How-To

10 Things to Put in Your Nature Journal

10 Things to Put in Your Nature Journal
Spring is a great time to get outside and observe. If you are ready to take it to the next level — keep a nature journal! We have provided suggestions for 10 things to put in your nature journal. But first, you may be wondering what value your children (or you) will find in nature journaling.

Skills and Knowledge Fostered by Nature Journaling

  • Scientific and aesthetic observation.
  • Creative and technical writing.
  • Layout and presentation of ideas and observations.
  • Perception and analysis.
  • Questioning, inventiveness, synthesis.
  • Reflection, silence.
  • Meditation, focus, personal healing.
  • Greater appreciation of nature and place.
  • Shared family experiences.
  • Finding your own voice, learning to open yourself to new experiences.
  • Self-confidence and the ability to express yourself.

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth

 

Of course, many of the benefits listed above could be applied to any type of journaling. But nature journaling specifically gets us outside ourselves and into the wider world. It fosters a synergy between man and creation. We learn to observe details about nature’s creatures and their habits. And besides, it’s fun!

So here are 10 things you can encourage your children to include in a nature journal. Just remember, try not to hit them with all of these at once. The goal is not to overwhelm but to inspire!

 

1. The Basics

There are several things that are always good to include in a nature journal:

  • The date.
  • The weather.
  • The time of year: Typical summer, or late fall, or seemingly very early winter.
  • The sky: Cloudy? Clear? Brewing?
  • The wind.
  • The temperature.
  • The location.
  • The habitat: Field? Stream? Lawn? Creek?

 

2. Identification

  • What do you see? Draw it.
  • How would you describe it?
  • Identify it. What is its scientific name? What do we commonly call it?
  • Where do you find it?
  • When did you spot it?

 

3. Natural Progressions

The caterpillar forming a cocoon, the long wait, and the escape of the butterfly.

The moon as it traverses from a sliver to a full presentation.

A deciduous tree in the four seasons of life.

These natural progressions can be found everywhere. Where do you see them?

 

4. Comparisons and Contrasts

What differentiates a butterfly from a moth?

An igneous rock from a sedimentary one?

A carnivorous animal from an herbivore?

Make comparison and contrast charts of birds, and other species.

 

5. Personal Research

There is no better way to learn something than to find out yourself. And the child who is given free rein over his curiosity will find a way to know everything he wants to know — usually surprising us with the depth of his knowledge!

Encourage him to include this information in his nature journal.

7 Ways to Develop an Independent Researcher
More.

 

 

 

6. Maps

State maps. Local maps. Maps of locations visited.

And of course include what was found there!

You’ll end up with your own personal road map of discoveries.

 

7. Illustrations

Many of us are afraid to even put the pencil to the paper on this one. We know we are not going to be able to adequately capture what we see. But like most things we get better as we focus on the habit of making detailed illustrations of what we see.

There are helps that we can use to perfect our craft. But sometimes it is better to just let our hidden talent emerge on its own — retaining our own style.

With that caveat in mind here are a few helps:

 

8. The Things They Leave Behind

Feathers, tracks, nests, eggs.

Creatures leave trails — if only we look for them.

  • What can you see?
  • What did you find?
  • What helps you to know that something has been here?
  • How can you identify what it is?

 

9. Use Your Senses

Make a list.

  • What do you see?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you smell?
  • Is there a texture to something nearby? A tree? The ground? Snow? Rain?

Make notes of all you experience.

 

10. Close Examination

  • What is it? A spider? A fly?
  • How is it built?
  • Take it apart visually. How is it made?

Sketch the parts.

 

A Few Other Tips

  • Keep a supply of materials handy. There is nothing more disappointing than preparing to head out without everything you need.
  • Take along a camera. Sometimes things move a bit too fast!
  • Take a pair of binoculars. Sometimes things are too far away to get a good look at.
  • Wear shoes you don’t mind getting messy. You never know where you will end up!

 

Finally, a nature journal is sort of a private enterprise. Our relationship with it is really more important than what we put in it. With that in mind, let your young ones just enjoy.

 

Additional Resources

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie
Highly recommended, longtime favorite. Subtitled Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, this wildly illustrated Storey Publishing title is really like a nature journal on its own. So many wonderful ideas, tips, and examples for drawing, journaling, and recording nature. Simply thumbing through our copy is motivating! Consider making it a “coffee-table book,” placing it where the young naturalist in your home will find it and come away inspired!

10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #8 Nature
Many more resources!

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}
Free pages to get you started.