Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Nature Journals for Children

During this time of stay-at-home school, I urge parents to have their children make nature journals.  I like to make small journals from construction paper and white copy paper.  For grades 4-6, make the half-sheet journal as below. For younger children, have them use the full sheets of copy paper and just staple the construction paper to the front and back.  Here is how to do the half sheet journal:

1. Fold construction paper end to end, lining up edges.
2. Take 3-4 sheets of copy paper and line up perfectly. Fold end to end again.
3. Place in construction paper, making sure border is even on top and bottom.
4. Staple 3 times along left side.
5. Using a ruler, fold the front cover back. You will have 6 or 8 journal pages.

As you can see from the photo, I like to put a sticker on the front, chosen from the many stickers I get from environmental organizations. Or I might glue a nice nature photo on the front.  I also put the year so I don't have to put the year on every journal page.

The information you should include on each journal page is:
  1.  Date
  2.  Weather including description such as rainy, sunny partly cloudy, etc.
  3.  Temperature
  4.  Time
  5.  Location
Here is an example of one of my journal pages from years ago. I don't have the location since it is assumed it is in my backyard:

I added a little colored pencil to a sketch of the spider I saw. I usually annotate the drawing with notes on distinguishing marks to help identification.

Here's another:

This one was done in 2007. A couple of weeks later, I observed another bug, maybe the same one, on a sunflower leaf:

At the time, I did not know what the bug was but now most of us know it as the invasive, alien, and destructive stink bug.  Most articles I have read say the stink bug first appeared in Virginia in 2009 but I sketched this bug in 2007.  This highlights one use of nature journals in citizen science. Since the page is properly dated and includes a detailed drawing, it can be considered to be scientific evidence.

So, citizen science is one good reason to keep a nature journal.  Other reasons include:
  •  help you to remember identifications 
  •  know when to look for flowers or birds the next year by referring to your journal.
  •  use as resource for writing or art projects.
  •  helps you to express your feelings about nature. 
Hope you find this helpful and let me know if you have questions by emailing me at


The American Museum of Natural History has instruction on field journal activities here:

Also, the Smithsonian has lesson plans on journals:

This blog post has some good information on nature journals: