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Nature journaling – the easy way

Nature journaling – the easy way

Posted by Sarah Watson on 16th Mar 2021

Spotty Otter customer service manager and our very own forest school leader and mum of 2 outdoor loving boys, Sarah, shares with us how you can create an easy Nature Journal with the kids.

Let me introduce you to a Phenology Wheel.

If you look up the definition in the Oxford English Dictionary you would see: ‘The study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.’

The essence of a phenology wheel is that it is a circular journal, that encourages routine observations of nature, throughout the year.

I think it is a fantastic way to encourage children to start nature journaling, creating a lasting reference to the natural world around them throughout the seasons. Children (and adults) of all ages can do it, making it a great family project.

You can start at anytime, because it is a circle. You can start at any point and you will complete a full year if you just keep going with it. At the end you will have a really wonderful diary of your chosen subject and be able to see the data you’ve collected, how it changes as the seasons do and notice patterns forming.

The circle aspect of the wheel fits so nicely into nature – everything follows a cycle; seasons, weather, moon phases, tides and of course animals and plants.

If you have had experience of a forest school, one of the main benefits is that the children will be in the same surroundings every time.

They will naturally become used to the flora and fauna that they play alongside, becoming attuned to the cycles of nature flowing along and learning how to care for it.

Putting this data down into a phenology wheel is a great way to encourage nature journaling and your wheels will be a lovely way to look back at your year, you could use your garden, local park, favourite walk or nature reserve as your main focal area.

The data you put into your wheel is entirely up to you, have a quick search on the internet and you will find many examples, charting moon phases, daily temperatures and of course monthly logs of what you have seen. You could even use it to keep a note of the walks you have been on or the places you visit if you wanted to.

There are lots of free downloadable templates to get you started, but if you want to make your own, this is what you’ll need:

  • Blank paper or sketchbook
  • Pencils
  • A compass or something round to draw around
  • A ruler.

Draw a large circle in the centre of your page and then another slightly smaller one within it (this is for your headings). You will then need to think about how you will use the wheel, do you need enough sections for every month of the year, or every day of the month, or even every day of the week? Or you can simply divide it into four and have one for each season – it really is up to you.

You can also add a notes section in the middle by drawing a small bullseye circle in the centre, good for writing down anything special that may of happened at that time.

Then you are ready to begin, you can fill it with sketches, paintings, or even stick in photos or treasures you find. If tracking temperatures, why not assign a colour to each temperature (don’t forget to create a key so others can interpret your data) and simply colour each section with the temperature colour.

You really don’t need to be an artist to start a nature journal, just go with whatever you can do and enjoy noticing the world around you!