My mom always included keeping a journal as part of our homeschooling and I still have a couple of mine. Sometimes they are very straight forward, “Today we went for a ride up Polar Springs. Mary Workman came to visit. We had stew for supper.” Or Other times I pour out my seven year old angst, “Sarah and mom were being mean to my horse Gypsy. They were making her go in the trailer when she didn’t want to. I’m telling Dad when he gets home tonight.” Either way, it was beginning of my love of writing.
similar style, we decided to include a Nature journal in our home learning. While this
is more specific to encouraging interaction with and awareness of our
surroundings, it’s also an opportunity to lead to deeper contemplation in the
future. Of course we are homeschooling so the nature is part of that but I think that it would be a great learning addition for children who are also going to school.
There are so many ways to keep a nature journal based on the child’s learning style, age, and stage. It could be a folder with sleeves in which to tuck leaves, seeds, bits of bark or pine cones, leaf rubbings, notes and sketches. A simple notebook or paper stapled together in which an older child writes about what they have observed. It could be a box or an elastic band that holds the pages as they are added. Perhaps some children would enjoy using a camera to capture images that later could be made into a photo book. Or for the painter it could be a mixed media book in which to paint their observations. It can be a way of recording the local wildlife, flora, and fauna; I remember spending hours trekking through the woods around our home recording the location and details of all the plants and flowers Really, a nature journal could be kept with any combination of these ideas as well as the many other ways that I’m sure have been used.
This year as I was deciding how we would begin using Nature Journals, I decided to start with something that is durable and simple, yet special. I found plain black art books filled with heavy weight paper intended for watercolor. At this point, both girls are only drawing but the book is so sturdy that it will withstand their handling and the pages discourage tearing. Once personalized with names and a few stickers the journals were ready for use.
to Cecily’s dismay on the first day that they used their journals, each day is
allotted only two sides of a page. Knowing my daughters as I do, the first day
would have seen half of the book filled if we hadn’t set that guideline!
As we walk or ride through the forest, by the water, or just around the yard, I encourage the girls to engage all of their senses. What do they hear? Can they identify that chatter? What do they smell? Is that flower spicily or sweetly scented? What do they see? What is that birds name? What does this edible berry or that clover blossom taste like? What might happen if they ate a berry that wasn’t edible? What does that moss feel like as they sit on it? What is the temperature of the water?
Sometimes we just sit still and listen and look. At times we talk about how nature make us feel. Other times, imaginations run wild and a small stream turns into an ocean and a rock a grand ship.
Usually once we arrive back home we do a little debrief about the things that we saw and enjoyed the most. If possible, I try to have the girls draw in their journals immediately so that what they saw and experienced is fresh in their minds. It’s been so fascinating for me to see the things that they often end up drawing. One day Aneliese sat and drew a picture of the shingles on our roof because she had just really noticed how they were laid. Another day she drew the pumpkins and pears that we had gone to get from the farm near by and had me print out her little poem about them. “Sometimes it’s more about drawing what your mind sees instead of what your eyes see.” That was the response Aneliese offered when I questioned why she was drawing a picture of she and her sisters on a lobster fishing boat after we had spent the afternoon splashing in a little stream in the woods. And so while perhaps not a scientific log, a nature journal can also be a tool for imaginative expression.
Do you do a nature journal with your child(ren)? Have you ever kept one personally? Please share any other ideas that you may have for doing a nature journal!