By Debbie Stringer
My only memory of kindergarten involves a disastrous trip to the zoo. While my classmates teased the chimps, I zeroed in on a dead blue jay on the sidewalk. I scooped up the bird and stuffed it down the bib of my jumper. I wanted a closer look at those brilliant feathers.
Back in the classroom, my plan fell apart when the teacher noticed the feathers poking from my dress. She shrieked as I pulled out the decaying carcass and launched a what-were-you-thinking tirade. I felt humiliated. Worse, I lost my treasured bird.
There’s a more sanitary way for kids to connect with nature, without provoking ire. A personal nature journal is a fun and educational way to record, with notes and sketches, the things kids see in the natural world around them.Not only is making a journal fun for any age and skill level, there are lessons to be learned in the process, from writing to science to art. Nature journaling engages all the senses, as well as the imagination. It helps children slow down and focus while stimulating their curiosity about nature.
Maybe most important, it gets nature-deprived kids outdoors, away from electronic diversions.
As Richard Louv writes in his best-selling book “Last Child in the Woods,” “In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.”
A personal journal can help a youngster discover this refuge. Basic journal-making supplies cost very little. All a child needs is a spiral notebook, a sketchbook or a blank journal, plus some pencils, crayons, colored pencils or markers. A cheap set of watercolors works great, too.One useful but optional accessory is a field guide to the trees, wildflowers, insects, birds, reptiles or amphibians a youngster is likely to encounter in his or her excursions.
The back yard is a fine place to begin. Kids should decide for themselves what they want to put in their journal, but they may need suggestions to get going. Here are some ideas for your little explorer:Describe the day: What is the date and time of day? What’s the weather like?Make lists: What do you see that flies or crawls? What do you see that’s yellow? Do you see something you’ve never seen before? What do you hear? See any animal tracks?
Go for the details: How many petals does a daffodil have? Examine the shapes and colors in seeds and berries. But never eat them! Draw feathers you find and try to match them to birds. How many different leaf shapes can you find?
Try creative techniques: Put a leaf (not the poison ivy!) under a page of your journal. Rub the top side of the paper with a crayon until you see the image of the leaf. Use any colors you want; leaves aren’t always green. Another idea: Use a fine-point black marker to outline the shapes of things you find; fill in with watercolors, pencils or crayons. Layer colors to see what new colors you can create.
Make notes about the animals and insects you see. What are they doing? What are they eating? Where did you find them? If you see baby birds or animals, how are their parents caring for them?
Look at the colors around you. What colors are in the sunset, fall leaves and dragonflies? What colors do you see in the winter? Which are your favorite colors?
Draw a map of your yard. Include the house, trees, paths, garden, rocks, etc. Mark the locations of cool things you find, maybe a turtle or cocoon or bird nest.
Go outside at night. Listen and look for nocturnal creatures such as owls, raccoons, geckos, moths, bugs and bats. Draw the moon phase and record the date.Write a poem or a song. Describe something of beauty and wonder, or write about the way you feel when you’re alone in nature.
Source: Debbie Stringer