New to Nature Journaling

I recently learned about nature journaling as a tool to connect kids with the natural world. It wasn’t long before I decided that it would probably benefit me, too. I often feel overwhelmed with all that I want to learn, and nature journaling seemed like a fun, creative approach to focus my attention and learn in meaningful and productive ways.

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws offers a great introduction to materials, techniques, and WHY we should do it. There is no shortage of inspiration either. He writes:

“I feel understanding, care, and compassion when I journal and turn deep attention to nature. Love of the natural world is the spring that waters commitment to stewardship: protecting and being responsible for something- in this case, wildness and biodiversity everywhere. As journaling pulls you deep into connection with the world, this connection may lead you to action. Look for ways to make a difference where you live. Find and join a community of stewards or be the catalyst for work to start on a cause you feel strongly about. Nature will restore you as you restore nature.” (pg. 3)

I finally started my own nature journal a couple of weeks ago. In a way, the practice (and the motivation behind it, for me at least) feels like an extension of #leaveonlypoetry. I am enjoying it, but it’s more challenging than I expected! Here are some lessons I have learned so far:

  • Start with plants or other inanimate objects (rocks, landscapes, fungi, etc.). They are less likely to walk/fly/slither away as you squint at them, agonizing over colors and shapes.
  • More specifically, practice on house plants. The very first page in my nature journal is a spider plant leaf. (Riveting, I know.) You have all the supplies you need at home to learn which colors and other materials you use most often. This way you can figure out which supplies you will pack up and eventually take into the field.
  • Speaking of materials, all I use at this point is: a collection of old colored pencils, a regular No. 2 pencil, a kneaded eraser, a white vinyl eraser, two archival quality fine line markers (05 & 005), and a journal with blank pages that I bought for $5 at the craft store.
  • Whenever you start or feel stuck, it helps to respond to John Muir Laws’ three main prompts: What do you notice? What do you wonder? What does it remind you of?
  • Use words and pictures to complement and enhance each other. I am much more comfortable using words; but, I think drawing alongside the words makes my writing better. Hopefully, one day my drawing will get better, too!
  • Don’t let your fears about not being ‘artistic enough’ hinder your progress. My first few pages look awful, but I connected more deeply with the source of my inspiration and learned new things in the process.
  • DON’T compare the pages in your journal to other people’s pages. This is a dangerous game. Your journal should not look like theirs- it should look like yours!

Want to give it a try? Here are some helpful resources:

  • The Facebook group, The Nature Journal Club. It both intimidates and inspires me. You have to request to join, but it’s a public group.
  • John Muir Law’s advice on how to get started
  • How to Keep a Nature Journal
  • Sign up here with your email to get a free ebook, Make a Date with Nature: An Introduction to Nature Journaling. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but it was recommended to me by a fellow educator.
  • How to Start a Nature Journal Today

Happy nature journaling…Let me know how you like it!

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