Nature Journaling Lessons

Lesson 1 - Setting up your journal/notebook

This lesson guides students as they write instructions on the first pages of their journals. These instructions can be referred to whenever students need to remember what needs to go into a journal entry: ABC, 123, picture. Set up includes: "Table of Contents," "Science Notebook Headings"

Lesson 2 - Notebook Entry #1 Skull Study

This is our first nature journaling lesson. We look at the skull of an animal and go through all the journaling elements: ABC, 123, picture. Students will "self-talk" I notice..., I wonder..., This reminds me of..." then write their observations in their journal and sketch it, finishing with a reflection of the experience.

Virtual Gallery Walk

This lesson is specifically for teachers. Once students have had an opportunity to do a few journal entries, have them send you their best and create a PowerPoint with photos of their pages. Students will have an opportunity to compare & contrast their own studies with those of their peers. Specific guidance is provided on how to give non-judgmental, constructive feedback. Students add a new journal page to their own journal called JOURNAL IDEAS and write notes while looking at student samples. Use the PowerPoint as a template for your gallery walk. Do a gallery walk after each assignment or once per month.

Lesson 3, Part 1 - My Secret Plant

Students will study six different plants, journal one of them, then have a partner try to identify the plant based on their journal entry.

Lesson 3, Part 2 - My Secret Plant

This is the reflection segment of lesson 3. In this lesson, students respond to a series of questions based on NGSS cross-cutting concepts, then learn how to combine the answers to make a coherent summary paragraph.

Lesson 4- Compare and Contrast

Tejon Ranch Conservancy’s Education Coordinator, Paula Harvey teaches students to understand the discrete meanings of compare and contrast as they study two similar objects using a Venn Diagram and John Muir Laws’ journaling techniques (ABC, 123, picture). Students further learn the proper way to use a hand lens and continue to practice writing a reflection paragraph that addresses NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts.

Lesson 5- Zoom In, Zoom Out

In this lesson, students intentionally record observations at close, medium, and long range. In the process, they will make varied observations about the subject. They will discover that observing an object at different perspectives broadens that observation. This video presents a model and instructions for the lesson. But the actual activity should be done outdoors in order for students to make the long-range observation. Students return to the video after completing the journal page, to answer reflection questions, and put them into a meaningful paragraph.

Lesson 6 Part 1- Making a Field Guide focused on Patterns

In Lesson 6, students will create four mini field guides. Each field guide will focus on one of four NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts: Patterns, Cause & Effect, Systems & System Models, and Structure & Function. In this lesson, students focus on PATTERNS and become familiar with the use and format of various field guides. As with previous lessons, the Reflection writing component includes questions and instruction on answering them in Question/Answer Form and creating a coherent scientific paragraph.

Lesson 6 Part 2- Cause and Effect

In Lesson 6, students will create four mini field guides. Each field guide will focus on one NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept. In this lesson, students focus on CAUSE AND EFFECT and learn to hypothesize about the causes of observed effects. They add to their narrative (ABC's) section by conjecturing about the causes, adding "Could it be..." statements. As with previous lessons, the REFLECTION writing component includes questions and instruction on answering them in Question/Answer Form and creating a coherent scientific paragraph.

Lesson 6 Part 3- Systems and System Models

This is Part 3 in a 4-part series in which students create four mini field guides. Each field guide focuses on one NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept. In this lesson, students focus on SYSTEMS AND SYSTEM MODELS and study the interactions of the parts within a system. Additionally, we focus on page presentation; students plan their page before beginning their study. As with previous lessons, the REFLECTION writing component includes questions and instruction on answering them in Question/Answer Form and creating a coherent scientific paragraph

Lesson 6 Part 4- Field Guide: Structures and Functions

This is Part 4 in our 4-part series in which students create four mini field guides. Each field guide focuses on one NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept. In this lesson, students focus on STRUCTURE AND FUNCTION. Students study the unique structures of their subjects, then use inference to determine the functions of those structures. Again, we focus on page planning and presentation. As with previous lessons, the REFLECTION writing component includes NGSS Cross-Cutting-Concept questions and instruction on answering them in Question/Answer Form and creating a coherent scientific paragraph.

Lesson 1-6 Benchmark: Show What you know

This is a benchmark activity designed to review and reinforces the strategies and concepts they have learned in previous lessons. Students will choose their subject, include all the basic components of journaling (ABC, 123, drawing), as well as Compare/Contrast and Zoom In/Zoom Out, and at least one NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept in their journal page. They will complete the assignment with a reflection using one of five different writing options.

Lesson 7 Part 1 - String Safari

In this lesson, students will discover a world hidden in plain sight. They will use a 5-foot loop of string to create a small study area or "Tiny World." Students will create maps, drawings, and diagrams to record their discoveries and create a chart or graph to record populations of organisms within the study area. We discuss what it means to go "Beyond Done," to continue to observe and study even further. Going "Beyond Done" is where the most interesting discoveries begin!

Lesson 7 Part 2 - Making a System Model

The area within the string can be a jumping-off point for beginning to think about ecosystem modeling. Systems thinking can help students explain their observations or make nuanced predictions about what might happen in a given area if conditions change. All system models have boundaries that define what is inside and outside the system. Practicing making a system with the string as a boundary will prepare students to apply systems thinking in other contexts.
In Part 2 of this lesson, students will convert the objects in their diagram to a system model, using words, pictures, and arrows to identify boundaries, system components, and the inputs and outputs of the system. Then they will hypothesize what would happen if conditions changed.

Lesson 8 - Animal Encounters

When you find an animal in the field, there is no way to know how long you will be able to observe it. It helps to have a plan to allow you to get the most out of what you see. This activity is a template for action: Begin by verbalizing your observations, then start using words, pictures, and numbers to record the information in your journal. In this lesson, students will follow up their journaling with online research to learn more about their subject.

Lesson 9 - Species Account

This activity focuses on developing DIRECT OBSERVATION skills. Student choose one species they can readily observe, and document as many details as they can about it. Species accounts are a common approach to cataloging organisms and building a database of information. In a species account, the observer attempts to learn as much as they can about the type of organism, using words, pictures and numbers to record details about structures, behaviors, and location in and interaction with the surrounding environment. Any plant or animal that can be observed for a sustained period of time can be used for a species account. In this exercise, students will follow-up their observation with research using the computer and/or field guides, then evaluate and cite their sources. Reflection questions and instructions on writing a scientific paragraph finish off the lesson.

Lesson 10 - Forest Karaoke: Transcribing Birdsong

As students listen to birdsong in accurate detail, they will be able to record sound in their journals. This is an experience relevant beyond listening to birdsong, as it offers an approach to describing any novel auditory phenomenon. Using these multiple modes of recording sound, data can change the way students think about and interact with sound. Sound is another variable and valuable way of learning about place.

Lesson 11 - Soundscape and Acoustic Space Maps

Students listen to the soundscape around them, then diagram and map the soundscape using symbols, different colors, and other ways to graphically represent sound.
After the soundscape and acoustic space maps are completed, students will have an opportunity to write a poem using imagery, and figurative language, especially onomatopoeia.
Finally, students will answer NGSS Cross-Cutting Concept questions and forming a cohesive, scientific paragraph.

Lesson 12 - Introduction to INQUIRY, INVESTIGATION, AND SCIENTIFIC THINKING

Intentional curiosity and tools to pursue questions are some of the building blocks of inquiry. Scientific investigation activities build students’ skills in asking varied questions and offer some approaches for dancing with the questions they ask. These practices translate directly to the journal page and will deepen the investigations students make and the understandings they come to.
We can train ourselves to be more curious and to discover more mysteries wherever we look. In this section, we offer “curiosity scaffolds for students to help them ask richer and more varied questions. We focus on asking the questions and coming up with plausible explanations, not immediately knowing the answers. Students have permission to be curious, be wrong, make mistakes and change their minds, all in the name of science.

Lesson 13 - Mysteries and Explanations

Explore nature while digging deep into curiosity. Propose and refine questions and pose possible explanations for what you see, without the need to be right!

Lesson 14: Questioning Questions

This activity takes students through a "curiosity crash course," beginning with asking questions from observations, then using a "question generator" to ask more VARIED questions. We want students to approach a subject from multiple perspectives and to evaluate the quality of their questions in order to learn more deeply.

Lesson 15 - Numbers and Quantification

Students can learn to "find the numbers" within their observations, and practice counting, measuring, timing, and estimating. Once students are exposed to basic techniques, they can continue to build their skills as they use numbers in their journals and creatively adapt their approach.

Lesson 16 - Hidden Figure

There is a matrix of mathematics behind everything we see. Students can learn to find the numbers or quantify their observations to reveal and explore unseen patterns. This activity requires five different journal entries.

Lesson 17 - Biodiversity Inventory

Students will record the diversity of species in two study areas and use graphs and diversity indices to describe and analyze the data.

Lesson 18 - Timed Observations

Students observe the behavior of a group of animals and use a sample protocol to quantify what they see.