Young nature Journals
- To raise awareness of the natural world
- To improve observational skills
- To improve writing and art skills
- To make personal connections with the natural world
Ideally regular journaling exercises should take place throughout the year
You will need
- Hard back blank note-books – one per child,
Sturdy plastic bag for protecting each journal
Pencils & rubbers
Did you know?There is an ancient tradition of keeping records. There are tribe, village and parish records, farming ledgers and records by the early scientific expeditions. Historically, nature journals were part of the school curriculum in the last two centuries. In nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century England they were extremely popular. Queen Victoria kept a journal, as did virtually all of our famous and influential naturalists. More recent nature journalists have included Gerald Durrell and the Scottish artist, Keith Brockie.
Before the Activity
Explain that many famous people have written and drawn Nature Journals, however many ordinary people keep one too. Journals are a way of living moments in life over again. They preserve certain moments and keep them special. They also preserve important details that are easy to forget (How big really was that big fish you saw leap out of the water? Which month was the big fall of snow last year) Journals provide a chance to reflect, question, be happy and be sad. A random thought or an interesting observation takes on added importance when recorded in a journal. They help children to realise that THEIR thoughts are important. The entries can become the starting point or ingredients for painting, poetry, stories and reports back in the classroom.
Read the class a selection of pages from
famous nature journalists (see the list under Additional information)
The beginning of the school year is a good time to start a journal, as it can then become part of the routine. Entries can be made weekly or on school trips and outings. It is important to make it a habit. A suggested first introduction to journal keeping is given in the 'tips on starting to write a nature journal' (see Downloads)
Writing should be done in the outdoors as much as possible. The journals could also replace worksheets when working outside. Encourage the children to write with detail and reflection. Make sure that they realise that journals are not limited to words. They can be places to sketch, paste pictures, photographs, feathers and any other items that have meaning. Remind the children that their drawings do not need to be detailed or artistic. They are aiming for simple quick sketches which capture a moment or an observation.
To help the children understand what is expected of them, use your journal as a model and share some of your entries. You can also collect and share good examples from journal entries among the class, if the children are happy to do so.
Journal activities can be divided into 3 categories:
Suggested entries: Suggested entries involve giving prompts such as - what would you show someone if you took them on a walk here? How is your mood affected by this place?
Assigned entries: Any of the prompts can become an assigned entry when everyone is thinking about the same thing. It could also be that everyone is asked to write a poem on a certain subject or draw a certain object or part of the landscape.
Free writing: Once the children have practised the art of journal writing they can be given more and more freedom to choose what entries they make. Some will find this hard to do while others will find it easier.
DownloadsTips on starting to write a nature journal
What have nature journals to offer children today? Nature journaling is hands-on learning at its best. They are outdoors, looking at grasses, trees, insects and seeing for themselves connections they never noticed before. Journals not only allow a one-to-one connection with the immediate environment, they also integrate many disciplines and provide opportunities for various styles of learning. For example, they offer pupils who learn visually a way of using their drawing skills. Importantly they support recommendations for assessment (5-14 Environmental Studies: Science – Guide for teachers and Managers)
Examples of nature journals
- ‘One Man’s Island’ by Keith Brockie
- ‘Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ by Edith Holden
- ‘Queen Victoria’s Scottish Diaries’ by John Kerr
- ‘Highland Journey’ by Mairi Hedderwick
- ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald
Durrell (and other books by this author)
- Science - main
- Expressive Arts - main
- Languages -
- 2. Primary
- 3. Lower Secondary
- 4. Upper secondary