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Nature Journaling

Did you know that spending time outside can improve our mental and physical health? It can lower our stress levels and improve our mood. Nature journaling is an easy outdoor activity that you can do anywhere — even in your own backyard! All you need is a pen and paper and 20-30 minutes.

A journal entry by William Duncan Strong (Credit: Smithsonian Archives)

Historically, journaling was used by scientists and explorers to record their observations of the natural world. Today, gardeners and wildlife enthusiasts can use nature journaling to keep a record of the plants and animals they encounter, to better manage their garden, or to practice their identification skills.

 

Select your Medium

You can record your journal using a simple paper notebook or incorporate technology. Smartphone applications such as note keeping and plant identification apps can help keep your pictures and observations together. However, a simple sketch with written observations is enough to get started.

 

Find a Location

Select one go-to journaling location or change it up with each entry. Once you pick a location, record the date, time, location, weather. This data is important as your observations may change based on these factors!

 

  • Sit Spot: Find a nice spot in your yard to sit and select a subject such as a shrub, tree, or bird.
  • Walk: Record your observations along a neighborhood walk.
  • Landscape Zones: Select one zone in your yard to observe. For instance, your side yard or vegetable garden.
  • Sky watch: Don’t forget to look up! Select a section of the sky and record what you see.

 

Now you’re ready to make observations. First look at the plant or animal as if you’ve never seen it before. Describe its shape, size, color, movement or behavior. Use your senses — but be careful when handling unknown plants. Challenge yourself to record at least 10 observations. The more you record, the better!

 

Use Metaphors

You may not be able to use a tape measure or get very close to the subject. Use metaphors to describe shapes, colors, and sizes. Is the bird’s beak the size of a golf tee? Is the color of the leaf similar to a ripe banana peel?

 

Get Artsy

Nature journaling is an activity that allows us to flex both our scientific and artistic muscles. Get in touch with your inner artist and make a sketch, take a picture, or write a poem. Does the subject remind you of a song, film, or book?

 

Reflect

Take some time to reflect on how the activity made you feel. Did it elevate your mood? Do you feel more at ease or connected to nature?

 

Identify

Finally, practice your identification skills and try to identify the species. You can use UF/IFAS resources to help you out.

 

Nature journaling is a fun and relaxing activity that you can do at home in your backyard. For more information about nature journaling, contact Krista Stump at stumpk@ufl.edu.

 

 

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