Summer Sense of Wonder

Sunrise at Lynnhaven Pier AshleySementelli 1171x593

Sunrise over Lynnhaven Pier.

Ashley Sementelli

Nature Journaling: Week 12

Find our complete Nature Journal series here.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”    —Rachel Carson, marine biologist, author, and conservationist

Have you ever taken a walk in the rain after a long period of dry weather? Recall that fresh, earthy smell that rises from the damp ground with every step you take. Each scentless raindrop falls to the earth and interacts with the soil, producing a distinct fragrance. Scientists call this aroma "petrichor." As spring warms into summer, petrichor will cling to the air with each summer downpour, a delight for the senses and our curiosity.

By the end of June, summer’s long, warm days will be filled with sunshine and the occasional disruptive rainstorm. As the frequent, heavy spring rains abate, the earth will dry and waterways will slow. Less fresh water will make its way to the Bay. The brackish water will gradually become saltier and warm under the sun’s rays. These changes in salinity and temperature mean a change in the variety of species that can thrive in the Chesapeake Bay. Keep your eyes peeled as the plant and animal species that favor the saltier, warmer water become more active and abundant throughout the summer months.

Many of these organisms are following their food source, like plankton and young schooling fish, as it moves with the current and tide. Flocks of cownose rays appear winging through the water. Dolphins and pelicans that prefer saltier water venture up into the northern reaches of the Bay. The numbers of ghostly sea nettles rise as the water’s salinity increases.

Protective forests of submerged aquatic vegetation flourish in the long, sunny summer days that provide more time for photosynthesis. Seahorses and pipefish, a close relative, migrate to the shallow grass beds in the summer, hanging on to individual blades as if tied. Prompted by the warming waters, myriad blue crabs shed their exoskeletons. The thick grass beds provide vital protection for the defenseless crabs waiting for their new armor to harden. Many animals, humans included, delight in eating these soft-shelled delicacies during the summer. Modern technology has enabled us to track the sightings of some of these creatures including jellyfish (JellyWatch) and dolphins (DolphinWatch).

Amazing natural changes will occur in your own backyard as well. Changes you can observe, document, and ponder.

We sincerely hope the nature journaling techniques you’ve learned over the past 12 weeks have given you a deeper appreciation for your local environment. Continue to use your nature journal in the way that best suits you. Revisit your favorite prompts, find new ones to further your explorations, or reflect upon what you’ve learned since this series began.

May your sense of wonder as ever-present as the tides and as curious as the aroma of petrichor after the rain. Together we will build a healthy, observant community of creative thinkers and engaged citizens. Together we will save the Bay.

Watch for another nature journal series coming this fall. Until then, you can investigate the resources below.

Prompt #37: Twenty Questions

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, internet access or field guides

Assignment: Find a safe spot to observe nature (backyard, porch, nearby park). Make a detailed diagram of a natural thing, like a plant, animal, or rock. Once your diagram is complete, create a list of 20 questions about that natural thing. Think creatively by using different question stems (who, what, when, where, why, how, etc.). Find answers to at least three of your questions using field guides or the internet.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: Was it challenging to come up with a list of questions? How do you think asking questions helps us solve the world’s problems?

Prompt #38: Animal Scoreboard

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, coloring materials

Assignment: Find a safe spot to observe nature (backyard, porch, or by a window). Find an animal to observe. This can be a bird, mammal, insect, amphibian, or reptile. watch the animal for a few minutes and write down the different behaviors that you see it express (fluffing, sitting, singing, itching, running, etc.). Create a brief sketch of each behavior and/or write a description. When you’re ready, set a timer for five minutes and track each time the animal performs each behavior. You may need to add new behaviors that you observe during the five minutes.

Additional resources:

Journal Prompt: Which behavior did you record happening most often? Why do you think the animal was behaving that way? Do you think it helps the animal survive? Do you think the behaviors would be different if the animal were in a different environment? How?

Prompt #39: Personifying Nature

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, coloring materials (optional)

Assignment: Find a safe spot to observe nature (backyard, porch, by a window). Consider your relationship with nature. What do you most appreciate about your relationship with nature? Is there anything you would like to change about this relationship? Record these questions and thoughts in your nature journal.

Additional resources: 

Journal Prompt: Imagine having a brief conversation with Nature. How well do you know each other? What would you say or ask? Consider nature’s point of view—what do you think they would tell you?

Prompt #40: Sunset Report

Materials Needed: Nature journal or paper, pen or pencil, coloring materials

Assignment: Look up what time the sun sets in your area. You can find this information in your local newspaper or online. Find a safe spot to view the sunset (yard, porch, by a window). Regardless of your view of the horizon, there is still a lot of natural action to observe. In your nature journal, record what you are able to see, hear, smell, and sense. What colors can you see? What do the clouds look like and how do they make the atmosphere feel? Are there animal movements? What types of animals? What are they doing before, during, and after sunset?

Additional resources: 

Journal Prompt: Write a Five Sense Poem about the sunset you observed. The poem should be five lines long and each line should be dedicated to one sense: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. You can organize by rhythm and rhyme or make it a free-verse poem.

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

Educators Ronnie Anderson, Kathlean Davis, and Cindy Duncan

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