Nature Journaling to a Calm, More Connected Class Community
If you are a frequenter of my blog, you know that I am always reinventing the wheel.
I have taught 3rd grade for 12 years now but every year I switch things up because I get bored easy, and because I’m always learning better ways to do things.
Well, this Spring the new addition to my classroom routine is nature journaling.
How I Got the Idea for Nature Journaling
As the years pass and education (as well as education politics) keep me stressed out and on my toes, I have resorted to balancing out the crazy with calm.
It started two years ago when I switched out my bright pink bulletin board paper with a mountain scene. I realized how much more peaceful my room felt when it was wrapped in nature and not neon.
Then, it continued when I started to bring my potted plants into the classroom. 2020 turned me into a plant lady and there is no going back. We currently have 3 hanging plants and about 5 succlents breathing life into our room.
The next part was truly an accident, while browsing in my favorite place, the Target Dollar Spot, I came across a $5.00 acrylic birdhouse with suction cups. Needless to say it went in my cart and my $4.00 bag of birdseed from Amazon showed up the next day. My kids love seeing the birds come and eat throughout the day and there are even 3 we recognize and named.
My room is typically one of the most calm anyway in comparison to my departmentalizing teammates just because I teach reading and we always start our block with 20 minutes of independent reading. At some point I switched from the flourescents to lamp lighting during reading and when my students settle in to dive into a book, you can hear a pin drop. Then, I added nature backgrounds from YouTube just so my room wouldn’t be quite so quiet. So now we listen to a rushing stream or chirping birds while we read.
I’m not going to lie, I was dreading the 5 WEEKS (!) after state testing and before the end of the year. I know it’s typically a crazy time with anxious students, so my mind was already chruning over ideas to head that off at the pass. I realized incorporating nature really helped all year, so I decided to dig in even further and start nature journaling.
What do my lessons look like?
On the first day of nature journaling, I introduced our new class routine to my students and told them we would be spending the rest of the year working on literacy through the lens of a scientist. That we would be engaging and exploring the world around us while observing and thinking about thingsin new ways. I even designed my front board to show them some of the careers linked to nature.
Every day when we get to our nature journaling block, we follow the steps below.
- I tell my class the topic of the day. With a buddy or as a class we discuss our schema or jot down a KWL.
- I pull up the daily slide, read through the facts, and we make observations/inferences about the photos on the slide.
- I play the YouTube video from the slide.
- I read the suggested book or play the read aloud video.
- I explain the daily tasks and answer any questions they may have.
- We grab our notebooks and head out into nature to get busy!
- I allow time for students to share their daily task with the class or a partner.
Since I have less than 30 days before the end of the year, we will be doubling up some tasks and I will leave some for them to complete over the summer if they would like.
As a cumulnating activity on the last day of school, we will celebrate with a picnic. I’m going to invite parents to join us at the picnic and students can share their nature journal portfolios.
The Nature Journal is where the entire resource started in my mind. I knew I wanted to make hands-on engaging tasks easy for students to understand and for teachers to facilitiate.
The journal has 3 different cover options and 30 pages of exploration tasks. The tasks range in duration and depth.
Some of the 30 tasks include:
- building a bee bath
- studying animal tracks and then trying to find some
- listening to bird songs and then trying to identify birds
- researching butterflies native to your area and then going on an obervation hunt
- locating worms and observaing them in a jar before returning them to nature
- forest scavenger hunts and bingo cards
- planting and observing seed growth
- cloud observations
- leaf and bark rubbings
- flower diagrams
Nature Slides as Teaching Tools
Once I created the Nature Journal, I started to think about how I would introduce the task on each page to my students before heading outside. The more I thought about what keywords I would want to cover for each page or what images I would like them to see before getting started, I knew I should just create a PowerPoint resource.
The final product actually correlates page-by-page with the journal. On the day the PPT teaches about clouds, students are doing cloud observations. On the day the PPT explains about the contributions of worms, students are off on a worm hunt.
The PowerPoint slides also come as a PDF with clickable links because I know some teachers do not prefer touse PowerPoint.
Each slide includes:
- Focus topic that correlates to PDF journal
- Photos for observations/inferences
- Facts about the daily topic
- YouTube link to a video about the topic
- Read aloud book suggestion with a link to the video read aloud
- A task of the day clearly stated for students to apply what they learned
The nature journal and the nature slides can be purchased separately or together in a bundle.
How I Use this in My Own Classroom
Since it was already May when I unveiled this in my classroom, this will be a part of our daily routine as we count down to the last day of school.
I’ve already been thinking about how I want to use this resource in my classroom next year. I know I could (and probably will) change my mind a million times before then, but here is the list of what I came up with.
–Countdown to Summer: This is how I’m using it now, to make the weeks between state testing ending and summer starting more fun and focused.
–Fun Friday: Spiral these activities throughout the year by completing a task each Friday for Fun Friday.
–Community Building: Going outside to complete common tasks together can really bond your students, you could do this daily the first few weeks of school and then transition to weekly.
–Science Integration: This resource would be perfect to tie into science units about the Earth, environment, ecosystems, soil, or conservation. The tasks tie into the first few steps of the 5E science model.
Benefits of Using it
I’ve already found so many benefits to including this in my classroom, but here are some of the bigger reasons why I believe this is benefical.
-To maintain and create a calm and connected classroom while building community among my students and strengthening both scientific thinking and literacy through integration.
-Giving strained eyes a break from screens to explore nature and help students who learn in different ways engage deeper.
-My students love the adventure and challenge tasks so much that they don’t even realize they are learning.
Where can you find it?
It’s in my TPT shop! Click the product covers below to head over and take a closer look, including the preview video which shows every page of the resource!
Thanks for stopping by,