Make your own nature journal

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Remember learning about Aldo Leopold, the father of conservation? Aldo generated a lot of his conservation ideas just by observation. He would go outside to experience nature. But he didn’t keep all his thoughts bottled up in his head. He wrote down what he was seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and feeling. You, explorers, can do the same thing!

Albert Einstein once said: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

A nature journal is a great tool for conservationists to use out in the field. It helps us keep track of how landscapes change over time by observing plant growth, animal populations, and human activities. Not to mention, it’s a fun way to learn about plants and animals. I don’t know about you, but hands-on learning is my favorite. You can learn so much from books, but sometimes you have to go out and experience the things that books can’t teach you.

It doesn’t matter if you have five minutes or five hours. You can go anywhere outside to work on your nature journal: your own backyard, a park, a lake, a ranch, a parking lot near an empty field, even right here at the Fort Worth Zoo! Sometimes I see parents and children journaling while they are waiting for soccer or baseball practice to wrap up. If you’re breathing fresh air, there’s something out there in nature for you to write about.

How do you write your nature journal? It’s completely up to you! Here are some ideas of what you can do while you’re out enjoying an outdoor journaling session:

1. Write a story. Your characters can be animals, flowers, trees, or anything else that catches your eye out in nature.
2. Draw, paint, sketch, or color a picture. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just as it appears in nature. Be creative! Add color, add whatever your imagination can create!
3. Use a camera to take a picture. Your journal can be a book filled with photos of what you’ve seen on your nature adventures.
4. Write a poem about what you see. It can be long, short, rhyme, not rhyme. Whatever nature inspires you to write, put it down in words!
5. If you’re in an area where it’s permitted and have an adult to help, take some flowers home to press them. You can do this by placing flowers in the folds of a sheet of newspaper then placing the sheet in the middle of a large, heavy book (a dictionary or phonebook will do). Drying flowers takes about three days. After those three days are up, you have a beautiful and natural piece of art to place in your nature journal! Please remember, though, to leave enough for the next explorer to experience.
6. Just WRITE. Whatever comes to your mind, jot it down!

Here are some other suggestions of things to write down so your nature journal is thorough and can help conservation efforts:

1. Date and time of your observation
2. Location
3. How you got there
4. Weather
5. List of species seen
6. If you aren’t sure what species you’re looking at, write down specific details then use a field guide to help you identify it later.
6. Animal behavior
7. General description of surrounding vegetation

I’ve been keeping a nature journal for years. It’s so fun and interesting to go back through my old journals and see how my surroundings have changed. This fall is the perfect time to get started on your nature journal. You’ll have all sorts of stories to share with your teachers and friends at school!

Tell me about your nature journaling by e-mailing me at Sam’s inbox (safarisam@fortworthzoo.org). I’d love to hear what you decide to do with your journal! I’m so proud of you all and the hard work you’ve been putting in to conserving this beautiful world we live in. Keep up the good work, and keep exploring!

Where will YOUR nature journaling adventure take YOU?

VOCABULARY
Conservation: (noun) the careful use of a natural resource so we can enjoy it now and have enough of it to enjoy in the future.
Generate: (verb) to bring into existence
Landscape: (noun) an expanse of scenery that can be seen in a single view
Observation: (noun) the act of noticing something by watching it with your own eyes
Permit: (verb) to allow something to be done or occur
Species: (noun) a group of individuals having some common characteristics or qualities
Vegetation: (noun) plant life

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