7 Days of Nature Journaling
What is nature journaling?
According to Project Learning Tree, nature journaling “unlocks creativity; hones observation skills; provides a window into the past; and is the data collection backbone of the scientific process.” It reinforces important skills like: observation, empathy, reading, writing, and drawing. It can help cultivate a greater sense of place and local connection to nature as you delve deeper in your explorations. Many famous scientists and writers have been known to keep a nature journal. Maybe you will recognize some of these names: Charles Darwin, John Muir, Rachel Carson, Beatrix Potter, Henry Thoreau
What to do
- Your entries can be written as full paragraphs or stories. You could also make charts for recording observations, draw pictures, write poems, count the things you see, the sounds you hear.
- You can work alone or with your family. You can share your entries in a blog or keep them private.
- You can use the prompts provided below or you can come up with your own.
- It can help to start with these three thoughts: I notice…, I wonder…, It reminds me of…
- Remember to follow Cleveland Metroparks rules when you are exploring with your journals:
Day 1: HABITAT
- Stay on the trail.
- Keep your pet on a leash.
- Don’t remove anything from the park. If you want to record a plant or animal, draw it, take a picture, or make a crayon rubbing.
- Carry out what you carried in and put your trash in the proper bin.
Day 2: SEASONS
- Consider your home space. What about it makes you happy? What comforts you? How does it meet your basic needs? What meets your higher needs? Have you noticed new things about your home in the past weeks?
- Find a quiet place outside and consider the home of a plant or animal you see. How does the plant or animal act in its home? What is it doing to make its home safe and comfortable? What does this home provide? How is this the same or different from your own home?
- Do you have a place outdoors that feels like home? How often do you visit? What does it provide? What do you provide it?
- Look at your home on a map or take a walk/drive around your neighborhood. Do you have a green space near your home? How long does it take you to get there? Do you have to drive or can you walk? What does this mean for you? Do you think this is the same for everyone in your region, in your country, in the world? How would your home feel different if you had more outdoor space? How would it feel different if you had less?
DAY 3: WINDOWS
- How does each season make you feel? Do you have a favorite season?
- What season would you use to describe your life right now? Try to connect your thoughts to seasonal imagery like flowers, wind, snow, or colorful leaves.
- Find a quiet place outside and observe the transition into spring. What tells you that it is spring? What clues do you hear, see, or smell? Revisit the same place again next week. Do you notice the same things? What is new?
- Think of or find an animal that lives near you. Research its behavior or appearance during each season. How is this the same or how is it different from your behavior? Can you draw any lessons from this animal to apply to your own life?
- Sit by a window in your home. What do you see or hear? Are these sights and sounds more natural or manmade? Count how many animals and how many people you see. Which is more frequent?
- Draw your window and what you see outside: morning, afternoon, night.
- How does your mood change when the window is open, when it is closed? How does the window open your view or limit your view of the world outside?
- Think of an animal you’ve seen peeking inside your house. Write a story about what that animal sees and thinks when it looks through your window.
- Find a quiet place outdoors and take a picture with your phone. What does the picture on the screen show you about where you are? What doesn’t it show? Do you think a phone screen expands or limits our experience of nature? Can it do both?
- When you look at the picture later, how will you describe it? How will it make you feel? Do you want to share the picture and those feelings or keep them private? Why did you take a picture here, of that spot, or at that angle? What does this say about you?
DAY 4: TIME
DAY 5: PERSPECTIVE
- Find a quiet place outdoors and describe what you see. How do you think this place would look different 100 years ago? 500 years ago? 1,000 years ago? 10,000 years ago? Millions of years ago?
- When you are home, do some research to see if you were correct. If you could travel back in time, how would it feel to visit this place back then? What would you want to experience?
- How has your experience of time changed over the past few weeks? Do you think every organism experiences time in the same way? Think of a tree or a mouse or a turtle. Do you think time moves more slowly or quickly for them?
- Wake up early and visit a place around sunrise. Record what you see or hear, how you feel. Visit that same place in the afternoon and the evening. Compare your observations.
- Take a long hike or sit in the woods for at least 30 minutes. Be mindful of how you feel. At what points do you feel distracted? At what points do you feel peaceful? How often do you look at your phone? Did time seem to move more quickly or more slowly?
DAY 6: PLAY
- Think of a big plant or animal you see/hear, and think of a small plant or animal you see/hear. How would they experience things differently? What experiences do they share? Write a story from one or both perspectives.
- Spend a day exploring prepositions. Visit an overlook above a river. Walk along the Lake Erie shoreline. Look under a log. Peek inside a flower. Splash through a puddle. Stand next to a waterfall. Walk around the trunk of a big tree. Each can provide a different perspective, close up, far away, up high, down low. What do you observe or feel?
- What do we learn from looking at nature up close? What do we learn when we look at nature from further away?
- How would you define nature? Is it a healthy forest? A backyard garden? Anyplace with mosquitoes? Is it a comfortable place or a scary place?
- Do you think everyone has the same definition? What factors could change the way we see and think about nature?
DAY 7: GIFTS
- Write about your favorite things to do outside. Are they more active or passive? Are you alone or with friends? Do you bring your pet?
- How do you think your pet feels about going outside? What is their favorite thing to do?
- Imagine you could talk to animals. What do you think they’d say to you? What would you say to them?
- Draw a bingo board of things you might see on a hike in the woods, then take a hike and see if you can win.
- What things can you find outside that you associate with happiness, joy, hope, and energy?
Preschool Nature Journaling
Help your child write their own Spring story by starting with a simple prompt, such as “Once, on the first day of Spring, a…..” Ask your child to finish the story, giving them gentle guidance as it continues. Write their words down and read it together when you are done. Extend the activity by creating illustrations.
- Write about a time that nature helped you through something difficult.
- Look up the definition of symbiosis and find an example of a symbiotic relationship outside. How are these organisms connected? What can this teach us?
- Do you feel connected or disconnected from nature? What steps can you take to restore that connection?
- Take a hike and find an organism you don’t know much about. Take or draw a picture, write down your observations. When you get home: learn the organism’s name; research how it benefits its ecosystem, services it provides; what other organisms it relies on and what relies on it; consider how you can benefit your ecosystem, too.
- Make a list of ways you can help protect your local environment and commit to trying at least one tomorrow.