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

Have you ever escaped your workspace to enjoy a walk? Or marveled at the bright flash of a bird, the intricacy of a patch of moss, or the mechanics of a bug? If yes, then you understand the virtues of time in nature. Spending time absorbed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world can spark joy and reset a tired soul. These positive experiences can linger longer with us if we take the time to document them through writing and art in a nature journal. Experts praise nature journaling as a way to build a lasting creative connection with the environment. Artist and educator John Muir Laws states it simply, “Nature journaling will enrich your experiences and develop observation, curiosity, gratitude, reverence, memory, and the skills of a naturalist.”

In her blog Wings, Worms, and Wonder, author and nature journalist Kelly Johnson 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...And it clears a way for our senses to wonder and bloom.”

In a world full of social distancing and screen time, let us encourage ourselves, our families, and our students to turn towards the inspiring natural world right outside our door. Explore your local neighborhood ecosystem! Time spent outside with a journal, art supplies, and curious mind will restore peace and calm to your soul. Nurture a natural connection each day and develop a sense of place. As Rachel Carson reminds us, “It is not half so important to know as to feel." With that in mind, get outside and begin your guided journey with a nature journal.

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 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 24, 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? Fill the page with your sketches, questions, and thoughts.

Your nature journal will become a daily log of the changes happening around you. No matter the season, it’s always the perfect time to observe and record. Find a quiet place to sit. Maybe wander outside to your backyard, sit on your porch, or beside a window looking outside. You can even take your nature journal with you to a park or on a walk with your family.

This journal is for you—don't worry about making it perfect. Challenge yourself to spend at least five minutes outside each day. Maybe next week you will increase your time outside to ten or fifteen minutes—the longer the better. It’s up to you. 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!

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