Happy Friday y’all! And thank you all so much for your kind words about the boys Nature Museum. It thrilled them to pieces to know that you guys (and your kiddos!) appreciated all their treasures.
A few of you asked about how we use our nature journals, and the guys were happy to share some excerpts so that I can show you what we do.
Basically our journaling starts with getting outdoors. We ramble around and find neat stuff that we want to know more about. We take a photo, or if possible bring the item home. Sometimes both.
I keep a little notebook so that I can make notes about what we found and where, but we don’t take our journals with us. Someday I’d like for them to take field notes, but at the moment, it works better for us to spend our time outdoors just exploring and then to come home for the journaling.
The things that we bring home go into a big basket until we have a chance to study them further. We won’t necessarily research everything that comes home with us, but some things will catch our fancy and we’ll want to dig a little deeper.
My boys’ early attempts at journaling look a lot like this:
We include some photos of the interesting article, and maybe some of him investigating it. I might jot down a few of the observations that he has as well. In this particular entry, Ryder is studying some interesting crystals on a rock. We looked at it under the microscope and dropped a little vinegar on top to see if it bubbled – a sign that it is indeed calcite.
At this age the journal is more of a scrap book than anything else. It’s about documenting his adventures in nature and fostering his love of exploring. It’s about giving credence to his curiosity and encouraging his questions.
Eventually all those questions and observations lead to a desire to know more. At this point, we bring out the field guides and nature study books. I’ve included a link to our Amazon store here so that you can peruse the books that we have in our reference library. I try to make sure that we remember to include some sort of note about where we found our information, in the case that we need it down the road.
When we first began journaling, I would have to ask some leading questions, “hmmm… which of these five books do you think we should look in to find out more about this flower?” “The animal that made this track has how many toes? Which of these tracks do you think it most closely resembles?”
Eventually, they got very good at finding their way through the field guides on their own. They also mastered using our printer to make copies and then pasting into their journals excerpts that they deemed relevant to their find. They also record questions that remain after their initial research. In the photo below is written, “We saw a lot of nuts, but not the tree. How did they get there?”
As the boys’ writing and investigative skills grew, they began to include drawings, notes about their questions and ideas, and detailed observations in their journals.
You can see in the photo above that they have learned to make some specific records about the size and other details of their find, it’s whereabouts, the date found, etc.
Here you can see that he has pasted in some informationthat he found online about the woodpecker, and he has also written out some of the details that he found most relevant and interesting.
The above is a great example of how nature journaling leads us down some unexpected paths. After finding these deer bones, the boys were very interested in comparing the bone structure of different animals and learning about the composition, names and whereabouts of human bones as well.
Eventually their journals begin to be filled with more of their own thoughts and words, and less dictation to mama and pastings from guides. (Though we often still include those things too.)
You can see in this entry from more than a year ago, that I don’t hover over them and drain all the fun out of it by insisting that they spell everything correctly and mind their penmanship. Their nature journal is just that, THEIR nature journal. It isn’t “schoolwork” and it isn’t a formal presentation. It is for their reference, and theirs alone.
In case you can’t read it, this entry says, “October 13, 2008. Went on a walk. Found a nest and skull. The skull is very light and fragile. Birds have thin bones so they can fly. The nest is made of toilet paper and vines and leaves. Skull is 2 inches. Nest is 6 inches.”
At some point, each of my older boys began using their journal not just to document finds in nature, but also to make notes about things that they have learned about the natural world.
In the photo below, my oldest has illustrated his knowledge about fossil formation. He was excited to learn this and felt that it should go into his journal “so I’ll remember when I run across a fossil again.”
Not too long ago, one of my guys carted home a few pine cones from Granny’s house. This is not a new event. A few of them invariably come home with us just about every time we go to see her.
When he got home though, he did something that WAS new and, in my opinion, quite wonderful. He referred back to this page of his journal, made more than a year ago.
He wanted to check his recent finds against those that he remembered journaling about. He wasn’t sure that they were the same and wanted to compare the photos. We both thought it was really a remarkable moment – him being able to reference his own notes rather than only field guides.
So that’s about the long and short of it, I guess. Nature journaling has become a way of life in these parts, and I’m so glad. The boys get a lot of pleasure out of looking back on their entries and reliving their great moments in nature. I myself am getting a lot of pleasure out of seeing their confidence and knowledge just blossom.
I hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!