Journey North Project

I hope your school year is off to a great start! It’s an exciting time of year and a chance to start fresh, make some new friends, try new things, buy some new crayons, etc. I still love the smell of office supplies! (I’m a retired first grade teacher).

I want to introduce you to a fun program called Journey North. I have been participating in the tulip planting portion for many years and have planted bulbs with kids at schools all over Anchorage. Now, I encourage you to do the same!

Journey North Project

In this study everyone plants Red Emperor bulbs. They are also called Fosteriana Tulips. They are sturdy, produce large foliage, and are one of the first tulips to bloom in the Spring.

Red Emperor tulips

Here’s the blurb:

“In this international science experiment, students in schoolyards across the northern hemisphere plant tulip bulbs in their Journey North Test Gardens each Fall. When the plants emerge and bloom, children announce Springtime in their part of the world. Beginning in September, monthly updates will be posted on the Journey North site. Get ready to plant your Journey North Tulip Test Garden and track the arrival of Spring in your part of the world!”

All the plantings, the emergence of bulbs and the bloom times are recorded and plotted on a map where you can see Spring moving northward. Kids all over the world are doing this. Simply go to the website and start looking for a promising site at a school, day care center or other locale. There are some caveats intended to reap the best climactic information from your site. Remember tulips are moose candy here in Alaska, so they may need protection.


Last year students planted bulbs at several of our 21st Century Schools and had mixed results. At one school, the ground was frozen so we laid the tulips on the ground and covered them with several bags of spent coffee grounds. They grew in the Spring until someone dug them up!

This is really an easy science experiment to do, and I hope you will consider joining the fun! I’ve had teachers in other states become pen pals, as they are often curious about Alaska.

There is so much more to Journey North than tulips, though, so be sure to check out their website.

Patrick Ryan is an Alaska Master Gardener and the Education Specialist for the Alaska Botanical Garden. A retired elementary school teacher, Patrick is a member of the Anchorage Community Forest Council and sits on the board for Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom.

4 comments on “Journey North Project

  1. Chris Harris

    Hi Pat! Interesting project with interesting results. I’m so glad you continue to educate kids on the wonders of gardening!

    I wanted to let you know once again how much we appreciated your personal tour of the botanical garden in September 2016 when we brought our Mom, an avid gardener, to visit and to meet you, a fellow teacher. You were so kind to her and I know it meant a lot to her. Sadly, 4 months after our visit she passed away from metastasized cancer but we have this wonderful memory together there in Fairbanks.

    My very best to you,

    Chris Harris

    • Patrick Robert Ryan

      Chris, sorry to hear about your Mom. I enjoyed being with all of you and it was great to talk to a fellow teacher.
      I appreciate you reading my blog and responding here.
      Busy as ever at the Botanical Garden and still working with groups of kids in schools and on field trips to the Garden.
      Best of the season to you and yours!

  2. Ferne Dalton

    Thanks for this. Looks to me like an excellent way to introduce a number of subjects to young kids. Will pass it on to my daughter who is a teacher in B.C.

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