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10 Reasons to Keep a Nature Journal

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.

How to Nature Journal

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.

 

9. However you decide to nature notebook, there is no right or wrong.

Learning to do a nature notebook or nature journal is a process. You discover the best way to have a nature notebook by just getting out in nature, observing it, and then recording what you see.  But you can also select an animal, do research, and then see if you can find it. If you know the wildlife in your area and the conditions in which they live, you might be surprised how common particular animals really are to find. So you decide how you go about the process and do what works for you.

10. It brings us closer to the Creator.

Nature reminds us who we are. This, I think, is the most important reason to keep a nature notebook. It puts us back into our rightful place in life. It teaches us about our limitations, our needs, and all the fundamental realities of life which we sometimes tend to forget in our busy and technology-driven lives. It reminds us of our Creator and our relationship with Him. And it reminds us of how He has blessed us with the plants and animals we need to survive as well as those to enjoy.
I hope that your nature notebook will bring you as much joy as mine has brought to me.

About the author

Stephanie Harrington

Stephanie was a military spouse for 20 years and has homeschooled for more than 17 years. She and her husband of 25 years retired from the military and settled in their native state of Iowa where they continue to homeschool their youngest child. Her homeschool style is eclectic with Charlotte Mason and classical influences. She continues to encourage and support homeschoolers through her writings and curriculum development.
When she isn't teaching or writing she enjoys sightseeing, gardening, and cooking.

6 Comments

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  • Two of my girls started mature journals just last week, so this post is perfect timing! I want to start one with them, you have inspired me.
    Shared on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

  • I’ve been meaning to start nature journals with my daughter, but I’m probably making it more complicated in my head than I should. My oldest is 5 and I think she’d really enjoy this, but my other two are 2 and 5 months, so everything extra feels like a big deal.

  • I absolutely love this idea! We love being out in nature, hiking, biking, taking pictures and adding a Nature Journal would be a lovely way to study our surroundings in more detail! Also, my daughter loves to draw and sketch so this should help her be more interested in biology lessons!

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