A nature notebooks or field book is a great and fun way to help kids learn about the natural world and have fun while they are at it.
Giving your kids a nature notebook to use when you spend time in the outdoors is a great gift. Taking the time to record your observations and thoughts in a notebook will help you and your kids to slow down and pay attention to the details of what you see in the natural world around you as opposed to just quickly hiking by everything. Using the notebook whenever outdoors can turn into a good habit for everyone to get in.
What is a Nature Notebook or Field Book?
A nature notebook could be any notebook or sketch book that you bring along on your outings to explore the Rocky Mountains. Make sure that they understand this notebook or sketch book is their nature notebook to be used only on your nature outings. That will help make it special for them. The simplest way to think of it, is to think of the nature notebook as a diary for your explorations in the natural world.
What kind of notebook/sketchbook is good for a nature notebook?
The best kind is one that is about 4 x 6 inches or 5 x 7 inches. Those sizes are small enough to fit in your pocket or in a small pocket of a backpack. They are also not too large to become cumbersome to carry with you on your outings.
That size gives enough space on each page to get all the information or drawings you want. If the notebook is too small then you simply can’t fit much on the page to make them useful. Parents, you may want to think about getting a slightly larger one for younger children as they can’t write or draw as small as older kids.
I like to get one with blank pages because that gives you the option of drawing pictures of what you see in addition to just writing about the area. You can find sketch books, notebooks, or journals of this size at many different stores. There are lots of options of different styles, but I prefer a hardback with blank pages inside.
For those who may be out in the rain frequently, there are even some with water resistant pages so it won’t get ruined if it gets wet. Another option to keep it dry is to simply store it in a good ziplock bag.
What should you write or draw in the nature notebook?
You can write about as many facts as you can to help you remember the day. For example, you could write the day of the year and the time of day you went for a walk. You could then write about the weather on that day (this could just be a quick note such as sunny or cloudy, or for aspiring writers they could write a paragraph describing the clouds).
You could write about any wildlife you see that day, such as a moose with two young calves. You could write more about that by saying where you saw them and what they were doing. Or if you saw a bird, where was it – in a tree, on the ground, or sitting on the water? What was it doing? What did it look like – describe the colors and the body? You can use some of the tips on identifying birds to help you know what to look for and to later identify what kind of bird it is.
You could even glue in pressed flowers or leaves that you collected on your outings. Pressing flowers will help to keep their color lasting much longer than if you simply glue them in your notebook.
How to use the Nature Notebook?
I suggest that you and your children get in the habit of brining your notebooks with you whenever you go on an outing. Then when you are out hiking, you can all stop every half hour and sit down for 10-15 minutes to record some thoughts/observation in your notebooks.
The nature notebook can then be a great resource to refer to in order to see what certain areas were like on past visits or how the wildlife or flowers in an area are different at different times of year. Then, without even realizing it, the kids will have become junior scientists.
What are the benefits of a nature notebook?
Recording what you see on an outing will develop excellent observation skills. For example, you can’t just say you saw a bird, but writing about or drawing the bird you will take much more careful observation of the shape, colors, and behavior of the bird. This will help you be able to identify the specific bird.
The nature notebook is also an excellent way of helping children and everyone learn more about the natural world and therefore appreciating it more. The natural world will no longer simply be a big mystery, but will be one whose many interconnected parts are beautiful.
One final benefit is that the notebooks could actually prove to be valuable to scientists if they are kept and maintained over a long time.