Using Nature Journals to Observe, Sketch & Write in Science

“Oh, this plant doesn’t smell good! And it also has spiky tongs coming off the middle,” said a Fletcher Elementary School fourth grade student.

The student, along with her peers, used all her senses, and her Nature Journal, to observe, sketch and write a description of different plants and flowers in teacher, Diane George’s extensive home perennial garden. Students in Mrs. George’s and Amanda Chitester’s classes developed their observational skills by looking, smelling and touching, a wide variety of plants and flowers, and using their nature journals to record their findings. Each student observed two different plants, by illustrating with drawings, rendered accurately. Students observed the color of leaves, whether petals were smooth or rough, what the stem looked and felt like, and how the flowers smelled.

“I understand what I’m learning better if I can see the plants in nature. It also helps me explain more simply in writing when I can see it, feel it and smell it right in front of me,” said fourth grader Alessandra Heller. “Also, a bonus of the field trip to Mrs. George’s house was when we were walking over, we saw all sorts of cool nature things like a blue jay, a squirrel and a ladybug. It was so much fun.”

The short, walking field trip allowed the students to observe nature outside the classroom.

“This nature walk gave the students the opportunity to see plants in their natural habitats and to make observations of real, live plants,” said the teachers. “Our next science unit requires students to observe and draw the Brasica plant’s lifecycle. They will also label the plant parts and record other observations.”

Nature Journals were also utilized while studying and observing crayfish in the classroom. Student partners were responsible for their own crayfish. They observed, drew, and labeled the parts of the crayfish. They described their observations in their Nature Journal also using their senses to describe the color, what the crayfish felt like and how the crayfish smelled, which not only develops science proficiency, but also gives them additional practice with writing skills.

“The most interesting thing I learned about crayfish is that they have little pincers that they use to pull apart food,” said fourth grader Chloe Short. “When we do a unit like the crayfish one, it really helps to keep all the information in a Nature Journal so I can look back at it to remember what I need to know later.”

Students also practiced weighing the crayfish with a pan balance and gram weights, which is something they will be required to complete on the 4th Grade Science Performance Test.

“Observation skills are developed through the crayfish and plant units,” said the teachers. “Students will observe the stages of the Brasica plant through its lifecycle. The nature journal is an intricate part of this learning experience. Writing in science, is an important skill that the students will develop throughout their school career.”


posted on 10/17/2011 - filed under: Academics, Spotlight