Life Lab

Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.

Garden Journal

Nature Journaling

Kids create their own garden journals and use them to record observations of nature in the garden, through drawing, writing, and painting. Journaling brings literacy, art, and creativity into the outdoors and can be used as a one time activity or as an ongoing routine; it can be guided and scientific, or open-ended, or anywhere in between. 30 min, Ages 5+

Materials:

  • 8 ½” x 11” white cardstock or mixed media paper, two sheets per student (or one sheet if it’s larger paper)
  • 8 ½” x 11” mixed media or copy paper, 5 sheets per student
  • Heavy duty stapler and staples, or hole punch and yarn/string/rubber bands & sticks
  • Watercolor paints for all students, brushes, and water bowls/cups
  • Pencils, colored pencils, or markers

Part 1, Making the journals: For younger students, you may want to put together the journals ahead of time. For each journal, place a sheet of thicker paper on top and bottom with 5 pieces of copy paper inside to make a book. Staple through the front of the book near the long edge.  Kids can personalize the covers by painting with watercolors so plan a separate time, once journals are dry, for the first use of the journals. Kids can also title their journals with something like, “Kiara’s Garden Journal.”

Part 2, Using the journals: The first time students use their journals, introduce the idea of the journal as a record of happenings in the garden or your outdoor space. Before reaching the garden, set the tone for creeping into the garden quietly (in order to be able to see the most animal life); spreading out in the garden; and finding a spot to sit down to work in their journals. Let them know how much time they will have, and that you will come around with a silent “two minute” signal (holding up two fingers) when it’s time to finish up their journaling. Ask them to draw or write about three living things they can see from their spot. Ask students, What are examples of living things in the garden? (trees, other plants, insects, spiders, birds, lichen…) Set boundaries if needed, and establish an auditory signal that you will use when it’s time to gather back up. When everyone knows the plan, venture out to the garden and guide students in following through with approaching quietly, spreading out, and working in their journals. 

Next time- Ideas for future garden journaling: 

  • Draw or sketch plants, animals, flowers, insects, feathers, rocks, or other things students 
  • notice in the garden
  • Record observations, such as the temperature in different locations or at different times, or the height of your pea plants each week as they grow, or the evidence of pests munching your plants 
  • Record garden events such as what the class planted, or when the first pea appeared
  • Chronicle a plant’s life from seed to plant to seed again; or simply choose a plant that is already growing, and draw it as it changes.
  • Write an acrostic poem about the garden
  • Write a story
  • Use these prompts: I notice… I wonder… It reminds me of… 

More Journal Ideas:

Kidsgardening.org Pollinator Journal Download

John Muir Law’s Nature Journaling Guide and Nature Journaling Clubs

Make a Simple Garden Journal Video from Soil Born Farms

Garden Journaling with Kids by Life Lab Educator Jennifer

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