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How to Make a Nature Notebook For Science

Updated on February 13, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

What Is A Nature Notebook?

A Nature Notebook is a method that Charlotte Mason used in the 1800s to help children learn about science and nature, and the world around them by drawing and observing nature. A nature notebook is still a great way to learn about the world.

A Nature Notebook is merely a notebook in which a child records his observations of nature on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or even monthly) by sketching what he sees and writing a bit of information about each entry according to his grade level and personal ability. He might, for instance, write that he saw a cardinal on November 12. He might then describe where the cardinal was and what it was doing and sketch the bird with colored pencils. And older child might add the Latin name, and a bit about the bird such as it's habitat, what it eats, and migratory habits. He may also add a poem or a quote about the bird to finish out the entry.

Image (c)Marye Audet 2007
Image (c)Marye Audet 2007

Do s and Don't s of the Nature Notebook

By doing all of that a child interacts intimately with nature and creates a textbook that is entirely his own. Because he has the freedom to make his own observations about nature he processes the information more deeply, with more compassion and understanding.

The nature notebook is not the place to correct grammar or spelling, nor should it become a battle of wills with the parent (or teacher) trying to force the child to use the notebook. It is imperative that the notebook be purely the child's own in every way. To that end with reluctant writers the parent should be ready to allow the child to narrate the information while the parent writes it down.

The notebook should not be compared form child to child. Some children will have beautiful and sophisticated artwork and illustrations while others draw black and white stick figures. Some children will find a voice and write literal tomes and others will struggle with the common name of the item. No matter. Each notebook should be only the individuals, not compared to another in any way but considered and complimented on it's own merits.

But I Don't Live By Any Woods

A nature notebook study can be carried out anywhere. Just go outside to the back yard and find something interesting. Maybe it will be ants carrying crumbs back to an anthill, or a particularly vibrant autumn leaf . Perhaps you will find an interesting beetle or a wild flower you have not seen before. Nature is all around us!

Drawings of clouds can lead to an excellent study on weather. Catching snowflakes on black paper can show the myriad of shapes in the crystals and lead to a study on Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley who did a fabulous job of documenting the different snowflakes on film. Use the child's interest as a jumping off spot to a deeper study.

It is important that the parent get involved with the process as well. Keep your own notebook. As children see you sketching, writing and observing they will begin to find joy and importance in doing those same things themselves!

Use Modern Media

In this day an age you have many things at your disposal that can help in your nature notebook. Digital cameras can instantly capture a macro of the smallest insect. You can set up a blog on the Internet and use that as the medium for your words and images.

You can instantly find poems, quotes, and information and use that to make your notebook interesting. You can use scrap-booking techniques to make it more artistic. Anything you can imagine with the nature notebook you can do!

And there is no age limit. Young children can be involved as long as someone is willing to write down their thoughts as they dictate!

Invite Nature to Your Yard

You can create a yard that welcomes nature and creates even more opportunity for study. By hanging a few bird-feeders with different types of seeds you can guarantee a plethora of birds year round for studying and sketching. Plant hedges for habitat and research the different kinds of flowers that birds, butterflies and bees really like. Think about a small pond, or a birdbath to supply water for the various creatures that find their way to your yard. Bat houses, butterfly homes, and toad houses can encourage these animals even more.

Set aside a small corner of the yard to allow it to become "wild". Don't mow it, trim it, or spray it in anyway, but allow it to return to it's natural state. Chart the progress with a series of drawings. After a time see what types of things have moved in and made it a habitat.

Items You May Want to Have on Hand

While a nature notebook is somewhat basic there are a few things you can have on hand to enrich the experience.

1. Of course, a notebook of some sort. Blank pages are nice...A spiral bound notebook lays flatter and is easier to deal with.

2. Colored pencils. Much easier to get the intensity you may be looking for in a small space. Get good ones like prisma- color.

3. Glue stick- in case there is a picture you want to glue to the notebook page

4. Fancy edged scissors for making pretty cutouts

5. Colored papers

6. Digital Camera

7.Reference Guides, like Field Guide to Wildflowers etc.

8. Ziploc bags for transporting leaves and flowers

9 Mason jar for transporting bugs and small things for closer study. Always return them to where you found them.

10. Baby wipes to wipe muddy or dirty hands.

You can add so much to this. Binoculars, magnifying glass, the list could go on for ever. The point is to enjoy what you are doing and allow your child to learn to enjoy nature as well.


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    • MomCrafting4Fun profile image


      8 years ago from Sunny Califronia

      I have read about nature notebooks and it always seemed like so much work.

      After reading your hub I am now excited to incorporate nature notebooks into our home school. Thanks for the easy explanation and the great ideas.

    • pateluday profile image

      Uday Patel 

      10 years ago from Jabalpur, MP, India

      good ideas

    • MrMarmalade profile image


      10 years ago from Sydney

      This has tremendous learning capacity I like it


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