Nature Journaling Part 1: Beginning Your Journal
Nature journaling is a fantastic way to not only relax and enjoy the outdoors, but to learn about your local habitats and ecosystems. Throughout the month of July, you can reserve a kit with some basic journaling materials through our Events Calendar (while supplies last).
Visit a natural space (park, meadow, back yard, woods) where you can observe different animals, minerals, and plants. Find a place where you can sit and comfortably observe without disturbing the wildlife. You can start big or small, sketching and recording your observations, perceptions, and data—as much or as little as you want in a session. Always be sure to record the date and time on each page or drawing of your journal.
Types of Entries
Here are a few basic types of entries to help start your journal by practicing drawing and recording data:
1. Scribble or sketch out a rough scene of where you are sitting and label interesting aspects.
It does not necessarily need to be detailed. Recording the basic shapes and colors and using written labels can be informative and help prompt your memory when you look back at your journal in the future.
2. Record the weather: write a narrative passage or bullet-points to describe what the weather looks and feels like.
3. Observe the ecosystem: write about the environment around you. Instead of using paragraphs to describe a scene, plant, or animal, you can draw it out and label it, or use bullet points to capture ideas quickly.
- What creatures and natural structures do you notice? Where are they? Count (or estimate) and record the number of different animal and plant species you see. Note where you see them, and try to be specific about their location and the scenery around them. If you do not know the name of a species, draw or describe it in words so that you can reference a guide later.
4. Sketch a specific animal you see that interests you.
- If you do a black and white sketch, label its colors. Give approximate measurements of its body if you can estimate them or take a ruler.
- Describe its behavior. How is it acting? Is it moving or making noise? You can try to capture its positions, postures, or movements through multiple sketches.
5. After you have recorded multiple entries over time, return to a spot you have journaled about before and record the same data. Do you notice any changes when you compare it to your earlier entries?
6. Not just living things: look at rocks/minerals as well! Is the soil all one color? What do the rocks look like? Observe rock structures in a large park like Mill Creek.
7. Take rubbings of fallen leaves and label them. If you are unsure of the species, many field guides are available to help.
8. Compare the different shapes of plants, fungi. Examine the structures and colors of their anatomy: leaves, stems, roots, fruits or flowers, spores, stalks and caps.
9. Visit a garden, such as Fellows Riverside Gardens, to observe and draw plants and insects that land on them.
10. Note what plants, animals, and minerals you do and don’t recognize. Sketch and describe them, and if you have a camera or phone, take pictures for identification later.
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources Species Index provides a searchable database for plants and animals you might find in Ohio.