Summer Nature Journal Ideas For Kids!
Science, Nature, Art
Greetings everyone! Summer is in full swing and we have had a lot of fun getting a nature journal together for Captain. “But aren’t kids supposed to be on summer vacation?” you might ask. Of course! But, keeping up with handwriting, creative thought, science, some math (but don’t feel you have to mention that!), language arts, sketching, poetry, leaf-rubbings, collecting soil and other samples, and learning about a favorite naturalist is fun!
A summer nature journal is a great idea for any kid, but because Captain home schools, she doesn’t spend much of her year sitting in a classroom. Learning, and adventure, doesn’t stop in June. This journal, even unfinished as it is, is going to be a terrific keepsake of summer childhood and an excellent addition to her portfolio of home school projects. I’d like to share some of our ideas here. Thanks for reading!
The first thing you will need is a notebook dedicated to the natural world. I looked at a few nice pre-packaged journals online, but decided to make one for Captain that addressed her level of science and interest. Any notebook will do, but we absolutely LOVE the Smash Eco journal that has lots of wonderful pages with scrapbooking pages of trees, birds, clouds etc. We simply print and glue prompts and pages into it. If you like the Smash Eco book, I included a link at the bottom of the post. It sells for about 9 bucks because it is kind of fancy. Again, a simple blank-page notebook will work nicely too!
I needed something that Captain could collect little nature samples into and came across a bunch of old lanyards with I.D. holders and they work GREAT! As she works in the journal, she can collect her samples and keep them neatly hanging around her neck. So far she has filled her little pouches with madrone bark, butterfly chrysalis, a dried beetle, some dried pond weed and some dried pine sap. Cool!
1. Have some blank pages for taking leaf prints. I have a couple of colors of standard ink stamp pads on hand. This is an ongoing activity. Basically, whenever she comes across a cool leaf, she rubs the veiny back onto the pad and presses it on. Include name of leaf and date.
2. Collect 10 samples throughout the summer and identify them on a list of the “Top 10″. Small ziplock sandwich bags work as sample collectors as well.
3. SKETCH, SKETCH, SKETCH! I included 7 pages that the little naturalist can use to sit outside and observe nature. I typed up a little sheet (and printed 7 of them) that asks the questions: What do you see? What do you smell? Are there any clouds? If so what shapes are they? Are there any birds? What color is the sky? What else do you see, or feel, around you? Include space for sketching. Encourage kids (with your help) to include the date, and often, the time of day on their sketch pages. This is good practice for scientific protocol!
4. Fold and cut a few pieces of waxed paper to slip in the back for pressing plants and flowers.
5. I made up a little booklet to learn about honey bees. Here is the link to the document if you would like to print one for your child’s journal: http://www.filedropper.com/honeybees
6. Learn more about a particular naturalist! I gave her a prompt on one of her journal pages to choose someone interesting to study about. The choices included John James Audubon, Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, John Muir and Edward Wilson. She chose Edward Wilson because he probably knows more about ants than anyone in the world. We looked him up online and read about his life and work and printed a small picture of him to include. She wrote a few facts down and enjoyed it.
8. I took the opportunity to include two poems for Captain to memorize and recite (for the first time!) and it was highly successful! The first poem, called “Trees” by Harry Behn is a summer poem and she has been reciting it for family for a month now. The second is a fall poem that we will do at the end of summer. Here is a link for poems at the grade 3 level, but you can also find ones that are grade-specific. http://www.aca-cc.org/files/SpeechMeet/Poetry%203rd%20grade.pdf
10. Grab some paint sample cards from your local paint store, punch a hole in the top corner and tie with some twine. These cards can be used to look for colors in nature that match or to sketch on.
11. I gave a prompt-Challenge asking “what is one thing you can do to be an excellent citizen of the world?” We discussed what being a citizen is (of the world, North America, The United States, California, Sequoia National Forest… basically breaking it down…) It was a nice prompt. Captain wrote “Pick up trash. If people just leave trash for a long time the forest wouldn’t be a good place to live for animals and people. I am a citizen of the world!”
11. Write a poem! I prompted with a page that read: “Being with nature can be inspiring! Try writing a simple poem outside today. Use lots of describing words to express what you see, smell, or how your special outdoor place makes you feel” Captain wrote a lovely poem about ants. Because I didn’t want her flow to be interrupted by trying to spell words or fumble with her pencil, I asked her if she would like me to be her scribe. She rambled and I wrote it all down for her on a scratch paper. She changed and edited as she wanted to and then copied it into her journal. Her creative flow was much juicier as she had someone to write for her. She was so proud of her poem that she didn’t mind copying it into the journal herself. I highly recommend writing for your kids in this way!
12. Have a page to record the sunrise and sunset times for an entire month. We used a piece of grid paper to keep track for the month of July. Why? There are some good benefits of this easy observation. Kids will clearly see how the days are getting shorter, and scientists do a lot of recording of data for analyzing too. It is good practice!
13. Throw in a little space! Learn about the phases of the moon, current meteor showers, or planets in our solar system.
14. Have a page dedicated to sketching and writing about a life cycle of the child’s choice… butterflies, turtles, etc.
15. A blank page with the prompt “Draw a local map. Include trees, buildings, rocks and any other natural landmarks. Include a compass rose!”
16. I took a cookie recipe that I found from the Whole Foods website http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/oatmeal-coconut-and-sunflower-see... taped it into the journal. I typed up a little sheet that asked Captain to list 3 of the ingredients, followed by listing 3 properties of those ingredients. For example, for the ingredient “flour”, she listed as properties: silky, white, edible. I also included a little sheet for her to trace each ingredient back to its source. For example: dried coconut flakes—– comes from a coconut fruit—— comes from a coconut palm. When it comes time to make the cookies, have the child measure and mix everything. Food science is fun!
17. I slipped a little brown envelope into the journal that has stuff to make a nature necklace: a piece of hemp twine, a bit of thin wire (to wrap around a rock etc.) and a couple of fasteners. She certainly didn’t need me to tell her how to put it all together!
19. After a lengthy discussion about how if dinosaurs went extinct, and we really don’t know how many species actually walked the earth, then couldn’t other plants have gone extinct that we will never know about? This concept really captivated my kiddo so I included a prompt to “Imagine a fruit-bearing plant that might have grown on earth in the time of dinosaurs. Sketch and describe your plant and fruit. Include the size of the plant, the fruit, and what the fruit would have smelled and tasted like. Sketch your plant and fruit!” She really enjoyed this!
Kids love real science equipment. I gave Captain this little science “vial” to collect a soil sample to view later under a microscope. I filled a “back to school” pencil pouch to keep her official science gear in: a compass (see link below for the one I recommend), some small vials and baggies, a magnifying glass, tweezers, a bit of twine etc. She loves it and it encourages her to use her gear.
I hope that you are all having a lovely, nature-filled summer!
Homeschooling mom on the loose, creator of natural body products, writer
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