Nature Watching and Journals
What is Nature Watching and Journals:
The best way to
learn science is to observe God's creations. Nature watching involves walks in
the park, hikes in the country, silently observing in the back yard, or even
staring out the window. It is the process of really observing the details of
God's handiwork. It is noticing the textures, the shape, the design, and the
manner of a specimen. It is science at its best, in the lab or real life.
are diaries or notebooks recording your findings. It can be as detailed,
colorful, and poetic as you desire. Our journals are a speckling of pictures,
notes, and poems we find that fit the season. It becomes a record of our discoveries,
memories, and an extension of ourselves. I have found that I love doing my own
Nature Journal as much as the girls do (maybe even more). One of the neatest
things is to go back to a previous season and by just looking at your drawings
and notes, you are transported back to that time. With careful questions to
your students, they can start thinking and recording like a scientist. You can
even make these theme related - birds in spring, leaves in fall, etc. What a
glorious way to record science!
Tools for Nature Watching:
- Magnifier of 5X or 8X
- Field Bags
- Field Guides
- Trail Guides and Maps
- Good Hiking Shoes
- Water to Drink
- Neutral colored, cotton clothing
- Insect Repellent
- Snack of Trail Mix
- Plastic Freezer Bags (For collecting treasures)
Nature Journal Supplies:
- A good sketch pad, journal, or notebook
- Mechanical pencils (They keep a sharp point)
- Soft, cushy finger grips for pencils
- Black ink pen - ball point or felt tip
- Prismacolor Pencils if you wish to color your
Things to Include in Journal
- Time (Be specific)
- Weather (You can include temperature, wind,
humidity, and sky conditions)
- Habitat or Location
- Draw and label details of your specimen
- Compare sizes (Size of thumbnail, thumb,
finger, palm, etc.)
- List Textures or patterns (fuzzy, thorns,
freckles, spots, smooth, etc)
- How are the leaves and veins on the leaves
- A simple sketch will do. You may wish to try
and trace items like leaves.
- Might wish to press leaves and flowers and
tape into journal and cover with clear contact paper.
- Make note on what's going on: What is the
animal doing or what period of growth is the plant.
- Make note of landmarks of your adventures.
Wild animals make note of landmarks and often keep coming back to their
same spots. If you mention that it is on the blackberry trail near the old
fallen Oak, you can later retrace your steps.
- Make note of items like owl pellets, ants,
dropped feathers, cocoons, or insect wings on your nature adventure. All
of them have a story to tell.
to Look For:
- Stripes, spots, or streaks
- Bands or rings around the tail
- Mask or dark band across the face or
around the eyes
- Bars or bands across the tail
- Narrow bar of white across the wing
- Eye-ring or ring around the eye
- Eyebrow or streak of contrasting color
above the eye
- Bib or dark area under the throat
- White throat
- Neck bands, rings, or a broken band
- Spots, either large or freckles
- Crest or long head feathers
- Make note of the sound the bird makes.
Butterflies, Moths, Beetles, and Other Insects:
- Shape or length of antennae
- Wing patterns of either borders, bands, or
- Camouflage patterns or colors
- Eye spots or false eyes - large round spots
that may serve to frighten away enemies.
- The height of the plant - ground or
- Number of petals of a flower
- Shape of flower - trumpet or separate
- Colors and patterns - stripes, spots,
- Center of flowers - different colors
- Sepals (green petals) - shorter or
longer than the petals?
- Leaves of flowers - rosette design at
base of stem or along the stem in arrangements of either opposite or
- What is the size of the leaf - thumb
- Edges of leaves - smooth, wavy, or
- What is the leaf texture - waxy,
leathery, thick, fuzzy, smooth, or rough?
- On trees, notice the same leaf
- Shape, size, and texture of tree.
- Notice the fruits and nuts of trees.
- Bark of trees - smooth, flaky,
stringy, rough, etc.
- Now is the time to go and enjoy bird
watching. The males have on their colorful coats and are singing to
attract the females. Nests are also being built.
- Frogs are beginning the choruses. Find
a pond and watch the frog cycle in process.
- Plant some seeds. Draw what the
different plant seeds look like.
- Investigate some spring flowers. How
soon did the first flower pop its head out of the snow and what was it?
- Go on a hike and enjoy the first
bursts of life coming out everywhere.
- Insects are starting to get noisy. Listen!
What insects are you hearing? Make some notes of what they sound like and
study how they make their noises.
- Explore some wetlands. Dragonflies, turtles,
and wetland wildflowers are sure to be admired.
- Those beach trips offer investigations into
shells and sea birds.
- Grow a garden and note the changes you find
there from week to week.
- Plant a butterfly garden and enjoy watching
and drawing all the different types and their behavior.
- What an excellent time to do leaf studies of
trees. Enjoy their color, their fragrance, and all the different types.
- Harvest time provides a look into different
fruits and vegetables.
- Note the flowers that bloom only during this
time of the year.
- Certain farms open up for tours during this
season. Take advantage of them if you don't live on a farm and draw the
different farm animals you find. Ask some questions and make note of what
the animals were doing.
- Pumpkins are always fun to measure, check if
they float, cut apart, estimate seeds, and then count them.
- How many different types of apples can you
- Learn some about animal tracks and go
tracking. The snow makes an excellent blanket for tracks to show up
- Keep your bird feeder filled and watch
which birds come visiting each day.
- Mark small holes in the snow. A
burrowing animal lives there. Check the site out come spring.
- Search out some snowfleas. These are
not actually fleas, but they are very tiny insects that can be found
abundantly on the surface of the snow around trees.
- Note the shape and size of snowflakes
on your mittens. Draw a few and dry to make copies of them as an art
- This is a great time to really make
some detailed notes of different tree barks.
- Evergreens can provide some
interesting plant studies.
***Forms to use for Nature Journals
on Nature Study or Nature Journals:
- Russon, Monica, A Beginner's Field Guide
Watching Nature, ISBN 0-8069-9515-7
(Summary: Describes how to make close-up observations of nature and how to
record what you see, including recognizing field marks, identifying
plants, noting characteristic sounds, and watching specific animal activities.)
- Holden, Edith, The Country Diary of
An Edwardian Lady, ISBN 0-03-021026-7
(Summary: A facsimile reproduction of a naturalist's diary of 1906)
- Criswell, Susie Gwen, Nature
Through Science and Art, ISBN 0-8306-4575-6
(Summary: Nature has been described as the ideal laboratory for scientific
exploration and the ideal easel for artistic endeavors. This book builds
upon this idea for 50 outdoor and indoor activities. Each includes
step-by-step instructions, materials list, and time required.)
- Andreola, Karen, A Charlotte Mason
Companion, ISBN 1-889209-02-3
(Summary: In this book, beginning with chapter 33 and continuing through
chapter 35, Ms. Andreola discusses how to do a nature study in the
Charlotte Mason style and gives some pictures of her family's drawings
from their journals.)
- Comstock, Anna Botsford, Handbook
of Nature Study, 1911, Cornell University Press
- Milord, Susan, The Kids' Nature
Book, 1989, Williamson Publishing, ISBN 0-913589-42-X (Has an activity
a day for a year in nature. Some of the ideas would be good to implement
into your nature journal.)
- Bell, Richard, Wild West Yorkshire Nature Diary, http://www.wildyorkshire.co.uk/naturediary/docs/diary.html (Nature Diary on-line)
- Sanford, Create Art: A Nature
Notebook, http://www.sanford-artedventures.com/create/try_this_naturenotes.html (Provides simple instructions on how
to do a nature journal entry.)
- Scoti, Nature Corner, http://www.scoti.org.uk/science_diary.htm (Students in a Science Club in Scotland share tips for
writing a nature journal and provide samples from their own.)
- Underground Network, Keeping a
Journal, http://www.fmnh.org/ua/netjou.htm (Provides ideas and thoughts for
keeping a nature journal)
- Canterbury Environmental Education
Centre, Nature Diary, http://www.naturegrid.org.uk/diary/diary.html (Nature Diary on-line)
- Andreola, Karen, Start a Nature
Notebook, http://www.home-school.com/Articles/NatureNotebook.html (Discusses using the
Charlotte Mason approach to nature notebooks in your homeschool)
Background from Graphic Garden