What is a nature journal?
The natural world has so many beautiful and fascinating things to offer if we choose to pay attention.
A nature journal is a place to record your observations, questions, thoughts, and feelings about everything you experience outdoors.
Your journal can be mostly drawing what you see, mostly writing, or an even blend of both. You can add photos you take, paint with watercolors, poems that you like and ones you write, inspirational quotes and objects you found. It can be more scientific, trying to identify species, solving mysteries and noting connections, patterns, and nuance in what is seen. Or it can be more artistic, trying to capture the beauty and feel of what you experience and engaging with the subtler connections between yourself and the world around you. Let it be what you want it to be and just think of how you want to express what you notice, learn, and feel in the wilderness.
The goal is not for it to look or sound beautiful but simply to record what you experience as accurately as possible. You don’t have to be a talented artist or a skilled scientist. Your journal doesn’t have to look perfect and you don’t have to worry about how good others might think it is. If you have an idea for your journal– try it out! If it doesn’t come out how you want it, keep at it and you’ll get better!
What do I need?
To start, you only really need a pen, a notebook, and a desire to explore but try to take some colored pencils with you too! Later, your journal can become more of a portfolio, a scientific field journal, a blog, a video series, or anything you want it to be!
How do I start?
Get outdoors and explore nature! First, choose a place that seems beautiful or interesting to you.
It might be your own back yard, a park down the street, the local nature preserve, a hiking trail, or a State or National Park. Search online for local wilderness areas if you’re not sure where to go!
Bring your journal and utensils with you when you go out and follow what interests you. Look for things you’ve never seen before. If you don’t know what you’re seeing, try to draw it and write down important details and then look it up in a field guide. Look for rocks, plants, insects, and feathers close to the ground, look for creatures in water and up the trees, look at the trees themselves, or watch for birds in the air above you. Ask yourself questions about what you see and hear and feel. What does this animal eat? How does that plant grow? What made this footprint? How did those mountains form?
Try picking one place you enjoy, just sit quietly there, and see what you notice, see what animals start to come out. Drawing, writing, and taking pictures of what you see will help you to concentrate and that will help you to notice new things. The more you explore, pay attention, and learn to observe, the more amazing things you will see outdoors and the more stories you will have to tell!