Nature Journaling

BLM Arist in Residence Becca Rorabaugh paints Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River from a bluff near river mile 49 in the Steese National Conservation Area, Alaska.

Calling all nature enthusiasts!  Increase your powers of observation, cultivate your sense of wonder, and deepen your connection to the natural world through nature journaling. Learn and practice skills at bimonthly online sessions, get inspiration from weekly journaling prompts, and explore the self-guided resources on this page.

Summer Nature Journaling Series

Learn and practice journaling skills with this summer nature journaling series. Bimonthly online sessions will focus in on specific tools and techniques, and weekly prompts will give you inspiration for observing the world around you. You may join whenever you can and attend as many or as few sessions as you like.

June 8, 12-1 p.m. Alaska Time | Introduction to Nature Journaling

In this kickoff session to Summer Nature Journaling, find out what nature journaling is and why it is such a great tool to connect with the natural world. You will practice using all your senses to make detailed observations and launch your summer of nature journaling.

REGISTER

Registration required.


June 22, 12-12:30 p.m. Alaska Time | Discover Nature Drawing

Are you a new artist looking for tips or a veteran artist looking to hone your observation skills? Explore ways to use drawings to add depth to a nature journal in this summer journaling session. This session is open to all experience levels.  

REGISTER

Registration required.


July 6, 12-12:30 p.m. Alaska Time | Zoom In, Zoom Out 

Zoom in on particular features of your subject and then zoom out to see it in a larger context. Practice a technique for observing and recording details you may have previously overlooked in this Nature Journaling session. 

Register


July 20, 12-12:30 p.m. Alaska Time | Changing Perspectives
July 27, 12-12:30 p.m. Alaska Time | Rescheduled due to technical issues

Imagine what it would be like to see the natural world through different eyes. You will meld your observations and creativity to tell a story about the wildlife around you in this session of Summer Nature Journaling.

Register


August 3, 12-12:30 p.m. Alaska Time | Delving Deeper 

Nature journaling can go well beyond just paper and pen! Discover how to use new technology and media to record your observations and thoughts in this session of Summer Nature Journaling.

Register


August 17, 12-12:30 p.m. Alaska Time | Growing Your Journal

This is the final session of Summer Nature Journaling, but the fun does not stop here! Discover ways to continue growing your skills and build nature journaling into your regular routine.

Register

 

 

Journaling Prompts

Try out different nature journaling prompts to help build nature journaling skills each week of the summer.

Week 1 Prompts

Week 1 | June 7-11

This week tune into the environment around you and sharpen your observation skills. Find a spot where you can sit quietly and observe each day. Write observations in your journal daily.

Record the date, time, location, temperature, and weather.

Then, focus your attention on a plant that sparks your interest. It might be a particular tree, a flowering shrub, a patch of tundra or forest floor, or a single flower. Get closer and focus all your attention on it.

What do you notice about it? Record as many observations as you can. Measure and record numerical information, such as the circumference of a tree, the size of the leaves, or the height of the flower. What do you wonder about the plant? What does it remind you of? Record this information as well.

Week 2 Prompts

Week 2 | June 14-18

Find an outdoor spot you can sit quietly every day. Jot down what you see, hear, smell, and feel as you sit. Use the “I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of” prompt to guide your observations.

If you know the names of species or objects, write them down. You can also record  observations using descriptive language. For example: a bird chortling from a treetop, a bird trilling with a high pitch, three trees with smooth gray bark, tiny yellow flowers, and so on. (Do not worry if you cannot identify every bird that you hear or every plant you see. That is part of the beauty of observation. Remember, you could always research the species you observed to learn more about them later.)

Be sure to record the date, time, location, temperature, and observations about the weather too. Do not worry if your page looks “messy” with all you record. You are tuning into everything going on outside around you!  

Week 3 Prompts

Week 3 | June 21-25

Nature drawing is about using artistic tools to record details about the natural world around you. 

For this week, practice sketching flowers. Pay close attention to their various parts. What new things did you notice as you drew it? Label the details you notice or observe. If you notice any insects, how are they interacting with the flower?  

For the remainder of the week, continue to practice sketching flowers, whether they’re found on a trail, in your backyard, or in your home. Pay close attention to their structure and various parts. What new things did you notice as you drew them?  

Week 4 Prompts

Week 4 | June 28-July 2

Last week, you focused on drawing the smaller details of flowers. This week, you will expand your focus by sketching a landscape or scene of your choice. 

Bring your nature journal and art supplies with you when you go outside, or take or find a picture of a scene to sketch at home later. It could be a view from a famous mountain top or even a view from your window! 

The goal is not to create a perfectly accurate copy of what you see (that is what photos do!) but to capture the look and feel of what you are seeing. If you have time, do more than one landscape sketch.

Week 5 Prompts

Week 5 | July 5-9

This week, you will zoom in on details and zoom out to the landscape scale  to focus on seeing the details along with the larger contexts of the habitats. Here are a couple prompts to help you focus your attention at multiple levels: 

  • Get down close to the ground. Dig around through grass and leaves until you find an insect. Where is it going? What is it doing? Follow it for a few minutes. Look closer at its details. What does it look like? Describe it. Record your observations of the creature, then record observations about the larger habitat in which you found it. How is it interacting with its habitat? 
     
  • Look for scat and/or tracks. What details do you notice about them? What animal do you think left behind these clues? Describe the environment where you found these clues. What was the animal doing in the area?  

Week 6 Prompts

Week 6 | July 12-16

Changing your focus can be a powerful tool to help you observe the connections between living and nonliving things around you. It can also help free your mind to write freely and reflectively. 

This week, take time each day to find a natural spot that interests you. Sit quietly and alternately focus your attention  on the fine details of what is around you and out to the bigger picture. Remember to focus on the sights, textures, sounds, and smells. Write whatever comes into your head. 

Week 7 Prompts

Week 7 | July 19-23

Writing from a totally different perspective can help you understand the world in new ways. Try one or both of these prompts:  

  • Pick an animal that lives in your area. Pretend you are interviewing it. What questions would you ask? What answers might it give you? Write your dialogue. 
     
  • Imagine you are a bird flying through the air. Write a story about what you see and experience. 

Week 8 Prompts

Week 8 | July 26-30

You can also use perspectives on the natural world to gain reflection on one’s self. 

  •  Imagine you are a fish. What different things would you notice as a fish? What would you be thinking about right now? What would your day be like? 

Week 9 Prompts

Week 9 | August 2-6

Nature Journaling can go well beyond paper and pencil. You can use different types of media to record your observations. 

This week, use your nature journaling to express your inner nature documentarian, like one you have seen on TV or heard on the radio. Using your phone or another recording device to capture your voice, describe out loud what you see, hear, feel, and smell. Record a running commentary of what you notice happening around you.  
Check out recordings here for inspiration:  

Week 10 Prompts

Week 10 | August 9-13

They say that pictures can be worth 1000 words. So can videos and audio recordings! 

This week let your subject environment speak for itself. While out exploring, find an area that speaks to you and record it. Take a series of pictures, take a time-lapse video, or record the sounds around you. If you were to share this project with another person, what messages or themes would you want to covey to them using nature? 

Use these examples as inspiration to create your picture, video, or audio library this week: 

Week 11 Prompts

Week 11 | August 16-20

Nature Journaling is an ongoing journey. Scientists and naturalists use journals to observe and track changes in the natural world and in how their ideas have evolved over time. As you continue your path, keep asking yourself: what drew you to nature journaling? What are you still wondering about? What skills would you like to develop through nature journaling? Write your notes and add them to your journal to inspire your future observations, drawings, and writings. 

Remember: Take your journal with you and keep on observing!

Nature Learning Activities

Students on river bank writing in journals

Build observation and nature journaling skills with these engaging activities.

Agents of Discovery Mission

Coming August 20, 2021! Play the new Exploration Detective Agents of Discovery mission to put your observation skills to work as you explore the BLM Campbell Tract.  

A hand holding a cell phone with the Agents of Discovery app open on it

Develop Your Skills

Nature Journaling Resources sheet screen shot

Download this list of nature journaling resources with helpful publications on journaling and improving your observation skills.

Pop-Up Walk

Take a self-guided mindfulness walk on the BLM Campbell Tract in August. Signs for the walk begin at the Campbell Creek Science Center. Bring your nature journal along and record your responses to the prompts at each of the stops. Remember to be bear and wildlife aware on the Campbell Tract.

Mindful Moments sign