Nature Journals

I know Emma usually takes care of things to keep the kids busy outside. The thing is I read about a program that is a great idea for them and for the grown-ups too.

Each person will need a pad of paper. I figure one of those spiral notebooks would be good. Then a pencil and box of crayons for drawing and writing.

The kids I read about were in some kind of program through a nature organization. I think it would be just as easy to start with a parent and go to a quiet place. A park or even the back yard would do fine.

Then all you need to do is sit quietly and see what you can see. The ones who are able to write their thoughts about what they see can jot down observations.

Maybe they could say what the weather is like, sunny or cold. Is the wind blowing? What time of year it is. What kind of noises do they hear? Are they sitting on the grass or a tree stump or the back steps? What colors do they see? What do they hope to see? You get the idea.

All those things do several things. They are learning to actually see what is going on around them. They will learn to spot the things that go unnoticed because they are always there. They learn to organize their thoughts and express them so that they call relive them later.

They should write the things when they think of them and not try to make a story or anything. Just make quick notes of what they see, hear, and feel. Learning to be more complete with thoughts and writing in more detail will come with time and practice. The main thing is getting used to seeing things and writing them down.

Drawings are an important part of this whole thing. Littler kids can draw all the things we were talking about. They can use a pencil or crayons. Usually they like colors so crayons might be good to start out. But everyone who does this should make drawings of at least one thing. You don't have to be a good artist to do this. A visual to go along with the words helps keep the memories fresher.

If they get in the habit of doing this a couple of times a week the kids will learn to not only appreciate the natural world around them but to be able to tell about it so others will appreciate it too. And someday they can go back and look at these journals and remember what the world around them was like way back when.

This is also a good way for the kids to learn how to sit and patiently watch an animal without having to try to catch it. Or maybe they will watch a tree blowing in the wind and see how it gently bends and the leaves flutter and flip.

They will also learn to automatically take in what is happening around them so that they can write about it later. This is something that they used to do and expect in the early days of our country. Everybody who could write kept journals. That is where we get a lot of our knowledge of history.

There are a lot of things I like about this activity. First it teaches the kids to pay attention to nature and maybe even understand it a little bit. It teaches them to write about the things they see. It teaches them to use drawings to record what they see. How do you think John James Audubon started?

It gives kids a way to share what they did that day. Sometimes they aren't sure how to put thoughts into words. And best of all it is something they can have to look at somewhere down the road. It keeps the person's personal history alive.

I highly recommend journal keeping for everybody. Complete with drawings, even if they are only stick figures. It is a solid lasting piece of the person's life.