A Brief Illustrated Guide to Nature Journaling
What is a nature journal?
A nature journal is a space where students can record their observations, their thoughts, and their feelings about what they see in nature. It's a space for students to learn and grow. By practicing journaling, your students nurture their creativity and build their critical thinking and scientific skills.
This activity isn't exclusive to the outdoors! Wonder and awe are all around us. It is your house plant, urban park, backyard, and school playground. Parents and both nonformal and formal educators can engage students in all settings.
And your students can begin at any age! Though younger children may not yet be capable of journaling, they can observe and note their surroundings.
Materials you'll need:
- Journal or notebook
- Optional: colored pencils, small watercolor palette
"If the point were making big discoveries or pretty pictures every time, I'd have quit long ago. The point is waking up, paying attention, noticing and exploring. The point is remembering, again and again, that the world we inhabit is infinitely rich, complex, fascinating, and beautiful. The point is learning from the world and renewing a sense of belonging within it."
—Sarah Rabkin, How to Teach Nature Journaling
Use these guiding prompts developed by the BEETLES Project at the Lawrence Hall of Science:
- OBSERVE: "I notice..."
- ASK QUESTIONS: "I wonder..."
- MAKE CONNECTIONS: "This reminds me of..."
Through the practice of nature journaling, my fear of making mistakes is gone. I have abandoned my lifelong need for perfection. I am freed from the rusty rules based on can't and don't and won't. My brain is more flexible."
—Amy Tan, Foreword to How to Teach Nature Journaling
For further reading, journal prompts, or ideas, check out:
- How to Teach Nature Journaling
- Written by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren, the book is a comprehensive tool for teaching students how to nature journal, plus it's free to download.
- "Keeping a Nature Journal"
- This article by the Sierra Club explores what is nature journaling, why it's important, and how to get started.
- Nature Journaling and Field Sketching
- This self-paced course from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a fun and interactive way to develop your own observation and journaling skills.
- "Nature Journaling"
- Oregon State University advises how to begin a nature journal and lists links to activities and journal prompts, organized by topic.
- The Nature Journal Club
- Join this Facebook Group to share your work, foster community, and get inspired.