Reasons to Keep a Nature Journal
There are so many wonderful reasons to keep a nature journal!! I will discuss a few of them here with you, and I hope you’ll share some of your favorite reasons with us in the comments too! You may not consider yourself or your children particularly artistic. Or you may not be willing to trudge through unfamiliar woods. But you don’t have to be especially artistic, adventurous, or “outdoorsy” to nature journal! (Though if you are, that’s great!) Nature journaling can be as simple as making observations on a visit to the neighborhood park or in your own back yard. Nature is all around us, so you can get involved to whatever degree fits your family and your homeschool. One thing you can be assured of, though, is that you will always learn something if you keep a nature journal!
1. When you begin a Nature Notebook, the sky is the limit.
You can make your notebook as simple or as involved as you like. The main objective is to document what you see and what you experience. It’s your nature notebook, so it’s up to you if you’d rather keep it super simple or if you want to go “all out.” This is a chance for you and your children to show off your creativity or to document what you see and learn in a less fancy but just as pleasing way.
2. Your children can help decide on the subject matter based on what they observe and what they’re interested in.
Have your children draw quick sketches of the insects and animals they observe. Or you can even take pictures (on your phone or with a camera) to use to draw, color, or paint in more detail later. Just be sure to make time to do your artwork as soon as you get back home (or at least later that day or the next day) so you don’t end up forgetting or running out of time!
You’ll also want to be sure your children label their drawings and include important information such as:
- the date
- the area where you found the plant or animal (which park, zoo, yard, etc.)
- the location of the plant or animal (in a hole, in a pond, in a tree, on a particular plant, etc.)
- behavior of the animal
- sounds/calls the animal makes
- information about the environment
- information about the weather
Over time, you’ll want to be sure they notice and record how the world evolves around them. Go back and look at your drawings and observations from earlier that year or even earlier that season. It’s especially fun to look back to previous years to see how the world has changed. After some time, you may begin to notice how your state, city, neighborhood, yard, or “one small square” can change each season. By frequenting the same places, you will become aware of the changes the natural world also experiences.
3. Your Nature Notebooks gets better with age.
Over time, your notebook becomes a familiar friend and a project to be proud of. You will begin to develop your own style. You may only have a chance to do nature study once a week. But over a year or two you will have accumulated a wonderful collection of entries. Here is a page from my daughter’s notebook from many years ago. She was 13 at the time.
4. You will learn about the wildlife in your location.
As a military family, we moved almost yearly. It has been our great pleasure and privilege to get to know each new location by studying the natural world around us. It gave us a sense of our place on planet earth by understanding the natural world we are a part of. Here is an entry from my son’s notebook when we lived in Germany.
Even if you don’t move often, you can visit different areas in your community. Or you might choose to do some nature notebooking as you travel for vacations, family gatherings, holidays, and so on.
5. You get to choose and use a variety of materials. Be creative!
The medium you use is your choice. Watercolor, pencil, colored pencils, charcoal, pen, and the list goes on. There is no right or wrong; it is your choice what you want your notebook to be like. There are numerous inexpensive options out there. The most basic and inexpensive way to start is with paper and a pencil.
Here is a sample from one of my pencil entries:
Here is another example from my son’s notebook. He used both pencil and colored pencils for this entry:
6. You get to see things as they are up close.
Close observation is one of the best reasons to nature notebook. Because we can get close to the animals or plants themselves, we can see details that we would not otherwise get to see. No picture can really give us that hands-on experience.
7. It’s a great way to develop skills both in observation and documentation.
While we all can’t be natural-born artists, we can develop skills. Any artist must develop skill. And that takes practice. Nature Notebooking gives us the chance to record what we see with some level of skill and helps us along the road to improvement. It provides an outlet for practice in a fun and likable way and with meaning.
8. It is a way to make your voice heard.
Just look at the entry below from my son’s middle school journal. Just the kind of expression we want our kids to find.