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Nature Journaling: Fun and Functional!

I remember reading a few years ago about a girl who sent out 100 gifts. She eagerly did an experiment in which she took the time to send out 100 notebooks to see if anyone would be to reply. She included an informative explanation of her intent and proceeded to give others the gift of sharing their stories. Out of the 100 notebooks that were sent out, she received three in return. Those three responders excitedly told her where they found the notebook, why they responded and how happy they were to do so.

This story intrigued and inspired me. Personally, I have kept all of my journals from childhood as a reminder of not only my thoughts, feelings, and perspective during that particular part of my life, but because journaling is personally valuable to anyone that partakes. It’s therapeutic, it’s stress-relieving, it’s informative, and yes – it’s educational! Nature journaling can teach you not only about yourself, but how much of a life-force that nature can be and all the ways in you can connect.

Nature journaling is a creative way to combine many educational elements efficiently. It compliments science, the languages, math and art. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently provides a Kindergarten – 6th Grade curriculum that allows students to participate in a field activity, record their data and discoveries, and share and reflect upon their results.

John Muir, the inspiration for and first president of the Sierra Club wrote in his journals about nature. Muir’s journals provided plenty of recorded experience, of which 10 books and over 200 articles were published. The journal was Henry David Thoreau’s tool and technique for writing. His journal, 14 printed volumes, detailed descriptions of the plants and animals he encountered every day. The Sierra Club, successful writers and the Smithsonian salute this activity, and so does the Schrader Center—kids have come here to journal for years!

One of the many summer activities the Schrader Center supplies for our guests is our “nature backpacks”. Each backpack is pre-filled with specific items based on the backpack’s purpose. There is a backpack for the pond with crates to catch critters, one for the butterfly garden with nets to see how many butterflies you can snag, and more!  The common thread through all of the backpacks is that each one contains a journal for hikers to record conclusions about what they captured and for us to listen to what they learned about nature and themselves.

  • On June 27, 2009, Oglebay Lodge visitors “caught multiple Cabbage Whites, two silver-bordered Fritillary, one painted lady, one silver spotted skipper, and three bumblebees (accidentally)!”
  • On September 22, 2009, on what they entitled the “Family Expedition,” Mama, Beatrice, Agnes, Myles and Lucy saw “no signs of turtles or frogs” around the pond, but did see “a nut in the water” and “dragonflies.” They also collected “yucky leaves” in their net.
  • On July 4, 2010, Kelly, Stacy, Jordan and Tyler “caught lots of tadpoles and two mini blue gills.  We saw three deer and heard the bullfrog taunting us. We also saw several bass.”
  • On June 11, 2010 a family from Woodstuck, GA – Lucas, 4, with Mommy and Grandma – “caught one female Cabbage White.  It was hard to catch!”
  • On July 17, 2011, Lydia and Alex saw “a waterfall that cascaded over a cave, with a deer’s footprints in the dirt.”

The best page, though, was on August 24, 2009 and it proclaimed, “Today my daughters, ages six and three, and I had a fun and educational day communing with nature…the best part was watching the joy on their little faces, and watching the glorious insects go free to be captured another day.”  Signed, “Truly Yours, Nature Lover.”

To start off our summer 2012 season, Amy, Ben and Emma Wade and Chloe and Wyatt Toland arrived for an adventure on the trails at Oglebay. They took a backpack for bugs and one for butterflies. Upon their return, they not only provided hand-drawn replications of what they found along with shared their stories, they also provided us with action pictures.  Come enjoy our nature backpacks, one of many daily activities this summer at the Schrader Center!

By Sara Fincham, Customer Service Representative at the Schrader Center

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