Nature Journal - Ideas and Comments

Posted > Schooling > Science > Nature Studies

Nancy in FL
Apr 27 2005, 05:21 PM
I have been planning on starting this for some time. I bought our supplies yesterday for each of us to begin our own nature journal.

I read about this in "Educating the Whole Hearted Child" by Clay and Sally Clarkson and "A Charlotte Mason Companion - Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning" by Karen Andreola.

The children and I love nature and science so I thought this would be a fun way to learn more.

Here are some of the benefits of nature journals in homeschooling:

  • Earth Science - plants, insects, birds, animals, trees & shrubs, weather, observing, identifying, measuring, comparing, listing
  • Social Studies - local history, mapmaking, nature communities
  • Physical Education - walking, exploring, hiking, outdoor activity
  • Math - measurements, charts, graphs, mapmaking, computation
  • Art - hand-eye skills, observational drawing vs imaginative drawing, art expression, mapmaking, learning to compose
  • Language Arts - WRITTEN: poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction ORAL: description, problem solving, communication LISTENING: oral learning, group sharing
  • Creation Science/Bible - Learning about God through his creation, appreciating His creation by getting in touch with it

Another good book to pick up on learning how to begin one is "Keeping a Nature Journal" by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles Roth. *This is not a Christian based book and does have a lot of "new age" and "earth worship" philosophy and evolution in it. But as far as teaching the how and why, it's great. There are sample pages included. I picked mine up used on ebay for about $7.

They advise that you keep one every year and then keep them as heirlooms to pull out and look through each year. They say once you start it becomes a life long habit.

I can see how it would develop many skills we'd like our kids to have. I will also be doing one. I think it will be fun!

Do any of you keep nature journals?

Apr 27 2005, 05:36 PM
We did. I used ours to acquaint the kids with the natural goings on, the weather, birds, trees, plants, and stars, (bugs too). It seems to help to develop the basic science type skills of observation, analytical thinking and basic scientific skepticism. Research skills are helped as well when they look things up in books.

M. Diana Cerepaka
Apr 27 2005, 06:19 PM
Using nature journals here seems to have improved our observation skills.

Apr 27 2005, 06:24 PM
We have kept a nature journal for three years now. We use an 11x14" sketch book. Each time we go out on a nature walk the three of us share a two page spread. We draw what we see, write what we hear, then go home and get more info about those things. We look up the scientific names of plants and animals, find out what type of clouds were in the sky, annotate the temperature and wind speed, etc. We press leaves and wildflowers and include those in
our journal, and also pictures if we happen to have a camera with us. For stargazing I paste some black cardboard into the book, and then the kids use sparkly pens to draw in the constellations or northern lights or the moon phases or whatever. It's a lot of fun to do this with the kids. At least, it is for me!

We have Keeping a Nature Journal, too. I agree with Nancy - it is top notch as to the "how and why". Our pages have definitely improved since I read that book!

Nancy in FL
Apr 27 2005, 06:27 PM
I hope that each of my kids do get very involved in theirs. They draw all the time...every single day of their lives they are drawing something. And because of my son's natural curiosity about science, my two girls have picked it up too. They love observing nature and drawing what they see.

The only problem I see is getting my son to "write" in his. He is very scientific and logical. He will probably be good at logging the data that he sees but I don't see him writing poetry or anything. I may just be happy with that. I think it will get easier and more comfortable for them (and me) as we go.....hopefully.

Apr 28 2005, 07:19 AM
I love ours, we used a sketchbook and on their second, my daughter is using watercolor pencils for the birds and plants see sees. My son sketches in charcoal pencils. They label their drawings, take measurements, parts of the plants, latin names, origin and write a poem or descriptive note about what they see. Trees we have two willows about 3yrs since we planted and they draw stages of their tree with measurements and they each have a photo
with their tree at each season to compare each change of the tree and themselves. My daughters favorite place to draw.

Weather, moon phases, constellations, bugs, sun shadow effects, sunsets. Pressed flowers and leaves. This has been a great part of our learning.

Apr 28 2005, 07:51 AM
Good morning ladies,

I am just reading Karen Andreola's A Pocketful of Pinecones. It is based on a nature study.

Every time I read it, it seems to bring calm and peace to my moment. The chapters are short, easy and fun to read, so you can take it with you to the kids events and steal in a chapter or 2.

Because of this book, I will be starting nature journals with my kids.
God Bless,

Nancy in FL
Apr 28 2005, 11:17 AM
I have been thinking about buying this book. [Karen Andreola's A Pocketful of Pinecones]

Nancy in FL
Apr 28 2005, 11:20 AM
We began our nature journals last night. We all chose a verse, quote or poetry for our front page and then drew nature pictures around it. Mine says "The natural world is the expression of God's personality in a form that is within reach of all of us to comprehend in some measure " which is a quote by Mr Downton, a friend of Charlotte Mason.

I can't wait to get out in the field and use it! Maybe next week.

When I bought the journals I also bought special drawing pencils. I got the 2b, 4b and 6b type. They are way too soft and smear easily. I think I'll go with regular pencils or try the ones with harder lead.

Apr 28 2005, 12:39 PM
This reminds me of when we first started using a nature journal. My son had been in public school (k-2)
and it was our first year homeschooling. We walked out into the woods and he didn't know
quite what to write. I asked him -- what do you see? He didn't know. I asked him -- what is
this tree (we were standing in front of a pine tree which was probably the only tree he could
identify at the time.) He wrote in his journal..

"I saw a pin tree"

It was a start.

Apr 28 2005, 05:01 PM
Well, all this talk about nature journaling got me in the mood to go outside. My dad came over for lunch, and I talked him into going for a drive with the kids and me around Ft. Richardson - I'm so glad we did! Here is what we saw:

10 soldiers standing around a broken humvee
4 bald eagles
4 trains
3 semi-frozen lakes
2 geese
2 F-16's
1 porcupine
1 firetruck

And we heard ducks but we couldn't see them. The kids are drawing in the journal right now and having a great time. The geese and the porcupine really held still and let us watch them for a long time - the porcupine was neat, because he started to get irritated with the car engine and rattled his quills at us before he waddled away. The geese were swimming in a big puddle since the lake was still pretty frozen - the female had a collar on, and the male
stood over her and guarded her, keeping us at bay. It was neat.

Apr 29 2005, 10:33 AM
Alright you guys. I've got to add one more thing to my list for the fall! Thanks a lot!

No, just kidding. This stuff sounds Great!! Not only the obvious educational benefits, but also the family quality time! Even though we get much of that at home, there is something to be said for being amongst God's creation and being there together.

I like Melanie's idea of having one sketchbook for the family. Each one can have a contribution. They can also see how different perspectives work together. We will have to try this!

Apr 29 2005, 02:36 PM
We have been keeping nature journals as well. The kids all love them!

The oldest now though, he observes, draws, and sometimes writes what he sees. But he sure spends a lot of time observing, and thinking about what he is observing. He sees things the rest of us miss at times.

One thing that has helped with the journaling is the Missouri Frontiers. We are an official group, but don't send in the info collected for awards, but instead use it as learning experiences. The book is wonderful, and is free for all Missouri residents. They have a copy of it online if anyone wants to print it off. It just won't have a snappy cover! (Unless you
make one, that is ) Just go to Missouri Department of Conservation Frontiers

May 3 2005, 09:24 PM
I checked out the Charlotte Mason Companion book and am having a hard time getting into it. I came back to this thread for some wisdom, as I love the idea of a nature journal. We love nature and have so enjoyed taking
time to smell the flowers (or weeds) when we hike, but we don't make it a daily part of life. I love the idea of watching things grow and change and seeing that process unfold. Like the butterflies... that has been almost a
spiritual experience for me... seeing a miracle unfold right before my eyes... it happens every day but I never took time to observe it.

May 3 2005, 09:33 PM
Florida Junior Birder Program
I found this link that might be a help too... I'm not sure where I got the link...probably here.. but it looks good all the same. It's making me wonder what Virginia offers in the way of nature programs.

Nancy in FL
May 4 2005, 10:23 AM
Barbra-Sue, when I first bought that book it took me a bit to get into it as well. I have to admit that I am not reading this one cover-to-cover. I am picking the chapters that are interesting and reading those first.

We now have a few field guides: Insects & Arachnids, Pond, River & Lake Life, Shells and Florida Wildlife to help us get started. That will help when we are drawing our nature object we will be able to label them correctly.

I hope to be able to take the kids to St. Augustine in a few days to officially begin our

May 4 2005, 10:41 AM
I need new field guides... all of my guides were specific to Alaska.

I also like your idea of a kick off field trip to begin the process. We are so blessed in our new home to have a creek right out back. My kids catch fish and salamanders. They are trying to catch a crayfish, but he has been able to allude them so far.

I'm glad to know that it's not just me concerning that book. I like some of the ideas, but my own natural tendencies just don't fit.

May 4 2005, 10:59 AM
I think that we are going to start out with observing what we see on our walks to the library. And I also printed a copy of the Weather at Our House from Donna's site and use that. Then we are going to move on from there. I just want to see how it goes. But, this is a great suggestion for us as all my children love the outdoors. It is going to be interesting to see how this turns out.

May 5 2005, 01:51 PM
My son (7) is keeping a nature journal. He's taking digital pictures of nature and uploading them to kidpix and putting down his observations. He's going to make his journal pages a year in review slide show

May 5 2005, 03:06 PM
So, is there any rhyme or reason to it all? Or do you just record what you've found each time you go on a nature walk?

May 5 2005, 03:14 PM
Well I am just playing with this idea now... but for me, the idea is to take time and really see nature. You also build observation skills, research skills, artistic skills and a sensitivity to the world right outside our doors. I'm sure there is more benefit... but I am looking forward to just sitting and enjoying nature... we live a hurry up and go lifestyle. We choose our neighborhood based on the beautiful, natural location and easy access to the trails and parks. I rarely take time to enjoy it. Our kids will live in an even crazier world than we do (if our generation is any sign of what's ahead) and I think it's even more important that they build an appreciation for the incredible planet God gave us.

Nancy in FL
May 6 2005, 12:07 PM
It really helps to pick up the book I mentioned at the beginning of the thread. It shows actual pages of nature journals. There are many ways you can do one. It depends on your preference and what you and your kids will enjoy.

May 6 2005, 12:15 PM
It can be whatever you want! We draw/write about whatever catches our fancy on a given day. My son tends to focus on the "ewwww" factor, my daughter tends to focus on flowers, and I seem to really like birds and
mushrooms. The other stuff gets in there, but you can definitely see your specific interests emerging over a period of time. The book Nancy mentions can help you get started, and then you can just tweak it however
you wish.

Oct 10 2005, 03:49 PM
And Donna has some beautiful printouts for journals too at her website.

Oct 10 2005, 04:23 PM
Last week when we went nature journaling I took time to draw each vein in a leaf. Trying hard to be accurate. We also have geese arriving and we drew a few of the had a collar on so we wrote down the number....we'll see how often we see him.

Oct 10 2005, 08:24 PM
We have not done well with nature journals. I think I will get each of us one of those art books at Michael's. The kids have a hard time keeping up with the papers in a three ring binder.

Anyhoo, I think all of my kids are old enough now that I can sit them down in a forest and have them observe. I am looking forward to giving this a try, one more time.

We have a lovely nature park here in town, that I would like to go to again. I think we will
start there.

Oct 10 2005, 09:26 PM
We have only used our nature journal twice since we moved here - once to draw an egret and once to draw a toad. I've got to get it together.

Oct 10 2005, 10:42 PM
We use art books too. My "tip" is to only draw on one side of the matter how tempting it is to do otherwise. We also color our pages with colored pencils (although regular pencils will do the same) and the color is transferring from page to page all over the drawings.

My requirement so far is that they must draw three things... it's working well. They also must write something.... what they think, what they drew, what they heard... I don't care... something. I take great care in modeling my pages the way I hope they will someday.... My oldest does the best.... I need to help my youngest write.

We're going to Mount Vernon to nature journal tomorrow. Can't wait!

Nancy in FL
Oct 14 2005, 12:03 PM
The kids are finishing up their pages from Tuesday while visiting the At Augustine Lighthouse, the historic district and the beach. They are enjoying their journals a lot. They even ask if they can work in them.

I do have them work on one side only. They use colored pencils when they want to add color. It seems to be working pretty well for all of us. I haven't done one page on mine yet.

Oct 24 2005, 05:59 PM
Today our co-op took a field trip to the National Zoo. My neighbor and I took our kids together and actually ended up spending the day with just our two families. I took our nature journals and we couldn't keep up with the group..... we were taking time to draw and really see the animals.... they were doing some papers...a treasure hunt of sorts, my kids also played animal Bingo....however I found it to be one of my most favorite trips to the zoo. We were really seeing animals in a new way.

My kids still don't love nature journaling like I do.... but I required they draw so many animals.... When we went into a building I would tell them they needed to find 2 things to draw..... I still hope by modeling what I want, they will do better and better. Now my neighbor and I had the BEST time. We were amazed at all the things we were noticing by taking time to draw. Of course we shared our excitement with our kids.

Did you know cheetahs have stripes on their tails and it's a way to tell them apart.... Orang utan is two words. Elephants have long bushy tails (at the end)... Emus legs are extremely hard to draw! lets see what else...... I know I learned more than that.... I drew on about 4 pages..... some pictures big, some small.

I also drew a few plants I found interesting in the zoo.

I also want to draw the panda tonight. My son needed to sharpen his pencil while we were at the panda enclosure and by the time I got him settled the panda had moved and I never got to draw him. My daughter took a nice picture so I am going to draw him from that.

Tonight I want to color my drawings.... We didn't spend time coloring.... just artwork is getting better and better! I am very pleased!

Oct 25 2005, 07:43 AM
Wow, that sounds like so much fun! I don't live too far from the National Zoo and have actually been thinking about going but wasn't sure how I would handle it with 5 kids alone. I think though that you just gave me the incentive to go though. My kids keep a nature journal but complain of looking for things to draw and write about. They do however just LOVE drawing animals and going to the zoo would be a great way for them to get "into" their work. Ya know, I live even closer to the Baltimore Zoo and they just reopened it in the spring with some new animals I think... maybe I could go there instead and sleep over night and the next day go to the aquarium and do a whole new "aquatic journal". Thanks for the ideas! And have fun coloring, that's always the best part.

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