Nature journals provide a one on one experience with nature. No matter what time of year, it has the ability to provide hands-on learning opportunities we are not soon to forget. These journals can be in any form you choose. They can be the starting point or inspiration for a lesson, or it can be a lesson in and of itself. There is no limit to what you can do.
Journals provide you with an opportunity to get to know your subject on a personal basis. Because you get to know your subject matter and not just be told about it, you are more likely to understand the concepts and retain the information. You experience nature with all your senses and hopefully develop a healthy respect for it.
It is always a perfect time to begin keeping a nature journal. Spring and autumn present us with a more instant gratification as the environments change quickly. Plus, they tend to have more pleasant weather which encourages being out of doors. Summer has the vibrancy of the changing flower blooms from week to week. While winter brings us full circle to prepare for renewal.
Nature journals come in all shapes, sizes and forms. They can be as simple as taking a sketch book along on a picnic. The type and purpose can be as individualized as it’s creator. From a few pieces of folded paper to notebooks and sketch pads and everything in between, nature journals can be made to suit your needs. Pencils, crayons, charcoals and water paints are all great supplies to have on hand as is a good field guide for your area.
Nature journals do not have to be formal. It is collecting leaves, seeds or pine cones. Taking advantage of a teachable moment as it presents itself and then recording a history of it to look back on. They can be a stand alone subject, they can accent an existing lesson plan, or they can do both.
Among other things, journals can be used to spark interest. Let’s imagine your child has found a tree and has made an impression of its bark. He has collected some of its leaves to press and has written about how the branches hang and the shade of green the leaves are. But there is more. You see that a certain insect seems to like this type of tree. Then your child wonders, “What type of insect is it?”, “What type of tree is it?” and a plethora of other questions fill his mind. So you and your child look into it and find that it is your state tree. You find what type of seed it has and how long it takes to grow. You also find that this insect living on the tree is actually good because it eats another insect which is harmful to the tree’s well being. You begin to see how it fits into the whole environment and the role it plays in the ecosystem. Your child may not even realize it, but through all this fun he was having, he was learning.
* Don’t worry if your child is not an artist. Drawings do not have to be perfect. By letting your child have the freedom to draw it as he experiences it, it will have more meaning to him.
* Use charcoals, pencils or watercolors to create drawings of your surroundings.
* Try setting it up as you would a scrapbook with photos, drawings and notations about what you see, hear and smell.
* Use photographs
* Close your eyes and draw what you *feel*
* Add anecdotes to spark memories.
* Write the lyrics/words to a song or poem that reminds you of your adventure or use the lyrics/words to inspire a whole new topic.
* Having a field guide for your area can offer considerable assistance in determining the plants you are looking at.
* Use it to track the development of a particular location over the course of a month, season, year or more.
* Record what you find while on a nature hike.
* Use pressed flowers and leaves.
* Compare landscapes either within your own town or while taking a road trip.
* Note if a particular plant or animal tends to be found in similar surroundings or if they develop habitats over many types of environments.
* Keep track of your own garden (even if it is a potted garden).
* Track how the weather influences nature.
Nature Journals have the ability to give us a sense of awe and wonderment of our world and it’s Creator.
We begin to realize how diverse the world is, we begin to take time and look beyond the surface and we see how we can impact nature in tiny, yet meaningful ways.
Enjoy exploring and making your journals. They are sure to become keepsakes your family will enjoy for years.