“Outdoor journaling is something a family can do together, and it offers reason and focus for being in nature. Linda Chorice, assignment manager at the Missouri Conservation Department’s Springfield Nature Center, points out that journaling demands no special equipment, only a pad of paper or a spiral notebook, several pencils, and a pencil sharpener.
"‘While your journal may never be published as a historical document, it will serve as a personal record of your outdoor experiences, allowing you to accurately relive your memories each time you open its cover,’ she says.
"All of these activities can teach children patience and respect for the other creatures on the planet, even if the lessons take a little time to accrue.”
Items collected from nature walks in the past couple of weeks:
three mushrooms and two pods from an invasive perennial vine.
Have no idea what it is, but wish it wasn't here.
(Note: The information that is in bold typeface is from the Handbook of Nature Study website. The text in regular typeface is mine. Quotes that are in italic typeface are from the book, Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.)
Indoor Preparation Work
1. Read pages 16-17 of the Handbook of Nature Study (HNS). Highlight or underline those parts that will help you understand better the connection between nature study, language arts, and drawing.
I found the following quotes interesting:
Nature study lessons give much excellent subject matter for stories and essays, but these essays should never be criticized. They should be read with interest by the teacher.
Note the way "February" is spelled. Because of what was written in the HNS,
I didn't point out the error to Olivia.
The correlation of nature study and drawing is so natural and inevitable.
The girls are putting all the items they're going to be drawing
onto a scale. They wanted to see how much everything weighed.
The other quote I liked is noted below under #3.
2. This week take your 10-15 minute nature walk. If you have tired of your own backyard, venture down your street, around your block, or to a near-by park. Remember Anna Comstock’s words, “Nature study is for the comprehension of the individual life of the bird, insect, or plant that is nearest at hand.” (page 5)
Seed pods that have prickly parts on the outside.
The inside of the dried pods are hollow.
Don’t worry about taking any equipment with you this time. Continue working on being quiet and observing things with your senses. While on your walk, be alert to new subjects for your further research.
We will be going on a couple of nature walks this week. The girls have asked to go to a nearby state park with the dogs which would be nice. We have not hiked there in the winter - only in the three other seasons - so it would be interesting to look at what the park looks like in the fourth season.
The nature journal entry that the girls did today related to another one we took last week in which we discovered some mushrooms on a tree in the pasture. They also recorded in their nature journals a bit about the salt crystals they made. They used magnifying glasses to see the crystals. Although they were certainly larger when viewed through the magnifying glasses, they certainly were not large enough to see each individual salt crystal and its unique formation.
3. Follow up with discussion and the opportunity for a nature journal entrry.
"Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to draw if it pleases him to do so."
“From making crude and often meaningless pencil strokes, which is the entertainment of the young child, to the outlining of a leaf or some other simple and interesting natural object, is a normal step full of interest for the child because it is still self-expression.” (both quotes from page 17 of the Handbook of Nature Study)
From Olivia's nature journal:
The top two circles relate to the salt crystals in the bag.
The bottom five circles contain words
that relate to the fuzzy mushroom (also in the bag).
Discuss your nature time with your child and again try to draw out some words from your child’s experiences. Keep in mind what you read about the connections between nature study, words, writing, and drawing.
Your child might need help deciding on a subject to record in their nature journal. You should explain that you would like them to start making a book of with their experiences from their nature study. If they make a page for the book each time they have nature time, they will have a whole book filled with their own words and drawings to look at by the end of the year.
Sophia and Olivia enjoy looking at their nature journals because they include entries from 2009-2011. Sophia was looking through her journal the other day and said, "That's the way I wrote and drew?" She flipped to a current page. "Look at my handwriting now!"
If they are reluctant, write down their descriptive words on a sheet of paper and leave a blank space where they can come back later and draw if they feel like it.
Here are some easy ideas for nature journal pages other than drawing:
1. Make leaf rubbings.
We've done this before during the summer when the leaves are softer using both colored pencils as well as crayons. The girls also have done fabric printing using leaves.
2. Tape small flat things into the nature journal. (leaves, flower petals, seeds).
They both wanted to include some of the "fuzzy" mushroom and
salt crystals in todays' journal entry.
Sophia taped the fuzzy mushroom onto the page so it could be easily felt.
Sophia taped the fuzzy mushroom onto the page so it could be easily felt.
The salt crystals she made were put into a bag and
stapled in her nature journal.
3. Print out a photo that you took while on your nature walk and let the child write the caption.
The girls both have quite a few photographs in their nature journals from past walks and trips to the zoo. One of the goals during the next week is to make sure that all the photographs are labeled with what they remember from the image in the photograph.
4. Press flowers or grasses between pages of a book and later add it to the journal. (We will learn more on that in a future challenge this spring.).
Last week, the girls put a piece of corn husk into the nature journal as a reminder of Montague (the dog) wanting to chase after a corn husk on our nature walk.
5. Outline an object with a pencil and then color it in.
Both Sophia and Olivia chose to outline the large mushroom and then add some details after they traced it.
Sophia's colored tracings of mushrooms and
a dried seed pod from a vine.
Olivia's tracing is pictured above.
Nature journaling is meant to be a follow-up activity and not a replacement for your time spent outdoors. Please feel successful in this challenge whether you end up with a nature journal page or not. If they don’t draw this week, maybe they will want to make a page next week.
Optional assignment for parents:
Take a look at your attitude towards outdoor time. Has it changed since starting these challenges? Are you committed to keeping up your Outdoor Hour time because you see the benefits stacking up in your family?
I definitely am making more time for nature walks and journaling since starting the challenges. This use to be something that we enjoyed regularly doing, and had moved away from it during the past year or so since beginning using a new curriculum which included a science component.
Starting in 2011, I realized that one thing I missed was the creativity and spontaneity of homeschooling. Somehow, I came across the Handbook of Nature Study website and started reading about the challenges. I had a copy of the HNS book, and thought it might make a nice addition to the girls' homeschooling.
The time we've spent taking nature walks together as well as the time we spend afterwards journaling about experience has been a highlight of our weeks since beginning the Outdoor Hour Challenges.
Have you started keeping your own nature journal or photo album of your experiences outdoors with your children?
I began using my nature journal again. My thought is that if I'm doing what I want my daughters to do, they will be more likely to do the activity. This goes for nature journaling as it does any other activity (e.g., feeding the horses and cleaning the barn; cleaning my room; reading books and magazines for pleasure).
The other thing I've done is take quite a few pictures of our walks and nature journaling time. Some of the pictures I'll print for the girls so they can include them in their nature journal.
For other photographs, I'm including them on this blog along with a description for each of the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I read that Blogger.com has a program which gives people a chance to print their blog (or portions of it) into a book format. I thought printing the postings of the Outdoor Hour Challenges might be nice for the girls to look back upon.
Writing and photographing (both the nature walks and journal times) have been such an enjoyable way for me to remember and reflect upon homeschooling. I am so thankful for the many opportunities that the girls and I have to learn together.