Observations of weather, seasonal changes, animal behavior, animal tracks, birds at the feeder, the shapes of leaves or twigs, insects on the windowsill, flowers, grasses, mosses, bark, even soil. Be sure to include the date and time, and if you don’t know the name of an animal or plant, try looking it up in a field guide when you get home.
Drawings of landscapes, wildlife, items collected on a walk, your children or other people, plants, insects, mushrooms. These can be simple pencil or pen sketches, or full-color drawings or watercolors. Don’t worry about your artistic skill—no one else has to see your work; the point is to have fun and sharpen your observation skills.
Poetry or Essays about the things you observe in nature, the memories your outdoor experiences evoke, and reflections on how these details fit into the bigger picture of your life and the world. As with drawing, the finished product is less important than your experience of fashioning words from the natural world.
Tools for Nature Watching:
Magnifier of 5X or 8X
Trail Guides and Maps
Good Hiking Shoes
Water to Drink
Neutral colored, cotton clothing
Snack of Trail Mix
Plastic Freezer Bags (For collecting treasures)
Nature Journal Supplies:
A good sketch pad, journal, or notebook
Mechanical pencils (They keep a sharp point)
Soft, cushy finger grips for pencils
Black ink pen - ball point or felt tip
Prismacolor Pencils if you wish to color your sketches
Things to Include in Journal Entries:
Time (Be specific)
Weather (You can include temperature, wind, humidity, and sky conditions)
Habitat or Location
Draw and label details of your specimen
Compare sizes (Size of thumbnail, thumb, finger, palm, etc.)
List Textures or patterns (fuzzy, thorns, freckles, spots, smooth, etc)
How are the leaves and veins on the leaves arranged?
A simple sketch will do. You may wish to try and trace items like leaves.
Might wish to press leaves and flowers and tape into journal and cover with clear contact paper.
Make note on what's going on: What is the animal doing or what period of growth is the plant.
Make note of landmarks of your adventures. Wild animals make note of landmarks and often keep coming back to their same spots. If you mention that it is on the blackberry trail near the old fallen Oak, you can later retrace your steps.
Make note of items like owl pellets, ants, dropped feathers, cocoons, or insect wings on your nature adventure. All of them have a story to tell.
What to Look For:
Stripes, spots, or streaks
Bands or rings around the tail
Mask or dark band across the face or around the eyes
Bars or bands across the tail
Narrow bar of white across the wing (wingbars)
Eye-ring or ring around the eye
Eyebrow or streak of contrasting color above the eye
Bib or dark area under the throat
Neck bands, rings, or a broken band
Spots, either large or freckles
Crest or long head feathers
Make note of the sound the bird makes.
On Butterflies, Moths, Beetles, and Other Insects:
Shape or length of antennae
Wing patterns of either borders, bands, or stripes
Camouflage patterns or colors
Eye spots or false eyes - large round spots that may serve to frighten away enemies.
The height of the plant - ground or knee high?
Number of petals of a flower
Shape of flower - trumpet or separate petals?
Colors and patterns - stripes, spots, or dots?
Center of flowers - different colors and shape?
Sepals (green petals) - shorter or longer than the petals?
Leaves of flowers - rosette design at base of stem or along the stem in arrangements of either opposite or alternative?
What is the size of the leaf - thumb or thumbnail?
Edges of leaves - smooth, wavy, or toothed?
What is the leaf texture - waxy, leathery, thick, fuzzy, smooth, or rough?
On trees, notice the same leaf observations.
Shape, size, and texture of tree.
Notice the fruits and nuts of trees.
Bark of trees - smooth, flaky, stringy, rough, etc.
Seasonal Nature Sites:
Now is the time to go and enjoy bird watching. The males have on their colorful coats and are singing to attract the females. Nests are also being built.
Frogs are beginning the choruses. Find a pond and watch the frog cycle in process.
Plant some seeds. Draw what the different plant seeds look like.
Investigate some spring flowers. How soon did the first flower pop its head out of the snow and what was it?
Go on a hike and enjoy the first bursts of life coming out everywhere.
Insects are starting to get noisy. Listen! What insects are you hearing? Make some notes of what they sound like and study how they make their noises.
Explore some wetlands. Dragonflies, turtles, and wetland wildflowers are sure to be admired.
Those beach trips offer investigations into shells and sea birds.
Grow a garden and note the changes you find there from week to week.
Plant a butterfly garden and enjoy watching and drawing all the different types and their behavior.
What an excellent time to do leaf studies of trees. Enjoy their color, their fragrance, and all the different types.
Harvest time provides a look into different fruits and vegetables.
Note the flowers that bloom only during this time of the year.
Certain farms open up for tours during this season. Take advantage of them if you don't live on a farm and draw the different farm animals you find. Ask some questions and make note of what the animals were doing.
Pumpkins are always fun to measure, check if they float, cut apart, estimate seeds, and then count them.
How many different types of apples can you find?
Learn some about animal tracks and go tracking. The snow makes an excellent blanket for tracks to show up clearly.
Keep your bird feeder filled and watch which birds come visiting each day.
Mark small holes in the snow. A burrowing animal lives there. Check the site out come spring.
Search out some snowfleas. These are not actually fleas, but they are very tiny insects that can be found abundantly on the surface of the snow around trees.
Note the shape and size of snowflakes on your mittens. Draw a few and dry to make copies of them as an art project.
This is a great time to really make some detailed notes of different tree barks.
Evergreens can provide some interesting plant studies.
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