Many homeschool families engage in regular nature studies. A nature journal is your ticket to a deep exploration of the world around you, providing a place to record your encounters with the natural world — from the everyday to the sublime. Field sketches, regardless of the degree of artistic talent with which they are rendered, force us to look closely and observe nature as it really is. Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world around you.
The past couple of years, I have been teaching an online course, Nature Journaling in the Classroom. It is designed to help teachers and informal educators integrate nature journaling into their K-12 art and science curriculum. The course is offered through the Heritage Institute and optional, university credit is available.
J.L. Fottrell, a geologist who teaches drawing classes at Land Between the Lakes National recreation area in Tennessee/Kentucky and at Bowie Park in Fairview, Tennessee, recently selected my course because he had never made a systematic, concerted effort to study nature journaling.
Fottrell had this to say about his expectations at the conclusion of the course, “I expected to learn some techniques and methods for teaching the subject in a more organized, school setting. What I learned was what I expected to learn plus a lot more. The reading assignments were full of good ideas and much of it was thought provoking and insightful. I feel that I got a lot more out of the books than I expected. The other exercises … pushed me beyond where I was, in my understanding of the subject. I believe that I’m much better educated about nature than I would have been, had I not taken the course.”
H. Lent, a teacher in Oregon, recently took my course along with another I teach, Alien Invaders. She spends her day between the High School, where she teaches algebra and the Middle School where she teaches 8th grade math, MAN (Math, Art, & Nature), and two art classes. I love how she morphed the two courses together and devised a year-long study of invasive species, integrating math, science and art.
Upon completing the coursework, Lent shared with me, “I did not realize that nature journaling was such a powerful tool in life and can be integrated into any curriculum and any grade level. The sooner the better obviously to train kids and make it a life-long endeavor. I learned the important items to include in the journal daily: how to label; to include date, place, weather, colors, feelings. Drawings and/or writing are each valuable and students can develop their own style to document their observations.”