Why Nature Journal?

KNC Nature Journaling-Nolan Canter-1171x593

Nature journaling is a way to creatively connect and build deep lasting relationship with the natural world.

Nolan Canter

Nature journaling is a way to creatively connect and build a deep, lasting relationship with the natural world.

Find our complete Nature Journal series here.

“Experience without words is just experience. Words without experience are just words” —Thomas E. Smith, author and founder of the Raccoon Institute

Adding drawing and art into those experiences is the essence of why experts encourage nature journaling for all humans as a way to creatively connect and build a deep lasting relationship with the natural world.

Kelly Johnson, author and nature journalist explains, “Nature journaling opens us up to creative flow. It makes us slow down and become quiet observers. It gives us a place to assimilate our experiences and to ask questions for later answers. It allows us to embrace our genetic heritage as a species evolved from, and continually supported by the Earth’s beauty and bounty. And it clears a way for our senses to wonder and bloom.”

According to market research conducted by Childwise, kids aged five to sixteen average 6.5 hours of screen time a day, with teenage boys spending the most time on screen—an average of eight hours a day. Thus, a typical teen can expect to spend upwards of 90 days, or three months, a year staring at a screen. That is a 116 percent increase in screen time consumption since 1995.

Additional research shows:

  • 3-in-4 kids spend less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.
  • 1-in-5 kids don’t play outside at all on a typical day.
  • 3-in-4 parents said their kids often refuse to play games without some form of technology.
  • 2-in-3 parents say their kids spend less time outside than they did as children

And that’s not all. Kids are now adept at multi-screening—using two or more screens at the same time—for example, browsing the internet on a tablet while watching television.

In a world full of social distancing and of screen time, let us encourage children and ourselves to open their eyes to the amazing world right outside the door. Guide them into the local ecosystem, encourage them to spend time in nature with a pencil, paints, markers, crayons, a piece of paper, journal, art supplies, or whatever they desire. Help them feel their connection to their where they live and embrace it daily. As Rachael Carson reminds us, “It is not half so important to know as to feel."

How to Start Your Nature Journal

Here is what you will need to begin your nature journal:

  • A writing utensil, like a pen or pencil.
  • Get creative! Add in some colored pencils, markers, or crayons.
  • A notebook or pad of paper—lined or blank paper will work!
  • If you don’t have an extra notebook laying around, you can always cut pieces of paper and staple them together!
  • Make it yours—decorate your journal to make it your own!

Your nature journal will become a daily log of the changes happening around you. Spring is here! This is the perfect time to observe and record changes you see in your own environment. Find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes. Maybe wander outside to your backyard, sit on your porch, or find a spot beside a window looking outside. You can also take your nature journal with you to a park or on a walk with your family.

Once your journal is ready to go, open up to the first page. Every time you sit down to begin, write down the following towards the top of your page:

The Date: For example, Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

Time of Day: For example: morning, after breakfast, 11:00 a.m., etc.

The Weather: Record the temperature, cloud cover, sunshine, etc.

Any observations or other details you want to jot down: Who are you with? How are you feeling? Tap into your five senses—what do you smell, hear, see, taste, or feel?

This journal is for you–don't worry about making it perfect. Challenge yourself to spend at least five minutes outside each day—the longer the better. Maybe this week you will start with five minutes, and next week you will increase your time outside to ten or fifteen minutes. It’s up to you. You might make more discoveries the longer you are watching and listening. Get out there, learn outside!

Each week, we will share three prompts to get you started. Feel free to add more!

Prompt #1: Season Song

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, colors if you like

Assignment: Sit outside (backyard, porch, even by an open window). Cover your ears for a moment. Uncover them and listen to all the sounds around you. Write about what you hear. Try to draw the sounds. Give them colors, form, and shape.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: Was it challenging to translate noises into shapes and colors? What does the "song" you documented tell you about the health of that environment?

Prompt #2 Season Watching

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, colors if you like

Assignment: Sit outside (backyard, porch, a window). Be as still as you can for 5-15 minutes. Draw what you see. Label and describe what happened while you were observing.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: Describe what it was like to watch nature around you. Were you a bystander or were you part of nature?

Prompt #3 Tiny Treasure

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, colors if you like, a tiny treasure (see assignment for further details)

Assignment: Look for something so small you can hold it in your hand, preferably something you’ve found outside. Look very closely at it—observe every detail (everything you would need to find this treasure again if you were to lose it). Draw and describe it. Use words to tell how it looks, feels, smells, sounds.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: What is/was the role of your tiny treasure? Where did this tiny teasure come from? How did it end up here?

Prompt #4 Bug’s World

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, colors if you like

Assignment: Find a safe spot outside (backyard, porch, etc.) Lay down on your belly and pretend you are a small bug in this environment. Draw your observations from this point of view. Document what you see, hear, smell, and feel.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: Describe what it’s like to have a bug's-eye-view of the world. What new challenges would you face in your environment? What did you notice that you couldn’t see before?

Want some more nature journaling ideas? Check out some of these resources below.

We would love you to share your nature journal entries on CBF's Learn Outside Facebook Group!



The views and opinions expressed in the media, articles or comments on this site are those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by CBF and the inclusion of such information does not imply endorsement by CBF. CBF is not responsible for the contents of any linked Web, or any link contained in a linked Web site, or any changes or updates to such Web sites. The inclusion of any link or comment is provided only for information purposes. CBF reserves the right to edit or remove any comments and material posted to this website and to ban users from the site without notice. Partisan, pornographic or other inappropriate content, product or service promotion, foul language or bad behavior is expressly forbidden and will be removed.

Share Your Clean Water Story

What does the Bay, its rivers and streams mean to you? What impact have the Bay and its local waters had on your life? We'd like to know.

Share Your Story

Stay Up-to-Date on Bay News

Want to stay up-to-date on all news and happenings in your region and across the Chesapeake watershed? Join our digital community.

Sign Up
This website uses cookies to tailor and enhance your online experience. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, including details on how to disable cookies, please visit our Privacy Policy. Close