Monday, June 20, 2011

Nature Journals

My kitchen compadre, the cicada
We looove nature over here. At the moment, there is a GIANT cicada residing right beside the cooktop. Sometimes, when the house gets a little bit too quiet, we chat a little. If you live in the south, you know that we grow bugs big down here. I was slightly concerned when I heard that news upon my arrival to Charlotte, my kids, however, heard that and were elated. When I see pest exterminator trucks driving around my neighborhood, I am often tempted to offer the services of my children... you wouldn't even need to pay them - just promise they can keep whatever they catch.

Needless to say, when the campers think that there is absolutely nothing to do, I can always resort to a "bug hunt." And, after a bug hunt, what better way to chill out and have some quiet time than to "write" about the bug hunt in your nature journal. When I am not head counselor at Camp Brighton, I am a teacher of other people's children so I have to throw in my two cents about having children write every day. Every day. Spelling and grammar are much less important than developing the habit of sitting down and putting colored pencil to paper. It's never too early to start developing these good habits and a nature journal alleviates the "what do I write about?" anxiety that many children face.

In our nature journals, most of the page is often taken up by a large illustration. Sometimes the description is one word (or no words at all for my 3 year old). For my older children, now six, I will usually give them no direction - I let them decide what and how much they would like to write. If they are stuck, I might suggest a topic or a specific amount of sentences that I would like to see, or I might tell them I want to see six description words. I might also give them a prompt - maybe the first part of a sentence that they have to finish.

Fun Activity: Making the Nature Journals

Making the nature journals is a project in and of itself. Let the child choose a notebook or use one you can find around the house - it can have blank pages or lines. Mead makes an excellent composition notebook for little writers (grades K - 2) that has half a page of lines and half the page blank for illustrations. You can order them online or find some at Target or other office supply stores. Get some nature stickers and letter stickers and decorate the cover. My older children chose small notebooks that had lines and a pocket inside to store "keepsakes" - ticket stubs, photos, etc. We found inexpensive notebooks at Target for about $2 and stickers for $.99. These journals usually accompany us on all car trips - even if we are just going down the street to the school playground or to Freedom Park. You never know what you might find!

For more information on the importance of the development of a relationship between children and nature, read this article from 2004 written by Randy White. (Click here for the pdf)

I also recommend that you read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. 

Check out this website for prompts and other ideas for nature journals: Keep a Nature Journal

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