Keeping a Nature Journal, Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth (Storey Books, 2000).
I picked up this book when it was first published in 2000, as a complement to a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. Charlotte Mason encourages keeping a nature journal as a discipline to increase observational skills, teach drawing skills and learn about nature. A second edition came out in 2003 with more art to inspire you.
I thought I couldn’t keep a nature journal because I couldn’t draw. But the more often you do something the better you become at it. Practice, practice, practice. Just as the best way to become a better writer is to write every day. The best way to become better at drawing is the draw every day. This book gives you a reason to draw. It also gives you a reason to write and a reason to learn and to think.
“Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions and feelings about the natural world around you.” (p 5) Although when I think of nature journaling I think of drawing, nature journaling includes written prose, poetry, painting, photographs, tape recording, and even musical notation. It is not limited to drawing.
Nature journaling goes back to pictographs on cave walls — the most ancient art that we know of. Throughout history nature journaling has been recorded in diaries, log books, and even on blogs. “Park rangers use nature journals as a teaching tool to help children focus on their observations in nature in writing, drawing, and studying science. Biologists in the rain forest who cannot collect endangered specimens instead make careful drawings to serve as evidence of plants they find. Senior citizens who cannot get outdoors keep in touch with the outside world by recording the monthly changes observed through their windows in journals…Journaling sharpens your enjoyment of experiences as they happen, and creates a ‘memory record’ that you can return to in the future for reflection and reconnection with the satisfying moments of your life.” (p. 9-10)
Skills and Knowledge Fostered by Nature Journaling:
- Scientific and aesthetic observation
- Creative and technical writing
- Layout and presentation of ideas and observations
- Perception and analysis
- Questioning, inventiveness, synthesis
- Reflection, silence
- Meditation, focus, personal healing
- Greater appreciation of nature and place
- Shared family experiences
- Finding your own voice, learning to open yourself to new experiences
- Self-confidence and the ability to express yourself (p. 13)
Within the book you will find sections devoted to enhancing each of these skills through nature journaling, with exercises to help you on your journey. Part 1 is a general overview of nature journaling, with tips to get you started well. Part 2 takes you through the four seasons and is beautifully illustrated with examples to keep you interested and enjoying the process.
The book doesn’t limit you to one kind of journaling. There are suggestions for recording observations in a scientific journal/log book, travel journaling, meditation and healing journals, and memory books. Journaling becomes a place to record your thoughts and impressions whether indoors or outside.
There are plenty of tips on drawing and writing to help you improve your skills and find your own voice.
Part 3 in the book gives you tips on teaching nature journaling to others — both adults and children. You are never too old to begin to explore this discipline.
I bought this book over 10 years ago for homeschooling. It took a long time before I even looked at it because the cover is filled with an open sketch book, and I thought I couldn’t draw. What a treasure I missed by relegating it to the art section of our homeschooling library. This book is about drawing and writing, yes. Its also about living a richer, more fulfilling life and thinking more deeply about the world around you, both outside in the natural environment and indoors with the people you encounter.
If you have committed to begin a program of home schooling for yourself — this book is rich in encouragement to help you along in the process. People learn better as they interact with learning through the three learning modes: auditory (hearing), visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (hands on and physical). The tool of nature journaling allows you to integrate all three learning styles to sharpen your ability to learn and integrate your learning into your lifestyle.
Grab a blank sketchbook or unlined journal, a pen, a box of coloured pencils and this book to get you started on your own, personal program of home schooling. Don’t relegate it to the art book shelf, as I did. This book was made to be used. It contains promises for a richer, more enjoyable life.
Other resources to help you on your journey:
Have you kept a nature journal? What benefits do you find from the discipline? What hindrances kept you from fully enjoying and benefiting from the practice? Leave a comment.
Disclaimer: I did not receive a review copy of this book from the publisher.