Henry David Thoreau once said, “You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns.” And while Walden was surely a lovely spot to do some writing, you don’t need to relocate your family to the wilderness in order to appreciate the wonders of the outdoors. Getting in touch with nature can be as simple as heading out into your own backyard.

Scientists use journals to record events and observations in the field. These records, when compared over the course of several years, help reveal patterns in nature. Researchers use this information to make predictions about natural occurrences such as when to expect a certain species of butterfly migration or a particular flower to bloom.

Unlike personal journals, which focus internally, field journals focus on the external world and provide a great opportunity to engage your child in translating sensory observations into written words and images.

 

8 Join the Discussion

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  1. I can so see this being used by parents, but teachers, too. The little video clips could spark some curiosity among the children. I”m glad the vocabulary list is included.
    I can’t wait to see what else children will be wondering about.

    • Rex, Fanya shared some wonderful ideas for exploration if you don’t have a backyard. The possibilities are endless.

  2. When my daughter was around Zoe age, I used to do some explorations with my her using potted plants and actually started a small indoor garden. Sometimes we used food coloring and shaving cream to experiment with. We also loved the beach, so we would collect shells especially whenever we went to new parts of the beach and of course our local parks. I think I will revisit some of these outings again, especially now that she is older and in middle school. It would be curious to see what she comes up with and how I can use this site for more ideas.

  3. This is Wills. I have been keeping a journal like this for 4 years, but sometimes I forget to write in it. I thought stink bugs sprayed out a stink when you held them. But it doesn’t look like Charlie did that. I hike with my mom and dad and 2 dogs, Buddy and Leo, and we see everything out there. It’s cool to look into a clear river. SO many things in there. We spend most of our time outside. Because my dogs like it too.

  4. I love nature but it is being ruined
    by global warming, and hunters and people who cut down trees to build stuff. It is sad.

    • We are glad you’re thinking about the ways we can take care of our Earth, Leah! Perhaps you’ll enjoy this Wonder: Wonder #43– Where Do Recycled Items Go? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How to keep a scientific journal
  • Patterns of nature and biodiversity in their own backyard
  • About various species of plants and insects and their habitats

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

A fun way to introduce children to the joys of field journaling is to “adopt a spot” in your backyard and make it the inspiration site for their very own field journal. All you need to do is pick a location, grab a journal and get writing or drawing!

Whether your child chooses to spend a few minutes a day with their adopted spot or visit once a week, encourage them to make regular observations and note any changes that have taken place since their last visit.

When you visit the adopted spot together, ask your child to record what they see, hear and smell in their journal. A parade of ants marching? A cricket symphony? The aroma of freshly cut grass?

Provide your budding field explorer with materials to supplement journal entries with sketches, rubbings and drawings should they find themselves inspired by the veins on a leaf or pattern on moth wings.

Visit at different times of the day to observe the adopted spot. What types of songbirds sing to the morning dewdrops? Do certain flowers close their petals in silver moonlight?

Dive into nature guides together to identify the flora and fauna who call your adopted spot home.

From fall foliage to unfurling ferns, creeping caterpillars to darting dragonflies — each expedition to the same special spot provides an opportunity to make a brand-new discovery. So what are you waiting for? Grab your journal and go! It’s time to explore the world right beyond your back door.

Families will learn:

  • How to keep a scientific journal
  • Patterns of nature and biodiversity in their own backyard
  • About various species of plants and insects and their habitats

 

Wonder What’s Next?

Today, you adopted a spot. Tomorrow, Wonderopolis will introduce you to a fruit with a spot of its own.

Upload a Photo or Paste the URL of a YouTube or SchoolTube Video.