Students will record, either by writing or sketching, observations in their nature journals as they are participating in an outdoor experience. Students will observe the protocols for the nature journal assignment
Students will need a journal, folder, notebook, pens, (pencils tend to fade over time), art supplies. The important element is to have a place to keep the journal responses all together as a record of student thinking and for reflection purposes. Some students like to collect flowers, leaves, so an appropriate field folder for that will be necessary.
To prepare your students for their nature journaling experience, there are several introductory activities you may use:
1.) Ideally, take your students outside and model a nature journaling experience with them. Point to how they can attend to each of their senses, recording their observations. Encourage students to be “mindful” and observant during their time outside.
2.) Show or download the inspirational prompts from the Imagine Outside, Inc. website for students to peruse. Have them select one to model.
3.) Have students watch a few minutes of a Johnny Lawson video found on You Tube, asking them to remain “mindful.” Afterwards, ask how long they are able to remain focused on the film without becoming distracted. Remind them that “staying in the moment” is an important goal.
Students will independently complete their journals, being careful to record their location, time of day, and the weather conditions. Students will adhere to the following protocols:
1.Purchase a notebook/journal where you can record your thoughts every week.
2. Find a spot outside where you can comfortably sit and observe the natural world around you. You may go to a park, a trail, the beach, or simply sit out in your own yard. You may choose to go to the same place each week, but try to vary your times. For each journal entry, record the date and where you are.
3. Focus on your observations by being alone or with only one or two others. Keeping silent while nature journaling is very important as most wildlife, especially birds, is easily scared away by loud noses.
4. Do not text, listen to music, or use electronic equipment: no cell phones, texting, laptops. iPods, etc.
5. Record your observations in your journal. You may write, sketch, collect leaves or flowers– whatever works best for you! It’s best to use pen or colored pencil as regular pencil tends to fade over time.
6. Strive to stay “in the moment.” If you write about the argument you had with your best friend today at lunch instead of what you are observing, then you are missing the point.
7. If you prefer to be active out in nature, as in surfing, fishing, biking—that is fine—just be sure to record your observations when you return.
8. The most important thing to remember is this is your journal, and there is no right or wrong responses. Experiment and enjoy!
There are several possible ways to share student nature journal writings:
1. Students may share their writings in either large or small group settings.
2. Students may exchange journals and write responses to each other.
3. You can start a class nature journal blog where students can upload their responses.
4. Students may “map” their locations using GPS devices and then share locations.
The most important piece of the assessment is your feedback. Write comments about their observations, reactions, your reactions to similar observations, etc. I do not grade the journals for spelling, grammar, or mechanics. Rather, I give points primarily for active participation and engagement with task. Also, the frequency of these assignments is totally at your discretion. I find that one journal every two weeks works well. In addition to the nature journals, teachers may also assign literary tasks that coincide with the textual examples. I have added “literary links” to the prompts that points to the literary features of each text. Students may write a pastiche, a sonnet, an essay, or annotate the text for literary features. I have included some lesson plans on this link that are examples for literary approaches to the prompts.