Homeschooling / Unschooling

Nature Journaling: Adopt a Creek for a Year

For the past year, we’ve been visiting the same spot once every season with our Unschool community for some nature journaling. It’s been so fun and I wanted to share as I think it’s a great idea that others might enjoy too!

The Idea

It’s super simple! Nature journaling, over the course of a year, noticing all the changes each season. Simply pick a spot and go for it. We chose a creek that we like to visit and the kids decided on a specific area of the creek to focus on. We tried to visit right in the middle of each season. You could choose anywhere! Next time we are going to visit a pond, and we once journaled a tree at home in our yard.

Make some journals

Before we started we got together to make some nature journals specifically for this purpose. All you need is some paper, cardboard, a hole punch, string, and some art materials to decorate.

What to bring

Here’s some things we took with us each time:

  • Nature Journals
  • Handheld microscopes
  • Pencils
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Thermometer
  • pH kit for testing water
  • Jars for collecting creatures
  • Nets
  • Magnifying glass
  • Compass

How to get started

Our group is an Unschool group and so we like to let the kids take the lead with things! The events are organised around their own interests or ideas. If you think the children in your group would be interested in doing similar you could just explain the idea and see where they take it!

Here’s how it went for our kids…

They all sat together in the chosen spot and started writing a list of things to record such as date, time, season, location, temperature, water pH, etc.

They checked with each other they all had the same findings, how to spell things, and what else they should add, etc.

Sometimes they were journaling in a dry creek bed. Other times there was running water to explore too!

Checking the pH of the water.
Discovering critters under rocks.

They looked around for different animals and insects they could spot and drew pictures of them in their journals.

They took note of what flowers were blooming each time they visited.

It was so lovely watching them all excitedly finding new things and then showing each other and comparing what they had written down.

It was really up to them what they thought was notable and what they wanted to include in their journals. If they are having trouble getting started you could just ask a few questions, e.g.

“What could be living around here?”
“How many different kinds of plants do you think there are?”
“What plants and fungi are growing, and where?”
“Would you like me to show you how to test the water?”
“Do you know how to read a thermometer?”
“What would you like to draw about what you see?”
“Can you see any animal tracks/homes?”

This was such a cool year-long project, and very easy to organise. We are excited to do it again. Have you done anything similar?


August 12, 2020 at 12:03 pm

This is so wonderful! Thank you for sharing!!

August 12, 2020 at 3:47 pm

This looks like a wonderful experience:). It must have been fun to walk around in the same creek bed that months earlier they had been dangling their feet in. We used to do something similar each year, although the timing was a bit different. Through mid September to early October, our group would go and some of us would check in once or twice a week through that short period of time to see the salmon swimming upstream and trying to get over a steep bank so that they could continue along the rest of the creek and lay their eggs. There were many, many salmon and the kids would run alongside them on the banks, cheer them over the bank (many fish jumped and jumped and sadly didn’t make it so it was exciting when they did!) and then watch the egg laying and spawning. It was fascinating to think that the salmon we saw four years later likely came from the eggs laid by the fish we had seen four years earlier. Then in the spring, it was the trout:). What we were missing was the journalling part of it, but investigating the same place over time was similar. Thanks for sharing the process.

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