ACM Pedagogic Resources > ACM/FaCE > Projects > Integrating Sustainability into the Undergraduate Curriculum > Activities > Phenology Plot Project

Phenology Plot Project

Ruth Kath, Luther College, based on an original activity by Suzanne Hansen and Jim Farrell
Author Profile


Three times over the semester, students will observe one of the "planted-in-honor" trees on the Luther campus three times, recording their description each time both visually (either sketch or photograph),and with the written word (an essay of 200 words in German each time).

In pairs and once or twice during the semester, students will also make significant contact with the emeritus/a faculty members honored by the trees they are observing, in order to hear the story behind the tree's planting at that particular location and to gain a solid sense of the life of that faculty member at the college. Students will photograph the honored member with the tree at least once during the semester and record in written form the life of the honored member in an essay of 250-300 words in German. At the end of the semester, students will share their photographs and descriptions during a special class devoted to this experience.

Learning Goals

Gain observation and descriptive skills in German about nature on the college campus, the college's landscape plan, and also learn about the college community through the eyes of the faculty members who have retired, but are still active in the life of the college and provide models of lifelong learning to young people who are at the beginning of their studies. Document the arrival of fall or spring, as appropriate, in one special location over the semester. The information researched by the students will be shared with the College Advancement Office, which maintains an attractive archive of information about the "in honor of" trees, their honorees, and their donors. Students will have strong practice in composition about two different kinds of experiences: description in German about present and past tenses, adjectives and adjective endings, and prepositions (on, in, under, etc.)

Context for Use

Intermediate German, about 15-20 students, need updated maps from Advancement Office of "in honor of" trees on the Luther campus. Need access to college cameras through library, also updated contact information for emeritus/a faculty members who have agreed to participate in the project.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips


Periodic conversation with students in class about how their projects are going; detailed syllabus with well-staggered dates for completion of the various steps of the two significant parts: tree observation and emeritus/a faculty visits.

References and Resources

Jens Jenson landscape plan–Luther College website
Tree Project, Luther Magazine article, spring 2010