How to: Let's Make a Nature Journal!
"I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I see"
- Sherlock Holmes, fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
You too can be just like the trained detective, Sherlock Holmes, so when you go out in nature you don’t just see things – you observe them.
One of the best ways to improve your observation skills are by writing things down or sketching them while they’re fresh in your mind.
Our natural environment is full of surprises. Nature is a fantastic blend of unlimited varieties of shapes, colours, scents, sounds, seasons. Every single leaf of the same tree is different from each other in some way. Isn’t that amazing? Have you ever thought it’d be interesting to keep a record of your outdoor adventures and the amazing things you see? A fun way to do this either alone or as a family, you can start a Nature Journal. Any empty journal will do, it just has to be something that fits nicely into your hiking pack. If you start journaling and find you really enjoy it, there are fancy books for this purpose – some are even printed on waterproof paper!
When we draw, write, or paste something in a Nature Journal, it reminds us to pay attention to the small and unattended things, which are pathways for connecting us to the broader world around us. Each time we go out in nature and put our experiences in our own words and drawings, not only does it enhance our creativity – but it also builds a deep, lasting and loving bond with nature.
Nature Journaling helps us to begin to understand the natural world, and with that understanding, we begin to understand our place in the world.
Need a little help to get started? Check Out the resource located at the bottom of the page.
Benefits of Nature Journaling
1. Nature journals encourage us to slow down and stop and “smell the flowers” – or draw them! We begin to sharpen our observation skills and notice the details of plants and animals, not just an overall picture, or a fleeting image of the things we see. When we write about nature, or sketch things we see, it will ignite life-long love, wonderment, and awe for nature.
2. Nature Journaling encourages us to try to describe, define, and name the ecosystems and organisms we observe. When we learn the names of plants and animals, we tend to care about them and build relationships with them.
3. In this day and age of technology, all of us are spending too much time on our devices. Nature journaling gives us an excuse to give our eyes a break, get our bodies moving, and opens our mind to improving our observation skills and connections with nature. We often go exploring without our phones so that we are completely disconnected from civilization! If you do take your phone on your adventures, you could put it to use and record your observations digitally through iNaturalist.
We invite you to come and explore the nature in the Riverside’s Knowledge Path and put your experience into words or illustrations or any other way you feel like. You don’t need to be good at drawing or sketching. You only need the willingness to go beyond SEEING nature and start OBSERVING it, CONNECTING with it.
Start writing or drawing about the beautiful White Birch Trees and how they change in various seasons, write about the “Cheeeseburgerrrrr” song that the black-capped chickadee was singing as you walked past, or describe what the snow was telling you while you were walking over it.
It can be a family initiative, and you can tailor it to suit all ages.
Come! Let’s journal together!
This activity has been modified from “Ellie’s Log”, developed by Judith L. Li (http://ellieslog.osupress.oregonstate.edu/) and Nature Journaling binder created by Elizabeth Thompson.