Nature journaling, a powerful experiential learning journey

Joanna Chin, Women for Nature

This blog was written by Joanna Chin, who is a Women for Nature with Nature Canada, and currently a doctoral student at York University in the Environmental Studies Faculty.

Landscapes have always offered me an embodied experience to cultivate the more holistic aspects of self and I intentionally seek them. I first started a nature journaling practice in Costa Rica and I would visit the same spot for an hour day-after-day and observe things big and small in the dynamic interplay of what’s ‘out there.’ Nature journaling involves the regular recording of observations and experiences with the natural world. As time slows down, you become attuned to your surroundings and take notice of the different sounds, play of light, and shades of colour. Since returning home, I have taken up nature journaling with my family, as an activity that can be enjoyed outdoors and indoors, especially in the winter months!

© Matthew Tiegs

Here are some tips on how to nature journal with kids:

  • Nature journaling can take on many different shapes like drawing, painting, writing poetry, or recording detailed observations. There is no wrong or one right way to nature journal.
  • Anything can be a topic for drawing such as a spider in her web or even a household companion.
  • Nature journaling can be as simple as observing birds that come to your bird feeders and drawing a particular bird’s postures. What is that bird doing? What does their call note or song sound like?
  • Topics of discussion with your children can be about the relationships between the different ecologies like for example, between a bumblebee and a flower.
  • Sound mapping involves paying attention to what you hear. This activity can involve closing your eyes, and drawing and locating the different sounds with different colours on paper. What do you hear? Why do certain sounds seem louder than others?
  • Nature journaling is an activity that can be enjoyed during Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter! We especially enjoy noticing the birds during their annual migration. Which birds come back first and which ones arrive later?
  • Notice the changes that are happening as you are observing the environment. Draw the position of the clouds. Do they stay in the same spot or are they moving?

An excellent book “Keeping a nature journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you” written by Clare Walker Leslie & Charles E. Roth offers a detailed account on how to nature journal throughout the seasons.

This blog post dedicated to Leesa Fawcett who taught me about nature journaling for environmental education.


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