment changes?
“The places where plants and animals live often change, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly. When animals and plants get too hot or too cold, they may die. If they cannot find enough food, water, or air, they may die.”

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 combination of sunlight, wind, snow or rain, and temperature in a particular region at a particular time. People measure these conditions to describe and record the weather and to notice patterns over time.

ESS3: Earth and human activity