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Starting a Nature Journal

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By Kristin Backert-Evans

Like many of you, I scrambled to locate fun, educational activities to work on with my students when distance learning began. With schools significantly reducing the amount of homework students normally received, they found themselves with tons of extra time in their schedules. As I searched through various activities, I found one that spoke to my students’ inner naturalist: a nature journal.

A nature journal is exactly what it sounds like. You can either observe an animal in your backyard or on a zoo’s livestream if you don’t happen to have tigers lurking nearby, and you watch them. Whether it’s for a matter of minutes or a half hour, you then write down what you see: how the animal behaves, what it looks like, and what its environment appears to be. After that, you create a list of questions based on your observations. For example, why does this animal have claws? Why does it have short fur even though it lives in a cold environment? The next step is to research potential answers to these questions and jot down what you discover. Depending on how artistically-inclined your children are, you can also have them draw a picture of the animal so that they can refer back to it later! 

The nature journal was a big hit with my younger kiddos, especially those in elementary school. To me, this activity was a great way to work on their attention and critical thinking skills. For many kids with executive functioning weaknesses, sustaining focus on a single task can be a challenge, as they tend to become distracted. Watching an animal, though, was something that they were legitimately interested in, and this exercise allowed them to practice the crucial skill of concentrating. Not only that, the observatory nature of the journal required them to process what they were seeing and think about its larger purpose; instead of just noting that the animal had claws or short fur, they asked themselves why this was the case.

If you’re looking for fun activities to do with your kids this summer that promote executive functioning skills, I highly recommend giving the nature journal a go!

Erica MechlinskiStarting a Nature Journal

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