Documenting Natural Phenomena

Kids need nature, and we as parents, educators, and caring adults, need to provide access to it for them. It’s a simple statement, but one that has become harder and harder to achieve in the world of standardized tests, electronics, and organized sports.

To help kids get out and enjoy nature more often, CNPS worked with nature educator John (Jack) Muir Laws a few years ago to publish his nature journaling curriculum. The book guides kids through a combination of art, writing, and science-based activities.

For years, Jack has been developing his curriculum to engage students of all ages in sharpening their observational powers through sketching in the field. He has found that this combination of visual and kinesthetic learning reaches even students who had given up on their artistic abilities long ago.
More recently, the Language Arts component completed the experience. Jack began to work with Emily Breunig, an English and writing instructor, to incorporate exercises such as writing haikus, creating narrative stories, and formulating hypotheses to complement the outdoor observational activities.

This interdisciplinary combination of art, science, writing, and observation exemplifies the California Native Plant Society’s goals in creating educational programs: to engage students of all ages in the incredible natural world of California, to inspire them to keen observations of the wild places in their own backyards, and to foster a desire to protect these unique habitats.

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Get Outside and Lead a Solo Walk

Lead a solo walk!

What’s the loudest animal on Earth? This is one of my favorite questions to ask students. Initial responses often include anything from whales to elephants to monkeys. Few suspect that human animals are the loudest. This then becomes the challenge: can we stay quiet while on a hike in nature?

A quiet solo walk can be an important and impactful event for nurturing a child’s connection to the natural world. Observations from a walk along a nature trail can last a lifetime and those are enhanced by time walking alone-listening to sounds, watching for colors, or the movement of birds. This provides an opportunity for deeper connection. It also offers time for self-reflection and asking questions about the world around us.

Along a card walk.

Download our student and field-tested cards from the CNPS website. They are designed to enhance a child’s wonder, connection to, and understanding of, plant life in the natural environment. This guided walk can further develop a child’s connection to native plants. Depending on the target age groups, cards can be as simple as indicating the presence of a nearby flowering plant, or as detailed as having the participant find a fallen woody female catkin from an alder and then take time to examine it.

Design your own cards that fit the specific environment you will explore, focusing on the native plants in your area and share them with us!

Denise Newman and
Allison Poklemba
CNPS North Coast Chapter