Do You Define Spring?
"One swallow does not make spring, nor does one
* Sample Spring
Survey Form (optional)
Results of Spring Survey: Blank
Form and Sample (optional)
Pencil & clipboards or cardboard to lean on
conduct a survey to determine when spring occurs in the minds of people
in their area. Then they organize their data and try to interpet it.
According to the calendar, the Spring Equinox marks the first day of spring — the
day in March when daylight and night hours are equal everywhere on earth.
But most people have a very different concept of spring. Some say "it's
spring" when the dogwoods bloom, the first robin appears, or they can
finally go outside without a jacket. You're about to embark on the adventure
of tracking spring's journey north. But just what does spring mean to your
students and their friends, families, and neighbors? How does the definition
vary from person to person and region to region?
Laying the Groundwork
- Ask, How
do you know when "spring" has arrived? Have small student groups
discuss the question for a few minutes. Ask each group to write
2 of their responses on the board or chart paper. For each, ask, Around
what date do you estimate the event occurs in our area?
- Ask the
class to group the answers into categories as they see fit. They
might, for instance, suggest plant signs, calendar events, human
activities, cultural events.
out the number of spring signs students generated in a short period.
Challenge the class to conduct a survey to find out how other people
define spring's onset.
can design their own survey questions or use the sample
form. Ask, What kinds of data or information shall we gather?
How should we word our questions? (Encourage them to routinely
ask interviewees the approximate dates at which their selected signs
of spring occur.)
- Ask, How
should we go about gathering our information? Who should we interview? Discuss
the interview plan and survey techniques. For instance, Will you
ask open-ended questions or give people items to choose from? How
will you record answers? How will you avoid influencing people's
responses (e.g., don't ask leading questions or suggest answers).
students up to practice survey techniques. Get back together and
refine your survey questions and form, if necessary.
can work individually or in pairs to interview families, neighbors,
friends, and students and teachers in other classrooms. Remind them
that the more data they collect, the more reliable it will be.
students compile and organize all the data they collected. They might,
for instance, tabulate the most frequent responses by age or geographic
location, average dates for each event, and so on.
Connections — Discussion and Journaling Questions
students to arrange all the "signs of spring" in chronological
order as defined by interviewees, or list them on a calendar. Ask:
What patterns do you notice?
What general statements can you make based on your survey?
In what general sequence does spring seem to unfold (i.e., Which types of
activities happen when)?
- Do specific
factors (e.g., age, where they came from) seem to make a difference
in people's responses? If so, how would you explain that?
was the most frequently mentioned sign of spring in your region?
Why do you think so many people notice that one?
- How does
the definition of spring vary from person to person? From region
signs of spring do you think occur at about the same time each year
regardless of weather? For which events does the date vary from year
and compare your results with your Journey North partner class in
a different geographic region. (See
Phenology Data Exchange.)
the surveys. At the end of the school year, have students respond
again to see how their views have expanded and changed.
that students' statements and conclusions are based on evidence from
students to try to write a definition of spring for a dictionary.
Science Education Standards
a question about objects, organisms, events. (K-4)
Plan and conduct a simple investigation. (K-4)
Use data to conduct a reasonable explanation. (K-4)