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Nature Journals


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I REALLY want to do nature journals. I can't draw a wit (I'd like to learn), but it just sounds "fun".


I want to start this with my two youngsters. (Maybe drag the older two in, but that's only if I'm willing to put up with all the groaning that would ensue.)


The thing is, I can't seem to figure out "how" to start.


"How" is the key word in my life recently. . .


I don't want to start with something like birds. I think even I would get thoroughly depressed within minutes of starting.


Maybe a twig? Or a twig with a bud on it, and we can follow it's progression through next year? Maybe get real ambitious and attach that twig to a branch, that maybe has a nest in it, with eggs (but Mom and Dad bird aren't around).


I just don't know.


I have 2 books on nature journals. They were wholly unhelpful.


I have a friend (homeschooling mom) that also wants to do this, so we figure we can bunch our kids together to go off and do this.


But, it would be really nice to have a starting point and a direction to follow.


Any ideas?

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I think you are way over-thinking this. The point about nature journaling is to let your kids explore and observe whatever captures their interest. You can always guide them, help them focus in on something, but if you go outside with a 7 and 5 year old, they will find lots of interesting things all by themselves. Their job is to observe and describe -- no more, no less. And don't knock observing and describing -- that is the foundation of science!


Have a sketch book and pencils, binoculars and/or a magnifying glass, and perhaps a small ruler or tape measure maybe. Let them use a camera. Go for a walk, or sit by a window if the weather is bad. Jot down the time of day, the temperature or weather, then see what it is that captures their interest, or draw their attention to something. Tell them they have to choose one thing to measure, draw and describe. They don't have to do anything elaborate -- there is no right or wrong. Follow up by talking about what they see, consider ideas of what it is or why it is.


If you really feel you need to have some control over what they observe, then here are some ideas. Buy some local guides for identifying birds, plants and wildlife. Put a birdfeeder in a location you can see, and spend time identifying and counting the birds that come by. You don't have to draw them, just keep a count of the types of birds that come by. Try different types of seeds and see if you get different birds. Gather leaves and make rubbings. Compare the edges of the leaves, the shapes. Measure them, compare the size of the bushes and trees they come from. Dissect flowers. Collect rocks and learn about ways to classify them.


My favorite book is Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E Roth. Don't be intimidated by the drawing skills of others -- nature journaling isn't about the quality of the art, it is about honing and refining your observation skills. You describe your observations through a sketch or write or photograph, just get outside (or look out the window) and notice all the little details both on a large scale and small scale.


Does that help?

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