Four Steps to Using Budburst In Your Classroom

Budburst brings real science into your classroom: Hone observation skills; note changes over time; compare, draw, count, & manipulate data.  There are many ways Budburst can enhance science education in your teaching situation.  Using Budburst is as easy as one, two, three, and four!  

  1. Register for your educator account,
  2. Choose a plant and/or a location to observe,
  3. Report your observations, and
  4. Explore your data.  

Follow these steps to get started! 

Register Your Educator Account
Educator features, including student accounts and classrooms, are available in beta mode. We welcome your feedback and suggestions; please contact us at

Participation in Budburst begins with registration. By setting up an account, registered users have access to their own Budburst account dashboards where they can:

  • Manage their site(s) and the plants they plan to observe
  • Report observations, and
  • View/download their submitted data.

The educator account provides additional tools to help you implement Budburst in your classroom. Benefits include the ability to:

  • Create a “Classroom” for each group/class.
  • Set up anonymous “student accounts” within a classroom. This allows you to conveniently manage all of your students under one account. A teacher can have multiple online “classrooms” with multiple student accounts.
  • Specific observation plants can be identified using a 'nickname' when included within each “classroom.” If multiple classrooms are observing plants at the same site, the teacher can easily duplicate that information to one or more other classrooms.

Teachers working with students older than 13 years old (see our policies statement) may choose to have them register for their own accounts, letting them record their site information and observations on their own. This allows students to observe plants at sites of particular interest to them, such as at their home or at nearby parks and natural places. It also facilitates comparison between plants at different types of sites. Note that, in this situation, teachers will not have direct access to the personal accounts of their students.

Choose Your Location and Plant

When planning lessons incorporating Budburst into your classroom instruction, some logistical issues surrounding outdoor observations should be considered. For example, it’s important to consider where to have students make observations (i.e., site location) and which plant(s) is best suited for students’ study. Budburst offers a variety of tools and resources to help teachers and informal educators customize their students’ participation based on specific educational goals.

Your Locations
Budburst requires basic information on the location of the plant being studied (e.g., site name, address OR latitude/longitude) in support of further analysis of the plant’s response to the environment. Each “Location,” once entered, becomes a quick-pick option within your Budburst account. 

Elementary school teachers typically choose a location (e.g. a garden or open prairie) on the school grounds, with one or more plant species identified for observation. For students to make repeated observations of their plant, it is important to select a location that is convenient to visit on a regular basis and within easy walking distance of the classroom. 

Your Plants
Budburst offers a wealth of resources to help teachers choose a plant for study. Each plant in the Budburst database contains information on identification, “Did You Know?” facts, and downloadable report forms for One-time and Life-cycle observations.

Data for your plant choices can be downloaded in both Excel and CSV formats.  All data collected by Budburst is available for download from the DATA menu.  Search and filter the data as needed or download by year.  

Browse Budburst plant resources for plants in your state or for plants of interest to a local Budburst partner.  You could have your students recreate a “Top Ten List” for their own school yard.  

Make Observations

The central element of Budburst involves student observation of the timing of annual events (e.g., bud burst, first leaf, first flower, first ripe fruit). Budburst observations can be made using either of two protocols, thus providing flexibility for your curriculum.  

  • The One-time Observation protocol allows participants to make a status-based observation of a plant at a single point in time, identifying the current phenophase status of a study plant and the date of the observation.
  • The Life-cycle Observation protocol is a little more involved, requiring participants to watch their plant over a growing season in order to note the dates when the plant reaches each specific phenophase.

    With the Life-cycle Observation protocol, students learn which phenophases are to be observed and when, and then they watch for and record the dates of these phenophase events. Checking a plant periodically is not time-consuming, but committing to do so through the year requires some coordination. 

Reporting by either method may be made directly via a handheld device.  If that is not an option, printable report forms for field observations may be downloaded below or from each plant’s resource page.  Carry these field reports back to the classroom for data entry into the website.

Wildflowers and Herbs - Life-Cycle Form; One-Time Form 

Deciduous Trees and Shrubs -  Life-Cycle Form; One-Time Form 

Conifer Trees and Shrubs - Life-Cycle Form; One-Time Form 

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs - Life-Cycle Form; One-Time Form 

Grasses - Life-Cycle Form; One-Time Form  


Explore the Data

Observations can be reported immediately from the field using handheld devices or tablets with students logging in using their student accounts.

Once data are entered, they are immediately accessible from your Budburst account dashboard, including those from student accounts. These data are searchable and may be downloaded in a variety of file formats. Elementary school teachers typically use these data to help their students create simple graphs showing the timing of phenophase events for their study plant(s).

For more advanced classes, teachers or students may access data collected by the Budburst community (found under the Data menu) and download observations from participants across the country. These data can be used, for example, to compare your students’ observations with those made by other participants in other locations or other years.