Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Family Nature Journal

I have encouraged my children to record their special encounters at Eight Acres of Eden by creating a family nature journal. This is simply a scrapbook where they can write, draw, sketch and photograph nature. There is only one rule, as it is a family album, they must have observed the bird, animal or plant here on the property.
In our journal, the children have:
written out lists of the birds that visit our garden and forest

sketched some of their favourite species (see photo of a peek inside our journal)

glued in feathers/ rubbings of materials such as
bark and paper wasp nests

written entries about bird life and pond life

In our journal we also record 'learn more' information' - for example, a work sheet on the anatomy of a frog appears in our book, as does a hand written fact sheet about koalas.

We have a home library with lots of reference books, field guides and a huge stack of 'Australian Geographic' magazines purchased from a second-hand bookshop. There is also the internet for further research. In addition to books, we also provide microscopes, magnifiers, a flower press and lots of art and craft supplies. With good digital cameras being so inexpensive these days, my older children each have their own camera.

It is the actual encounter that sends my children racing to the bookshelf. It is fine to read about nature but there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the 'real thing', then observing, listening, touching and smelling, a hands-on, multi-sensory learning experience. This explains why the touch tanks at the aquarium are usually the favorite exhibit for children.

There is a fictional book which has many references to children enjoying nature and it is my no1 favourite book of all time. It is 'Little Men' by Louisa May Alcott. If you have read 'Little Women' and 'Good Wives' and not read 'Little Men' you are missing out on a treat. I have written out quotes from this book in my journal for personal inspiration and I'd recommend it highly to mothers of boys, especially if you have boisterous boys! Jo (one of the March sisters) and her husband Professor Bhauer raise two of their own children and an assorted bunch of adopted 'ragamuffins' with a girl thrown in for good measure at their home/school 'Plumfield'. I identify with Mrs Jo as she allows her boys to bring home treasures from the wild. She even gives them a cabinet in which to store their 'finds'.

'I like litter of that sort' says Jo ....'I have a special regard for children's treasures.'

In the next chapter, the children are given an old carriage house for a 'museum' by Mr Lawrence for displaying the treasures that he explains have littered up the house.

'half-a-pint of dor bugs in one of her best vases...... and stones lying around everywhere, enough to pave the avenue.'

Yes, at times my house has been 'littered', cicada shells have filled my bowls and I did once have enough quartz to pave the patio!
We don't have a carriage house or even a spare shed for a museum but over the years, I have found room for nature tables, fish tanks and an ever-changing display of natural finds.
You may not live in a forest but you can still start a family nature journal. You could have a book dedicated to holidays, the seaside or the local park, wherever you visit where you come into contact with nature. Take photographs, carry a sketch pad and pencils, bring home postcards and other nature finds that you are allowed to pick up...empty shells, fallen leaves, feathers, pine cones.
I would encourage you to take walks with your children, as the Bhauers did in 'Little Men'.

'At three o clock the entire family turned out to walk for all the active young bodies must have exercise; and in these walks the active young minds were taught to see and love the providence of God in the beautiful miracles which nature was working before their eyes.'

Do you have room for a nature table? A spare drawer or shelf for your children to display their collections? There is a fantastic article about nature tables in the December 2008 issue of the British magazine 'Country Living.' They have been running a campaign to bring back the nature table in schools in Britain. The article has photographs of some wonderful projects undertaken by schools and individual work of children at home who have been encouraged by their parents to do nature study.
You can visit Country Living's website at
www. allaboutyou.com/country/country-living-nature-table-campaign/special

There is a wonderful array of articles and photo galleries all dedicated to reconnecting the family with the natural environment. There is a great article on family nature walks and an article by Libby Purves on 'How Nature nurtures creative thinkers.'

I hope this provides some inspiration for your own nature projects. The family nature journal is only one way in which we learn about the living world. We have completed many different science based unit studies over the years. Projects on rivers, Eco-systems, chemistry around us, volcanoes and much more. At the moment, my younger children are making weather books. I hope to share more ideas and inspiration from our home in future posts.

So, why don't you turn off the television, pack away the toys, wrap up warm if its cold or grab the sunscreen and hats and head outside. You may live in a city but nature lives there too. As a child growing up in a 'concrete jungle' , I was fascinated by the dandelions that grew on a nearby wasteland and my mum would always find a vase for the weeds I brought home as a gift!

Nurture your child's curiosity, share in their wonder, delight in their discoveries. Become a 'Mrs Jo' and find somewhere in your home to display their finds.
By doing so, you are giving them a very special gift, an appreciation for the natural world, enrichment of their learning and most importantly of all .... the gift of yourself. The time you spend with them will never be forgotten.
One day, when my children are grown, I will look through the pages of our family nature journal, I will smile at their drawings, read their stories and accounts and remember these very special times at Eight Acres of Eden. I will touch the shells in the bowl on my coffee table and recall the days spent at the beach, their love of the ocean and joy expressed as they explored rock pools.
I pray that each of my children will remember these precious times, that they will cherish the memories of days spent in nature's playground and will desire to create the same type of experiences for their own children.

With love and joy,


A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

What a beautiful and inspiring blog...I will be back soon.
My daughter is named Eden...And she is a delight!
I am guessing you are Qld based by the look of your wildlife.
Bush and country living just cannot be beaten ,I love that you have embraced just what a blessing it is.

Dalinz said...

I found you today through a message you left on Norma Jean's blog. I am so glad I came to visit and read all of your archives. Thank you so much for sharing all that you have and look forward to seeing alot more of you.

I live in Maryvale just east of Warwick, south east Qld and we also have 8 acres but it has nothing on it. We have just built our home there and moved in over a year ago now. I am in the process of planting alot of trees including our orchard. We have lots of animals and see alot of wild life but look forward to the day when we have a whole heap more. The cover that they need is just not here at the moment. I also saw what this place could be and went with our dreams. I am so glad that you are happy where you are. We are glad that we are here too and every morning when I open my windows, say 'Good morning, Maryvale'.

Love and blessings, Damaris

Rhonda Jean said...

I really like the bird journal, the paintings are very special. Your home sounds lovely and it's good to know that the children are taking full advantage of their natural environment.

Kia said...

I'm so glad I found you today :) you have a lovely blog! I will be back. Greetings from Scotland.

Elinor said...

Hi, my friend Kylie sent me the link to your blog and I am so glad she did. I have enjoyed reading all your posts. We are also a homeschooling family who live on just over an acre in Nth Qld. My children love anything and everything to do with nature and would rather spend all day outside than inside. I loved the idea of your family nature journal. I will be looking forward to popping back regularly. Helen

Tammy said...

Found you while doing a search on "family nature journals." I just purchased an inspirational nature scrapbook for my munchkins and was looking for more inspiration and ideas on how to transform these blank pages into something special as a family. Thanks so much for adding some fuel to my creative fires!


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