Recording and collating is an important part of nature study, as it’s where your child can journal the things they have investigated and experienced. With a little guidance, their nature journals will become something to treasure in the years to come and a wonderful resource to look back on.
Ideas on Getting Started
You can simply use a plain unlined spiral-bound notebook, although I love to print pre-designed notebooking pages as they make a lovely end result to look through. It also helps with my children’s interest level when the pages are bright and engaging.
I prefer to take paper and clipboards on our walks, and then paste into our journals when we get home. This way their journals are kept nice.
What to Record in a Nature Journal
Nature journals don’t need to be a place of facts and exact scientific names. In fact, I prefer not to go overboard with learning all the correct scientific names with my young children yet. But rather, let them creatively record their observations with sketching, pastels, diagrams, words and short sentences, poetry, and simply their thoughts if they’ve been stirred by something they’ve seen.
You like might to encourage your children to keep a simple list of things observed in the back of their journal for each season, and date each entry.
For Younger Children
My 4 year old daughter has a giant scrapbook that she uses for her nature journal. At her age, I encourage her to simply draw what she sees and hears, and I label and date it for her. If she’s not interested, I don’t pressure her to draw. If she’s interested, we might talk about what she notices, thinks and feels.
Once your child is writing more competently, they can record what they see and hear in just a couple of words, or you could also write what they tell you. Encourage them to observe for about 10 minutes first, and ask them questions about the environment they are seeing, hearing and touching. You could collect things like leaves and flowers, press them, and add into their journal.
A fun thing to include is their photos, which you can just print onto paper and glue into their journal. Let them take photos of your walks out, things they’ve grown in the garden, or of each other holding some of the treasure they’ve found.
For Older Children
Nature Journaling is something to grow in over time, and eventually you’ll find your child will be ready to record more detailed observations as their written language develops. Encourage them to research the names of flora and fauna, and to research things further that they have interest in.
Let your child experiment with using coloured pencils, soft pastels, watercolour paints, and different ways of presenting their work. If you make this a regular event in your homeschooling, in no time your child will have a beautiful journal filled with their own observations.
The natural cycles, rhythms and seasons speak and have the handprints of Creator God evident. Encourage your older children to write scriptures and record their thoughts in their journal on what they see and hear God saying to them through his creation.
For all ages, the most important thing is to encourage a love for God’s creation and be enthusiastic yourself about the experience.
We find we go through seasons where we do very little, and then find our enthusiasm again once we jump into the experience and realise how much we enjoy it. I know all the core subjects are important to get through, trust me, I know the struggle of juggling essentials and electives! But if you make nature study and journaling a priority in your homeschooling, you might find that the rest just falls into place.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series. I would welcome any thoughts you have, and further ideas for making nature study fun.