Fourth Graders Participate in Global Climate Change Experiment | Community Idea Stations


Fourth Graders Participate in Global Climate Change Experiment

Fourth grade students at Donahoe Elementary School in Henrico County are beginning their Fall by thinking about Spring.

This is the second year that Donahoe Elementary students have teamed up with a group of scientists - Journey North - to conduct a global experiment about climate change.

The Journey North Tulip Project is an international experiment where students, as citizen scientists, monitor seasonal change using scientific methods.

Each fall, students across the northern hemisphere will plant tulip bulbs in their Test Gardens. When the plants emerge and bloom -one garden at a time- the relationship between climate, geography and the arrival of spring is revealed.

This year, students at five Henrico County Elementary schools -Donahoe, Jackson Davis, Highland Springs, Rivers Edge and Short Pump will join other schools worldwide to answer the question - “When does spring reach our hometown?” While observing and documenting the wave of spring as it moves across the globe, they are also contributing to a valuable long-term database.

Watch this video of Dohahoe’s Tulip Project in 2011 to learn more.

Joseph Koontz, Principal of Donahoe Elementary, purchased 200 Red Emperor Tulip bulbs again this year and the students have been busy preparing their Test Garden for planting in early November. How does this fit into the curriculum? Students use this project to study parts of their fourth grade curriculum such as the scientific method, geography, and life cycles. They observe, measure and record data throughout the project. 

In late February, they will be looking for bulbs to emerge and announce the beginning of spring. They keep tabs on spring as it moves up from the equator via an interactive computerized map. Tracking spring's arrival in Richmond they are greeted with a glorious garden of Red Emperor Tulips.

But their scientific discovery doesn't end here. There is still plenty of research and exploration to be done - digging up a tulip for dissection, learning about the parts and how each part does its job, and documenting their dissection using computerized imagery.  

How do you become involved? Any school group, scout troop, or family can get involved as a citizen scientist. Just visit Journey North to learn how to get started. The planting window only runs through the middle of November - so hurry up if you want to participate!

And follow Donahoe’s Tulip Project this year at

Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager and Joseph Koontz, Principal, Donahoe Elementary School, Henrico County Public Schools

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