What Tulips Need to Grow
Gathering Local Spring Tulip Data

Teacher Background
*Measurement tools (e.g., thermometer, rulers or string)
* Journal Page: What Do Tulips Need to Grow?
* Journal Page: Spring Data: What Do Tulips Need to Grow?
Overview: Throughout the season, students will have a chance to explore what triggers tulip growth by comparing real-time tulip garden maps with weather maps. This activity invites them to explore the same question in their own Journey North tulip gardens.

Laying the Groundwork: Uncover What Students Think

  1. Imagine: Ask the class to imagine they are tulip bulbs underground. Ask, What does it feel like right now? What will make you spring to life and poke your leaves out of the soil? What will it be like outside when you do?
  2. Draw: Ask your young "tulips" to draw pictures showing all the things that will help get them growing.
  3. Discuss: Discuss students' thoughts and drawings. Make a list factors they think will get bulbs growing and another list for things they think could keep bulbs from growing.

Exploration: Gather Data

  1. Help students turn their ideas into questions they can explore by making observations, taking measurements, and gathering other data. Here are some examples:
    * What will the soil (or air) temperature be when our tulips come out of the ground? (Is it the same for other Journey North gardens?)

    * Will tulips come up if there is still snow on the ground?
    * Will tulips in a sunny spot come up before ones in a shady spot?

  2. Choose one of the questions to explore by gathering local data. Have each student or small group use the What Do Tulips Need to Grow? journal page (pictured above) to describe their investigation and make predictions.

    Option: Some questions are best explored by comparing local data with data from one or more partner classrooms. For instance, Do all Red Emperor tulips emerge when the soil (or air) is the same temperature? See the lesson, Global Garden Partners: How Do We Compare?

  3. Observe and gather data. As you make regular garden visits, use the journal page, Spring Data: What Do Tulips Need to Grow? to document your findings. You can edit it for your grade and the question you're exploring. Here are two options:
    a) Gather data on many factors and look for patterns.
    b) Only gather information that relates to your question.
    For Younger Students: Use the simpler Our Tulip Garden journal page.

    Setting standards for data: Ask, How can we make sure we measure the same thing each time we go to the garden? Here are some ways to make sure your investigation is "fair."
    Height: Measure the same tulip each time or measure several and take an average height. Always measure from the base of the soil to the tip of the tallest leaf.
    Temperature: Measure it at the same time each day or use a maximum/minimum thermometer to get the high and low for each day. If you don't have thermometers or time, you can find these listed in the newspaper for the previous day.
How does sun cause rain?
It's easy to see how longer hours or stronger sun melts snow and causes soil to warm, but how can it affect rainfall? Discover how and link to student activities in the Water Cycle section of the teacher's background.
Making Connections
  1. Picture your data (optional). You may want to have students make graphs or drawings to portray data. For instance, they could make a line graph to compare tulip height with daily temperatures.
  2. Discussion Questions:
    * Did your data contain any surprises? Explain.
    * What patterns did you notice? What do they "tell" you?

    * What new ideas or questions do you have?
    * What do you think causes each change we noticed in the natural world (e.g., warming soil)?
    Help students grasp the idea that each change influences others and that the sun drives them all.

Teacher Tip: Thinking Like Scientists (older students)
Students may draw conclusions that go beyond what their data "tell" them. For instance, they may notice that tulips emerged when the soil temperature was 55 degrees F. But unless they have the same data for lots of gardens around the country, they can't reasonably conclude that 55 degree temperatures trigger Red Emperor tulips to bloom. And because they can't "control" other factors (like rainfall), they can't be sure whether temperature, rainfall quantity, or a combination is responsible. (Besides, in the natural world, many of these factors overlap.)

Help students figure out what they can learn from their observations and data. More important, prompt them to think and act like scientists by using their data to inspire new questions and theories (hypotheses).

Younger students:
Ask students to create a new version of the drawing they did in Laying the Groundwork. Encourage them to include more detail — and words, if necessary — to show what they discovered. If you have time, have them explain each component, and the relationships between them, to you.

Older students: As you review students' journal pages and listen to class discussions, check that their explanations, theories, and new questions reflect the evidence they gathered.