Wanted to share some more great ideas about nature journaling.
Here are some of my favorite activities. I have not done all of these with Sam and Avery yet and many of them would be too advanced for them; these activities are mostly for slightly older kids and can be used all the way up through adults. I have however done all of these activities with groups of kids in non-formal environmental education settings. They have been some of my favorites that work great with kids and really help them take a closer look at the natural world around them.
Find a Treasure
Lots of kids like to collect things on the trail. This activity simply gives them a way to capture their treasure without actually having to take it home. Give the children some time out on the trail to find something that they think is a "treasure". Then have them sit and draw their treasure as well as they can. The drawings don't have to be perfect just a picture that will help them remember the great thing they found out on the trail that day. The children can then share their drawings and talk about what made that item so special.
Find a Perfect Spot
Take your child/ren to a natural area and give them some boundaries for where they can go exploring. Allow them some freedom to explore off trail (if it is safe) and on their own (if they are the appropriate age). While they are out exploring their job is to find what they think is the perfect spot. It could be alongside a creek, at the top of a hill, at the bottom of a neat tree, up in a tree, next to an animal home, etc. but each child must find their own spot. Once they have found their spot encourage the child to draw the spot and answer through their drawing or words some questions about the spot; what do they see? what do they hear? what do they smell? what other living things are they sharing the spot with? what other living things may have been there in the past? what makes this spot a perfect spot?
Notice Something Small
While out on a trail pick a spot to stop that has some open area for the child/ren to explore. Have them each find something non-living that they can fit inside the palm of their hand. When they close their hand they should not be able to see any part of the item. Then have them sit down and carefully draw that item. Ask them detailed questions about the item while they are drawing, encouraging them to look closer and closer. When they are done with their drawing be sure to have them return the item to where they found it.
Sit down a quiet natural area with your child/ren. Have them place a large x on the center of a piece of paper. That x represents themselves. As they sit their quietly have them place additional symbols (can be any shape, size, color, etc.) on their page that represent the sounds they hear around them. Encourage them to listen very closely and see how many different sounds they can "draw" on their paper. Each sound should have its own unique symbol. After a few mins (determine length by the age of the child/ren and their interest in the activity) have them share their drawings and talk about the sounds they heard.
A Tree From Many Views
This activity is all about imagination and may require slightly older kids/students. Pick a large tree in a natural area and talk about who/what might be living/using that tree (birds, squirrels, bugs, moss, animals/people for shade, etc.). Talk about what the tree might look like to each of those things; what does a tree look like if you are a bird flying above it? what does a tree look like if you are a squirrel sitting on a branch in the middle of the tree? what does a tree look like if you are a bug crawling on the bark? what does a tree look like if you are a kid sitting underneath it? etc. Then have them try to draw the tree as it would look from those different views.
Want more natural journaling information? Here are some online resources that might be helpful.
Online resources -
Keeping a Nature Journal - this is an overall great resource and has great information about why we should be journaling outdoors with our kids.
Starting a Nature Journal - great example of a family doing journaling with little ones; also has links to some great journaling books.
Preschool Pre-Reading Journaling Activities - some good ideas for little ones to do outside in their journal.
Nature Journal -Getting Started - a great way to get started with links for helpful info and printouts.