If you missed my first post on nature study check out Nature Study Part 1.
Part of the nature study process we are doing is nature journaling. This is not a required thing for my children, but just an optional opportunity. I thought I would share with you what I have learned so far about it.
What is a nature journal? It is anything you want it to be. I love this quote from the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock:
“Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the
one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to
draw if it pleases him to do so.”
“From making crude and often meaningless pencil strokes, which is the
entertainment of the young child, to the outlining of a leaf or some other
simple and interesting natural object, is a normal step full of interest for
the child because it is still self-expression.”
Did you read that? Everyone has the right to draw and record what they see, not just those who are ‘good at art’. The scribbles my 2 year old makes are just as valid, important, and valuable as those of Monet, Rembrandt, and Picasso. I would say they are worth more than the works of an artist because they represent my child’s personal experiences and thoughts. With that in mind, we purchased a ‘nature journal’ for mommy and each child old enough to want to draw. In our house that means even the 2 year old Daniel got his very own book. The 1 year old Oliver, however, did not. He is content to draw on himself as much as on paper, and has no interest yet in drawing what he sees. What will we draw in? Knowing we wanted something with heavy weight paper for the times the children choose to paint, we made a family trip to Hobby Lobby last Saturday with 40% off coupons in hand. Each child chose a spiral-bound, hardback sketch book in the size of their choice. Joseph and Daniel chose small books, about 5.5” x 8.5”. The girls and mommy chose large books approximately 8.5” x 11”. With 40% off coupons the big books were only $5.13, with the smaller ones being even less.
What goes in your nature journal? We are starting with a simple premise from Barb at Handbook of Nature Study, that each page has 3 elements:
- A drawing – This can be a simple sketch, a leaf rubbing, a pressed flower, a photograph. Something that represents what you explored in nature that day. If doing a rubbing, we will use copy paper and then cut the item out and glue into our nature journal.
- A date – Obvious in hindsight, having a date will be priceless down the road.
- A label – Just what is your drawing? For younger children this is very important so you can decipher their artistic rendering. I write the label for my littler ones and put down what they tell me to. It is their words, not mine. Older children and adults may want to record the common or scientific name of the drawing subject.
You can add more than this, including some journaling about what you saw, did, smelled, or felt. You could add facts you learned later about the subject in your drawing too, but those three basics from Barb are a wonderful place to start. Here is a page Makayla did yesterday after seeing 6 groundhogs in a field on the way home from church. She drew our blue van in the picture too, funny since we were riding in it down the road. Her journaling in the left corner reads “ September 5th, 2010: Today we saw six groundhogs. At first I thought that they were squirrels. They look cute! We saw them at the field near church.”
What will we draw with? The short answer is anything we want to! We already have crayons, pencil, pen, markers, tempera paint, oil pastels, and chalk at home in our art supplies. However, we decided to purchase one new art material with our 40% off discount. We bought a small set of watercolor pencils. Watercolor pencils work just like colored pencils, easy to draw with and portable. However, the real magic happens when you take a paintbrush and plain water to paint over your drawing. Then you are able to blend the colors you have used and create a painting. The colors become more vibrant and the kids really like it! We chose a 24 count set of Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils, and they are kept up out of reach and must be asked for, whereas most of our art supplies the children can use at any time. Paying so much for them means I want to be aware when they are in use. We also already have a small set of watercolor crayons that Daniel enjoys. You can get better details with the pencils however.
That first day each person created a cover page in their journal using our watercolor pencils and crayons. It was a fun introduction to the watercolors for the kids! They were very enthusiastic and the very next day decided they needed to add to their nature journals again. The top left is Makayla’s which you saw above. The top right is Daniel’s, and when I asked he told me it was “roads”. Uh huh. Bottom left is Joseph’s, an ocean wave and a crab. Considering he has never even been to the ocean, I was surprised at his choice, but hey – he wanted to draw! That in itself is a major accomplishment for my son. The bottom right is Emma’s. Here is a closer look: She drew a groundhog (bottom left), with a bird flying overhead, and a tree. I’m not sure what the other things are, as she didn’t tell me when we labeled her picture.
Will we take nature journals outside with us? Maybe. Honestly, the only child who would be interested in that is Makayla and she’s old enough to do so and not leave her journal sitting in a puddle somewhere. We also have a picnic table and some chairs in the yard. I see our nature journaling as an ‘after the fact’ activity really. I want to encourage my children to look closely at the things they are interested in while we are out there. One thing I am trying to do is bring my camera out to take pictures of things for the kids if they want a photo to check when drawing later. I can pull it up on my computer. I’ll also encourage them to bring in things to draw such as a flower, leaf, rock, stick, or pine cone. Not the bugs though. Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to bring those in the house.
What about you? What questions or thoughts do you have about nature journals? Do you have a nature journal? I love hearing from you all in the comments!