Nature Canada

How to Nature Journal the Signs of Spring

COVID-19 has us all adapting to the directives from public health officials—we’re being asked to self-isolate and be physically distant from one another. As the spaces we frequent and ways we spend our time shift, many of us are gravitating towards explorations in nearby nature. Time in nature is known to support our sense of self, well-being, and reduce stress

For the little ones who are home from school or daycare, nature can be an innate classroom and playground, teeming with opportunity for self-directed learning, inquiry, and observation. Observing nature fosters emotional and intellectual development, creativity, math skills, problem solving skills, resiliency, science skills, and happiness.

“Journaling is the single most powerful tool to supercharge your observation, memory, and connection with nature. It is the critical foundational habit of being a naturalist and scientist.”

—John Muir, field guide author, renowned conservationist

What is Nature Journaling?

Nature journaling is an approach used to encourage observation of the natural world. It requires nothing but a notebook and pencil, and is the art of capturing observations in nature through drawing, writing, diagrams, and doodles. A nature journal can include a record of your wildlife sightings, emotions, and scientific observations. While the concept may be simple, the act of nature journaling opens our eyes to appreciate the diversity, intricacies, and oddities of the world around us (here are a few beautiful examples).

As we tiptoe into spring, nature journaling is a fun way to watch life rebound from the slumber of winter. 

Here are a few nature journaling challenges for you and any young people in your household:

1) Take a walk in your neighbourhood, notebook and pencil in hand (while being sure to stay at least two metres from others). Look closely to the earth, and up to the top of trees. Write, draw, or otherwise record your sightings. Note the date each time you go for a walk and notice new signs of spring—looking up, down, close, and far. Tap into your senses: what do you hear (are the birds singing?), what do you see (are the trees budding?), what do you feel (is the wind warm?).

Add notes about what you’re experiencing in the moment, what new colours you notice, what textures you observe, what behaviours you see in wildlife, and what curious questions you have about nature.

2) Take evening strolls with your household. Create a moon and sky journal, sketching the phases of the moon and noting other observations in the sky. Connect with your senses: how does the evening sound, feel, and smell differently than the day?

3) Create a sound map to journal the auditory movement around you. Find a quiet spot to sit or stand. Close your eyes and start to notice the sounds—you may hear birds, insects, leaves rustling, a car, water. Open your eyes, look at your journal, and try to identify where the sounds are coming from on the map. You’re the dot, and the circle is the space around you. 

4) You can also create a nature journal at home. Look out your window. What do you notice? How is your perspective different? Do you observe things you might not have seen if you were standing on the sidewalk? From your window, you may be ideally located to watch the neighbourhood trees turn green in the spring!

Finally, you can take your journal home after a stroll and add colours, look up answers to the questions you may have asked during your walk, and add observations to a citizen science app like iNaturalist.

Check out the Beetles Project for more nature journaling activities and John Muir Laws for a free downloadable nature journaling curriculum. We want to see how your nature journaling turns out! Show us your nature journals by sending us a note on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

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Canada’s wilderness is the world’s envy. It’s our duty to keep our true north strong and green.