A 12 Step Program for Nature Journaling

How do you truly open your eyes to the natural world? Opening your nature journal to a fresh page, with poised pen, is a good start. But before diving into to your journaling session, you may need to help calm your “monkey brain” and guide your “city eyes” to think and see just a bit differently.

A Path to Awareness is one of the five paths to creative nature journaling that I previously described here. This pathway includes journaling activities and prompts that encourages the body and mind to slow down, open up, and take notice. When I lead a group of adults or children in a nature journaling workshop, we often begin with a guided 12 Step Program.

 

Filling the blank page with nature observations.

Capturing the surroundings through sketches.

This step-by-step approach helps ease even the most reluctant or self-conscious journalers into a journaling session while also modeling some basic techniques that can be used each and every time to write in your journal. This 12 Step Program works with Kindergarteners as well as adults, helping each person to slow down and to truly look and listen to what is going on around them. Credit must be given to Clare Walker Leslie and her lovely book, “Keeping a Nature Journal: A Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You,” for the inspiration for this activity.

To begin the 12 Step Program, open your journal to a fresh page. You’ll need a pen; colored pencils are a nice addition.

Step #1: Date. Write down the date and the season.

Step #2: Place. Describe where you are. What is the name of the park? The city? The state? What does this place remind you of?

Step #3: Time. Use words to describe the time of day. Is it early morning or late evening?

Step #4: Weather. Describe the weather conditions. Is it rainy or sunny? Is the sky clear or cloudy? How warm or cool is it?

Step #5: Wind Direction. If there is a breeze, try to determine what direction it is moving. You can look at the leaves on a tree or the hair on a friend. Draw a compass showing North, East, South and West, and show the direction of the wind. Also, describe the strength of the wind.

Step #6: First Impressions. Spend a couple minutes recording your first impressions of this place, in writing. Describe what is happening around you. What does it smell and feel like?

Step #7: Sky Picture. Draw a small rectangle somewhere on the journal page. Now, look up at a section of sky. Draw what you see in that section of sky inside of the rectangle. If there are clouds, how are they shaped and how much space do they take up? If there aren’t any clouds, then draw something else that you see in the sky, like the crescent moon, or a bird flying by, or the silhouette of a tall tree.

Step #7: Sky Picture

Step #8: Sounds. Remain quiet for a few moments. Write down what you hear. You can both name the source of sounds (such as bird call) and describe the quality of the sounds (such as high pitched warble).

Step #9: Ground Observations. Crouch down near a patch of ground. Get close and then draw a quick sketch of two or three objects, such as a leaf or a flower. Add words to your drawings to describe the object’s size, color, or texture. Write down one question you have about each object.

Step #10: Eye-Level Observations. Stand up and find something at your eye-level. Draw a quick sketch of two or three objects, such as a shrub, a nest, or a bug. Add words to your drawings to describe the object’s size, color, or texture. Write down one question you have about each object.

Step #10: Eye Level Observations

Step #11: Overhead Observations. Look up. Choose something up high to draw, such as a tree, a roof, or a cloud. Draw one object.
Add words to your drawings to describe the object’s size, color, or texture. Write down one question you have about each object.

Step #12: Landscape Sketch. Draw a rectangle somewhere on the journal page. Use the pointer finger and thumb on each hand to form a rectangle shape. Use this as your “viewfinder” to locate a view of the landscape that you would like to record in your journal. This “viewfinder” helps you to crop out everything else in the landscape and focus in on your subject. Make a quick sketch of the landscape inside of the rectangle on your paper. If you would like, include some labels and written descriptions of landscape elements.

Step #12: Landscape Sketch

Comments

One Response to “A 12 Step Program for Nature Journaling”
  1. First of all I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question
    which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to know how you
    center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.

    I’ve had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Appreciate it!