Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Nature Notebooks

Let me start by saying that this post was born of homeschooling curriculum, but I honestly think I would love to do it even if it was for "fun" and didn't "count" as homeschooling. ;)

As homeschoolers for the past 3 years we've used a variety of styles and curriculums, but have landed on Charlotte Mason as being the best one for our kids and our lifestyle. At this year's homeschool conference I went to every Charlotte Mason workshop that was offered...and started implementing things that I wanted to try IMMEDIATELY. (Normally I mull things over and like to wait until I have things perfectly aligned...I decided that this year I would dive in and tweak things as I went...so far there have been no major disasters...tee hee!)

One of the things I implemented immediately were Nature Notebooks. Never heard of them? I hadn't...until I realized that I had done one when I was in 4th Grade! Mrs. Norland's class did them...we had a notebook and every so often we'd go to the park across from the school and visit the tree that we had "adopted"...we were to draw pictures of it, make rubbings of its bark, take a leaf that had fallen from the tree, etc. I LOVED that activity when I was in 4th grade and, as one might expect, my own children are LOVING their nature notebooks. We have the luxury of taking it further than Mrs. Norland could...we've gotten to go on several walks together, talked about what we've seen, and then drawn/written about it.

Here are the "rules" about the notebooks:

1. The notebooks itself should be of good quality; a stiff cover and blank paper. Similarly the pencil, crayons, colored pencils, or watercolors should also be of good quality.

2. The CHILD is to keep the notebook...no telling them what to put in it! As Charlotte said, “The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected. These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc.” (Vol. 3, p. 236). We are told we can write what they dictate to us if they are not writers yet, but that they are to have ownership of the book.

3. If the child does not feel able to draw just yet encourage them to gather things to press between the pages, provide a camera for them to take a photo with, then print the photo and place in the book, or encourage them to simply describe what they saw while you write it.

4. Parents/Teachers are also encouraged to keep a notebook so that the children may learn from example how to observe and then record. Do not spend a minute worrying about your drawing skills...you don't want your children to fret, do you!?!

Thus far we have enjoyed our notebooks immensely...I look forward to several years down the road when we'll have the opportunity to look back at the things we saw and experienced and recall memories that were made together while we enjoyed the world around us.

Want more info? Check out these books...
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Leslie & Roth
The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden (more of an inspiration of what your book COULD look like than a how-to).
You could also check out Simply Charlotte Mason online to find out more about who Charlotte Mason was and the method and philosophy she had for education.

1 comment:

melissa said...

hi stacy! we do a similar thing with our undergrad students - we call them pattern journals. each week the kids are supposed to spend some time in nature to observe patterns. they pick a pattern (e.g., a type of plant growing in a very specific location) and then come up with a couple of hypotheses as to why that pattern occurs. they draw a picture or a graph showing the pattern and then they propose an experiment to test their hypotheses. it's a little advanced for your kiddos, but it is a good way to get them thinking about why we don't find everything everywhere and how our physical environment is related to our ecological environment.
keep up the great work, lady!