We have developed 31 activities that engage learners of all ages in nature journaling and outdoor learning. Some activities offer opportunities for learners to build a specific set of journaling skills, while others focus their observations on a specific part of the natural world. The activities have been designed offer structure and support to guide students’ observations and journaling, along with opportunities for student choice and autonomy. Discussion questions included in activity offer a range of ways to deepen learning and reflection.
Check out Introducing Journaling Activities and Supporting Student Engagement During Journaling Activities for strategies to successfully facilitate journaling activities. See our Teaching Support page for ideas on integrating journaling activities into longer lessons and learning experiences.
Getting Started: Introductory Journaling Techniques and Activities
Activities in this chapter will build foundational journaling skills and get students excited to keep at it. We recommend beginning with I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of. It is always the first activity we do when we take a group of students outside for the first time because it sets a tone of inquiry, curiosity, and excitement, and offers observation tools that can translate directly to the journal page. The other activities in this section are similarly accessible and approachable. They also introduce techniques students can include in future journal entries.
Observation and Natural History
Each place holds unique mysteries and little wonders. The activities in this chapter guide students to slow down and deepen their relationship with place through studying species, narrowing their focus, and focusing on patterns and processes. As students look through different lenses, from studying what falls within a circle of string to observing flowers as they bloom, they will tune in to the processes at work around them and notice biologically significant details that can deepen their understanding of how the natural world works. Ideal for teaching life science or building students’ sense of place, these activities focus on observing organisms and attuning to details of the landscape.
Inquiry, Investigation, and Scientific Thinking
Intentional curiosity and tools to pursue questions are some of the building blocks of inquiry. Scientific investigation activities build students’ skills in asking varied questions, and offer some approaches for dancing with the questions they ask. This chapter offers a deeper dive into scientific thinking. Activities offer inquiry skills and questioning scaffolds, reveal natural patterns and processes, and guide students to create visual explanations. These practices translate directly to the journal page and will deepen the investigations students make and the understandings they come to.
Words: Articulated Thought and Storytelling
Writing is a powerful way to capture our observations. It also pushes our thinking and helps us articulate our ideas. Activities in this chapter offer support for how students’ writing can appear on the page, for building visual and written communication skills, and considering how to integrate writing with pictures and other forms of communication. Writing is also a way to reflect, connect, and find the stories that emerge from our lives. This chapter also includes activities that focus on storytelling—guiding students to build narratives from nature observations, call on their life experiences, and invite themselves onto the page.
Pictures: Drawing and Visual Thinking
Numbers: Mathematical and Quantitative Thinking
Numbers reveal patterns and significant details. Students can learn to find the numbers behind their observations through participating in the activities in this chapter. Quantifying distances, numbers of species, or processes of change will add another layer of understanding and intrigue to students’ journal pages. Activities in this chapter offer structures for gathering and representing quantitative data in journaling. Some activities focus on how to find the numbers behind any observation; others offer structures for gathering quantitative data on natural processes or using numbers to construct explanations and gather evidence.