We try to be out in nature every day. We don’t always make it out when it’s blazing hot or freezing cold, but even on those days we try to observe birds through the window or bugs on the wall. I saw a meme once that asked:
How many of these can your kids identify?
And how many of these?
So I asked my then four year-old. He got all of the logos except Starbucks. Guess how many leaves he knew? NONE. And that was all on me, because I hadn’t taught him any leaf shapes. Now, three years later, he describes locations of things as “over by the elm tree” or “under the weeping birch.” I am so proud of us. In the beginning, I was surprised at how many trees I didn’t know. I started with the trees in my yard. Once I learned what those were, I branched out to the trees on my street. Then I learned the trees that surrounded my church. We started small. This book was a huge help (and it’s pocket sized, cheap, and other regional versions are available):In August of 2018, I was able to attend a workshop about nature journaling given by John Muir Laws. If you aren’t familiar with him, he is an expert artist, teacher, naturalist, and all-around pleasant person. His website is full of videos, tutorials, and even a free PDF download of a book about how to teach nature journaling. I tried to reproduce the workshop I attended with videos and articles from his website. You can find that here, if you’re interested.
This is the printed version of the free PDF that’s on John Muir Laws’ website. It’s also available on Amazon. We have been using the activities once a week as part of our homeschool.Here’s an example of one of the activities. The children and I went out into the yard and they each picked a plant. I had the children draw their plant and then describe to me things they noticed about the plant. I wrote the things they said next to the pictures (your children can write their own descriptions if they have the skills). The catch was that they had to describe the plant in such a way that Morgan could come along, read their nature journals, and then identify the plants the children had journaled about. Here is Henry’s drawing of corn:
As you can see, this does not have to be difficult! The children had so much fun when Morgan came out and was immediately able to identify their plants. It was such a confidence booster.
The Nature Journal Club is a Facebook group run by John Muir Laws with 13,000+ members who provide lots of inspiration and ideas.