Documenting Natural Phenomena

By Michael Kauffmann from the CNPS Blog

Kids need nature, and we as parents, educators, and caring adults, need to provide access to it for them. It’s a simple statement, but one that has become harder and harder to achieve in the world of standardized tests, electronics, and organized sports.

To help kids get out and enjoy nature more often, CNPS worked with nature educator John (Jack) Muir Laws a few years ago to publish his nature journaling curriculum. The book guides kids through a combination of art, writing, and science-based activities.

For years, Jack has been developing his curriculum to engage students of all ages in sharpening their observational powers through sketching in the field. He has found that this combination of visual and kinesthetic learning reaches even students who had given up on their artistic abilities long ago.
More recently, the Language Arts component completed the experience. Jack began to work with Emily Breunig, an English and writing instructor, to incorporate exercises such as writing haikus, creating narrative stories, and formulating hypotheses to complement the outdoor observational activities.

This interdisciplinary combination of art, science, writing, and observation exemplifies the California Native Plant Society’s goals in creating educational programs: to engage students of all ages in the incredible natural world of California, to inspire them to keen observations of the wild places in their own backyards, and to foster a desire to protect these unique habitats.

Opening the World Through Nature Journaling has been available for seven years and in that time has guided children and adults throughout California in connecting with their natural surroundings. In classrooms, parks, and vacant lots around the state, more and more people are taking up their sketchbooks and letting nature journaling guide their appreciation of the outdoors. As Beverly Black, a fourth grade teacher in the San Francisco East Bay Area, reports, “Since I’ve been sharing nature observation through journaling with my students, I’ve noticed that they are much more in tune with their surroundings. They’re seeing more, asking more questions, and I think appreciating the natural world more. Nature journaling has been rewarding to me personally, and I hope that I can encourage my students to make it a lifelong passion as well.”

May these activities bring the same passion to you and the children you love! Bring it along on your summer adventures.

Download this FREE curriculum