Spring is a great time to learn nature journaling – and by nature journaling we mean words AND drawing! Don’t get panicky about the drawing. We have a great resource to point you towards. It’s currently available to download FREE.
The book is Opening the World through Nature Journaling, by John Muir Laws, Emily Breunig, Emilie Lygren, and Celeste Lopez. The stated goal of the book is “to help adults and children discover (and rediscover!) the natural world through a combination of art, writing, and science.”
Nature journaling is a great tool for learning science (and art!) – it hones our observational skills, prompts questions about what we see, and serves as a record of what we’ve seen.
As the authors point out in the Introduction, the artwork of children ages 8 is generally symbolic. But at 8, children begin to draw what they see and this can lead to lots of learning about details they observe. The book includes practical guidance on how to manage children/students in the field, e.g. do journaling activities for short periods interspersed with other activities, such as short hikes or physical challenges (run up the hill!).
They suggest prompts for sharing observations, such as, “I notice…,” “I wonder…,” and “It reminds me of…,” to make the activity more social and to help everyone’s brains process the information more deeply.
Don’t feel you need to read the whole book to get started. Read the Introduction, check out their one page Botany refresher, and Use the Table of Contents. There’s plenty of time later on to explore their tips on how to draw shapes, etc.
There’s also a chapter on how to do Language Arts outdoors. Nature inspires so much poetry – the great outdoors seems like the most logical place to write!
Play the game Secret Plant Scavenger Hunt! Everyone takes some time to draw a specific plant (not just the species), then others have to guess which plant they drew. (Detailed instructions on p. 30.)
Another book, How to Teach Nature Journaling, by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren, targeting a more adult population, is also currently available for free download. (Free and print versions available here.) It’s also a terrific resource.
There is more to see at John Muir Laws’ website. John Laws “is a naturalist, artist, and educator who has dedicated his work to connecting people to nature through art and science.” His website contains more guidance and resources to help you get started and feed your interest going forward.
Adults, don’t be put off by the drawing! Art is a skill that, like anything, takes a little practice. In the meantime, think of it as a great tool for honing your nature observation skills.