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Introduction to Nature Journaling

Have you heard of “Nature Journaling?” I’m guessing you have, but have you actually tried it? Most of us have a vague idea of what’s involved, but when we set out to give it a shot, we’re not totally sure what to do! While there’s no right or wrong way to do it, some additional information can help you get started. So, here’s all the stuff you need to know to start nature journaling!

Table of Contents

What Is Nature Journaling?

This may shock you, but “Nature Journaling” is simply journaling (drawing and writing) about nature. It’s a time-tested practice that doesn’t require any certain level of artistic skill or scientific knowledge.

However, nature journaling does not have to be just about drawing pictures or writing down observations; it can be about discovery and connection- stepping into creation and capturing its detail with pen and paper.

Why Nature Journaling?

Nature journaling is more than just a fun activity; it offers a wealth of benefits that align perfectly with the goals of a classical education model. Here are some compelling reasons to incorporate nature journaling into your curriculum:

  1. Enhances Observation Skills: Sharpens your students’ ability to notice details, promoting careful observation and mindfulness. 
  2. Boosts Creativity: Through sketching, writing, and reflecting, students unlock their creative potential, mirroring the divine act of creation.
  3. Improves Memory and Learning: Engaging multiple senses during journaling enhances memory retention and deepens understanding, laying the foundation for lifelong learning.
  4. Reduces Stress: Nature journaling promotes mindfulness and reduces stress by immersing students in the present moment, fostering a peaceful respite from daily demands.
  5. Encourages Emotional Regulation: Writing and drawing about nature provide a constructive outlet for expressing emotions, beneficial for mental health.
  6. Promotes Curiosity and Inquiry: Foster a love for scientific inquiry as students ask questions and seek answers about the natural world.
  7. Supports Multimodal Learning: Combining visual, linguistic, and kinesthetic activities supports learning and helps integrate knowledge across different subjects.
  8. Builds Connection with Nature: Encourages appreciation and stewardship of the environment, fostering a deeper connection to God’s natural world.
  9. Fosters Personal Growth: Track thoughts, growth, and changes over time, creating a sense of achievement and reflection.
  10. Creates Community: Sharing journals and observations with peers builds a supportive community of learners.

Read more about “Why to Include Art in Education” here

Journalling Nature

Getting Students Interested in Nature Journaling

Some students will be naturally drawn toward nature journaling, but others may take some convincing. Here are some tips to spark their interest:

  1. Start with a Nature Walk: Take your students on a nature walk to observe and collect items like leaves, flowers, or rocks. Use can journal about these items during the walk or later when you’re inside. This hands-on experience can ignite curiosity and provide tangible subjects for their journals.
  2. Use Prompts and Challenges: Offer fun prompts and challenges, like “draw the tiniest detail you can find” or “write a story about a leaf’s journey.” This keeps the activity engaging and varied.
  3. Incorporate Technology: Use apps and online resources to identify plants and animals, adding an interactive element to journaling.
  4. Create a Journaling Routine: Establish a regular journaling routine, such as “Nature Journal Fridays,” to make it a consistent and anticipated part of the week.
  5. Establish a Collaborative Environment: Create opportunities for students to share their journal entries (like a bulletin board or a digital gallery), fostering a sense of community and collaboration within the classroom (but don’t force students to share).
  6. Connect with Experts: Invite a local naturalist or artist to talk about their work and inspire students with real-world applications of nature journaling.
  7. Encourage Personalization: Let students personalize their journals with covers, stickers, and different art supplies, making the journal uniquely theirs.

Overcoming Barriers to Nature Journaling

Despite the numerous benefits of nature journaling, some of your students might just not feel ready. As parents and teachers, we understand the importance of overcoming obstacles to create enriching learning experiences for our students. Here are practical strategies to tackle common barriers to nature journaling:

1. Lack of Artistic Confidence

  • Barrier: Many students may feel intimidated by their perceived lack of artistic skill, fearing that their drawings won’t measure up to their expectations.
  • Solution: Emphasize that nature journaling is about observation, not artistic perfection. Encourage students to embrace the process and celebrate the beauty of nature. You can also provide guidance and support through step-by-step tutorials and demonstrations to build confidence and skill gradually. (See resources below.)

2. Time Constraints

  • Barrier: You and your students may struggle to find dedicated time for nature journaling within the constraints of a packed curriculum.
  • Solution: Integrate nature journaling into existing lessons and activities, demonstrating its interdisciplinary nature. Consider allocating regular time slots for journaling sessions, fostering a sense of anticipation and continuity. Encourage students to view nature journaling not as an additional task, but as a fun and integral part of learning.

3. Intimidation by Complexity

  • Barrier: Students may feel overwhelmed by the perceived complexity of nature journaling, unsure where to begin or how to approach the process.
  • Solution: Break down the journaling process into manageable steps, providing support and guidance to demystify the experience:
    • Start with simple observation exercises, gradually incorporating elements of sketching, writing, and reflection.
    • Offer structured prompts and activities to inspire creativity and exploration, empowering students to embark on their journaling journey with confidence.
    • Start with a Nature Journal form with blanks to fill in.
    • Show students samples of super simple nature journal entries.

4. Fear of Failure

  • Barrier: The fear of making mistakes or producing imperfect work may deter students from fully engaging in nature journaling.
  • Solution: Cultivate a supportive classroom environment where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth and learning. Encourage a growth mindset, emphasizing the value of perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges. Model vulnerability and authenticity as an co-learner, sharing your own journaling journey (yep, share your ugly drawing flops!) and celebrating the process rather than the outcome.

5. Limited Access to Nature

  • Barrier: Students in urban or remote areas may have limited access to natural environments, hindering their ability to engage in meaningful nature journaling experiences.
  • Solution: Explore alternative nature-rich environments, such as botanical gardens, community parks, or even indoor green spaces, to provide students with opportunities for observation and exploration. Incorporate virtual field trips, nature documentaries, or online resources to supplement in-person experiences. You as the teacher can also bring nature (plants, flowers, rocks, small animals…) into the classroom.

6. Perceived Non-Essentiality

  • Barrier: Nature journaling may be perceived as non-essential or secondary to core academic subjects, leading students to prioritize other activities over journaling.
  • Solution: Highlight the benefits of nature journaling, emphasizing its role in nurturing creativity, curiosity, and emotional well-being. Showcase examples of how journaling can enhance learning across various subjects, from science and art, to language arts and personal development. Foster a culture of appreciation for the intrinsic value of nature journaling as a means of connecting with the Creator and His creation.

By addressing these barriers, we can empower students to embrace nature journaling, cultivating a learning environment where curiosity thrives, creativity flourishes, and connections with the Creator’s creation deepen with each stroke of the pencil.

Getting Started with Nature Journaling

Ready to get started? Let’s do it! Here are the key things you need to know:

Basic Supplies

  1. Paper: Any notebook will do, but one with thick, quality paper is preferable to handle drawing and writing. (Even 26lb paper is way better than 20lb.) Loose-leaf paper on a clipboard works too, especially if students are afraid to mess up their nice journals with messy sketches.
    • People enjoy organizing their nature journals in different ways:
      • Organized Chronologically: just start drawing and keep adding.
      • Organized by location: One section (or book) for home, one for the local park. one for that place you went camping
      • Organized by season/month: one section (or book) for each month- this allows you to easily compare this May to last May. Were the same things blooming? 
    • I’m a big fan of disc binding for my sketchbooks! It allows you to easily add and remove pages like a 3-ring binder, but you can still fold it over on itself like a spiral book. I own the disc binding punch, so I can create it all from home! Some common brands are Tul (Office Max), Talia, and ElevenDiscs.
  2. Writing Instruments: Simple pencils and pens are great starting tools.
  3. Optional Tools: Watercolors, markers, colored pencils, and watercolor pencils can enhance your journaling, but are not necessary to begin.

Starting the Journaling Process

  1. Pick a Location: Start in your backyard, a local park, or even a window with a view. Anywhere with natural elements will work.
  2. Choose a Focus: Begin with something simple like a single flower, leaf, or bug that catches your eye.
  3. Make Observations: Look closely at your subject. Note its size, shape, color, texture, and any other distinguishing features.
  4. Record Your Observations: Use words, sketches, and numbers to capture what you see. Consider recording details about the day, like the time, dates, and weather.

Developing Skills

  1. Practice Regularly: Set aside a regular time each week for journaling to build your skills and make it a habit.
  2. Use Prompts: Start with prompts like “describe the weather,” “draw a leaf,” or “write about the sounds you hear” to guide your observations.
  3. Learn from Others: Check out some books on drawing, join nature journaling groups, or follow online journalers to gain inspiration and tips.

Staying Motivated

  1. Set Goals: Aim to journal a certain number of times per week or to observe specific types of nature.
  2. Reflect on Progress: Regularly look back at your past entries to see how your skills and observations have evolved.
  3. Join a Community: Engage with other nature journalers for support, inspiration, and accountability. Facebook has a really nice Nature Journaling group and John Muir Laws has a section on his website where you can connect with local nature journal teachers and coaches!

How We Can Help

We have a bunch of free and paid resources that can help you lead your students in nature journaling!

  • Nature Journal Form: This is a great way to get started with structure so students aren’t as overwhelmed by the process.
  • Science Meets Art Lesson Plans: This 74-page art curriculum was designed for a six-week drawing unit integrating concepts from science. Included in the package are three lesson plans that are especially suited to nature drawing:

Embrace the Journey

By following these tips and understanding the numerous benefits, you can inspire your students to start their own nature journaling journey, enriching their education and fostering a lifelong connection with nature.

At its core, nature journaling is a heartfelt expression of reverence for the Creator’s handiwork. It’s an act of co-creation. Each stroke of the pencil, each word on the page, is a testament to our awe and wonder at the world around us. Whether it’s the delicate petals of a flower, the rustle of leaves in the wind, or the vibrant hues of a sunset, nature journaling invites us to bear witness to the majesty of creation.

And the beauty of nature journaling is that it’s accessible to all. You don’t need to be an artist or a scientist to participate—all you need is a willingness to explore. Whether you’re a seasoned educator or a curious student, nature journaling offers a pathway to deeper connection and understanding.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do it! The key is to enjoy the process, stay curious, and keep exploring the natural world around you. So, let’s embark on this journey together. Let’s pick up our pencils and notebooks, step outside into the embrace of nature, and allow its beauty to inspire us.

Happy journaling!

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