Nature Journaling

Outdoors on a walk you may spot a beautiful Fall leaf, or see the way that ice is forming on rocks in a river. These glimpses of nature can stay with you. However, if you choose to look more closely, in each offering from a tree or a river, a bird or a glacier there is a way of observing that allows you to reach a deeper understanding of what you see. Nature journaling is a method to take time and focus your awareness on a natural object so that you come away with a more complete understanding of where, when, why and how that leaf is red or that river turns to ice. Through Nature Journaling students learn the scientific process by doing, instead of by memorization.

Below you will find a set of lesson plans that build on the work of many nature journal experts. These were crafted by learning with two 5th grade classes, one in Seward, Alaska and one in Tallahassee, Florida what worked best for them in a sequencing of steps along the way.

There are three videos interspersed to help you see the process in action. These were created to detail some of the lessons and the basics of Nature Journaling. The videos were all filmed in Kenai Fjords National Park.

The videos and the document called Nature Journaling: Tips and Tricks [1.55 MB] will be the most helpful to a new nature journal student or teacher. The Tips and Tricks document may be useful to have in your journal to remind you of ways to help your mind make connections.

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5 minutes, 55 seconds

In this introduction to the basic building blocks of nature journaling, join Ranger Jamie and Kenai Fjords National Park in learning about the INIWIRMOs!

Grey stone

Start with Sticks (or stones)!

Using sticks, or stones, students will begin their nature journal. They will practice the basics detailing observations and making a diagram. Consider using just a pencil when you first begin journaling, so students don’t worry about creating a beautiful picture. The emphasis is on the observation.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Start with Sticks lesson plan [631 KB]

Bright red lobed leaf

My Secret Leaf

Students will use their observation and communication skills to identify the leaf that matches another student's journal entry.

Duration: 1 hour

Download My Secret Leaf lesson plan [703 KB]

Mountain Hemlock trees grow stunted along the windblown Kenai Fjords coastline

Seeing the Forest, and the Tree

Students will use their nature journal techniques to observe and wonder about a tree and its surrounding plant community.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Seeing the Forest, and the Tree lesson plan [249 KB]

Bean and Pea Seedling with growth in a brown pot

Peas and Beans Timelapse

By watching a growing seedling and journaling about it, students will learn to observe nature over time and watch for change.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Peas and Beans Timelapse lesson plan [239 KB]

Brown feather and grey and black striped feather held up next to each other


Students will use nature journaling techniques to notice details about, compare, and contrast two like items.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Comparison lesson plan [1.15 MB]

colored pencil drawing of the outside of a kiwi and a cross section of a kiwi

Refrigerator Reconnaissance

Students will journal about household fruits and vegetables, noticing and dissecting details.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Refrigerator Reconnaissance lesson plan [602 KB]

Small brown bird perched on a branch

Sound Map

Students will listen to sounds, helping them be more aware of all that is going on around them. They’ll learn to classify sounds based on their source.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Sound Map lesson plan [605 KB]

Marmot look up out of vegetation

Observing Animals

Trying to draw an animal while it is moving can be tricky. In this lesson students will learn to do quick sketches that they can use to get to know an animal’s movements and habits.

Duration: Field trip in nature or to zoo or aquarium or view the Katmai webcams.

Download Observing Animals lesson plan [224 KB]

Blue grey rock covered in patches of dark green moss and blue white lichen

Exploring the Micro World

Students will learn to observe "micro" environments and focus on how much they can notice in a small area.

Duration: 1 hour

Download Exploring the Micro World lesson plan [682 KB]


Last updated: September 30, 2021

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