The Study of Nature, Part III: Nature Journaling

“I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see.” —Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

In part I, we talked about why encouraging a love of nature will benefit you & your child. In part II we talked about getting curious and using your senses to regain that sense of wonder. Be sure to go back and check those out if you haven’t already.

Part III will be nature journaling basics, and other helpful ways to train your attention. 

Part III – Nature Journaling. 

What is nature journaling all about? What is the big picture? Why is Nature journaling important? 

Nature journaling is a tool. Some will say it is the most important tool. It is a doorway to deep attention & observation of the natural world around us. It is a tool we can use to dive deep into our curiosity and truly appreciate the complexity and beauty of nature. 

We feel like we are naturally good observers, but learning to really see is a skill that must be learned and developed. Nature journaling is the perfect tool. You’ll be:

  • Writing.
  • Drawing pictures. 
  • Quantifying. 

This gets all the parts of your brain firing. 

Nature journaling basics:

  1. Use what you have. You don’t need to have a special notebook. Paper. Pencil. Ready, go. 
  2. Do it when you can. Kids playing happily? Pull out your journaling materials and look closer at one single flower. Or check out the grasshopper that just landed on your paper. 
  3. Let go of the idea of journaling as the creation of a pretty picture. Look at it as a tool rather than a work of art.
  4. Ask yourself questions about what you are observing. What is it’s function? Will it change? What will it become? What was it before? 
  5. Write about what you see, draw with details, and quantify when possible.

If your children see you working on your nature journal, they will be naturally curious and may ask to join in. 

Welcome this, encourage it!   Children love to do what we do.

Give them their own tools. Bring their sketch pad along with you on your next hike. Spend a few moments closely observing something together. Write down their observations if they are too young to do so for themselves.

You don’t need to be the expert. In fact it’s almost better to not immediately give the name of the plant, but rather, get to know it intimately through observation and questions so that later, when the plant is identified, you & your child will remember it forever. 

Nature Journaling for Kids

  1. Let them lead. Let them pick what they wish to study. And when. And where.
  2. Give them the tools they want to use. Don’t force them to draw when they’d rather paint! Or force them to paint when they’d rather draw.
  3. Write for them! If they are too young to write, or their hand can’t keep up with their brain, offer to write down their observations for them.
  4. Keep it stress free. I gave my daughter a beautiful leather covered watercolor journal when she started showing a strong interest in nature journaling. She was so upset at her first entry. It wasn’t perfect, and she wanted perfection in that precious journal. So, it sits on the shelf with one tear stained entry in its 200 pages. We learned! Now, she prefers to use a piece of sketch paper taped to cardboard with painters tape. When we get home, she pulls them off the cardboard, and puts them in a file folder.
  5. Enjoy! Nature journaling is such a great tool for developing minds. They are learning to focus, ask questions and make connections.

If the idea of sitting down with a blank piece of paper is overwhelming to you, thats okay! Try a guided nature study curriculum to work through with your kids! 

If you want a recommendation for the absolute best nature study resource – check out my personal favorite below (with a discount code): Exploring Nature With Children.

One more tip that really makes nature study a natural part of your week – keep your supplies in a dedicated backpack (my personal favorite is the Deuter Giga), ready to go.

Bring it camping, to the park, to soccer practice. Keep it stocked with your water colors, field guides, binoculars, hand lens, pencil sharpener, graphite pencils and paper. Bring just the essentials (paper, pencil and a surface to write on) with you on a hike!

Exploring Nature with Children by Lynn Seddon

Lynn, the creator of Raising Little Shoots Nature Study, has written an incredible year long nature study course that uses poetry, art, and nature journaling. Exploring Nature with Children such a fantastic resource, and it’s all lined out on a week-by-week basis, making it super easy and fun to use.

She also has a Guided Journal, and another nature study curriculum called Exploring Nature Around the Year which gives nature journaling prompts for each day of the year! 

All of the Raising Little Shoots materials are very reasonably priced, and Lynn has generously offered our readers a coupon for 20% off any item in her shop. Go here (affiliate link) and use the code: MOUNTAIN. This offer is good from February 19th through February 26th. Be sure to check out her great resources.

Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.

Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

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About Team Member Valerie:

Valerie is a homeschooling mama of two dirt lovin’ kids, ages 6 & 8, & an old labrador retriever mix. She loves spending time with her family outdoors & is a self-proclaimed bibliophile. Valerie and her family can be found mountain biking, canyoneering & scooping sand in Utah; skiing and building snow forts in Colorado; hiking  & hugging cactus in Arizona; and hunting for singletrack, tadpoles & breweries in Oregon.

© 2019, Tales of a Mountain Mama. All rights reserved. Republication, in part or entirety, requires a link back to this original post and permission from the author.

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