Tag: STEAM Activity (Page 1 of 2)

Ten Reasons to Start a Nature Journal

If you have been hesitating to start, here are ten reasons why you should keep a nature journal.

1.  It is an inexpensive hobby. All you need is a notebook, a pencil, and perhaps a few art supplies.

2.  If you record the world around you, you will see how it changes over time.  If you write the date and location on each entry, you will  remember when the blackberries were ripe or when you saw the first violets the year before. You will begin to spot patterns.

3.  Writing and drawing makes you observe more closely and notice details. It will help you remember what you saw, heard, felt, and even smelled.

4.  A detailed nature journal allows you to share your experiences with others. Your journals may become a treasure passed down to another generation or a useful tool for scientific studies.

5.  You will learn the names of natural features (mountains, rocks, lakes) and living things in your community, while building your vocabulary. You get to know your neighbors in nature.

bird drawings
Can you tell the great-tailed grackle from the curved-bill thrasher?

6.  If you are worried about your ability to draw or write, remember that regular practice helps build confidence and skill. You will improve.

7. Nature journals are great places to keep track of your ideas and questions as you process.

Touch Me Not (1915) by Hannah Borger Overbeck. Original from The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Digitally enhanced by rawpixel.

For example, why is this plant called a touch-me-not? Where does it tend to grow? Is it the same as jewel weed?

8. Writing and drawing in a nature journal takes time. It is an opportunity to slow down, to focus, to relax.

9.  A nature journal is personal. It reflects your interests, your creativity, your personality. It can be funny (cartoon animals with speech bubbles), mostly stories (writings), or almost entirely art. You can focus on the big picture (ecosystems, habitats) or the the close up, macro view (what insects live in an acorn?) Or a mix.

You can also focus on one group, such as only birds or only wildflowers.  There isn’t one way to do it. See these examples of nature journal pages to see the range.

10.  Start a nature journal and it might change your life.

Keeping a nature journal is an activity that combines science, art, writing, and an opportunity to get outdoors. What could be better?

Do you keep a nature journal? What advice do you have?

Related Activities:

  1.  See the International Nature Journaling Week website for tons of information and ideas.
  2. Try making comparisons between similar plants as a way to get started (video has details).

Free nature journal to print mentioned in the video

Their book is full of ideas:

How to Teach Nature Journaling: Curiosity, Wonder, Attention by John Muir Laws, Emilie Lygren and Amy Tan (Foreword)

Or look for books by Clare Walker Leslie:

The Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around You by Clare Walker Leslie

Disclosures: I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles, covers, or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

#STEMfriday #kidlit: Fearless World Traveler

Today we have a new picture book biography, Fearless World Traveler: Adventures of Marianne North, Botanical Artist by Laurie Lawlor and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander.

You may not have heard of Marianne North, but she was a fascinating woman. She grew up privileged and sheltered in England. Her father was a member of Parliament who owned multiple homes. On the other hand, her parents said she had no need for an education and insisted she get ready for marriage. Instead, Marianne taught herself to paint and immersed herself in nature whenever she got the chance. After her father passed away, Marianne began to travel the world. She made up for lost time by accurately painting every plant she could find. In the remaining years of her life, she produced more than 848 paintings, most of which she donated to Kew Gardens (see photograph of some of the display below).

Why is North’s work considered to be scientific? It is because she advanced the field of botanical illustration. Her technique of painting specimens in their natural environment rather than isolated on a light background was groundbreaking. The fact, she documented so many rare plants with such accurate detail that several of them are named in her honor.

As for the book, Becca Stadtlander’s lush illustrations are a fitting tribute to Marianne North’s art. Readers will want to get lost in them. And Marianne North’s story is captivating. Readers will want to visit it again and again.

Fearless World Traveler will appeal to a variety of young readers, including those interested in history, travel, plants, art, and science. Pick up a copy and join the adventure!

Suggested STEAM Activities:

1. Make a botanical illustration.

For inspiration, first visit the Kew’s Virtual Gallery to see scans of Marianne North’s paintings, organized by place and by plant type.

Gather some plants. Consider houseplants or vegetables, too. Note:  avoid sampling plants you can’t readily identify because some plants can be poisonous. Also, make sure you have permission to gather plants. Collecting plants can be forbidden in certain public spaces, such as parks.

Examine the plants from a scientific standpoint. What kind of plant is it? Does it have any unique features? Identify the parts of the plants (previous post) and other details (inside plants post).

There are many instructions for drawing and painting plants for different grades or ages online. The video below has a nice introduction to botanical illustration and explains how to use plaster cloth to make a botanical impression.

The lesson is available for download as a PDF at the Blick website.


2. Incorporate scientific illustrations in a nature journal.

If you are interested in nature journals, speed over to the Exploring Marianne North website. Toward the bottom of the page they are currently offering a PDF booklet put together by volunteers. It chronicles some of North’s travels, a wonderful mix of history and art. The illustrations are amazing!!! Caveat:  the text is in old-fashioned cursive, so may be difficult for young children to read.

LitLinks blog also has some great ideas about how to introduce children to the art of keeping a nature journal.

3. Make a leaf collection

There are many, many ways to make a leaf collection.

Plants and art are a perfect mix.


Reading age : 6 – 9 years
Publisher : Holiday House (May 11, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 0823439593
ISBN-13 : 978-0823439591

Public domain image of the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens from Wikimedia.


Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Four Great Places to Find STEAM Activities for Summer

Looking for ways to incorporate STEAM activities this summer? I’ve got four fantastic suggestions.

1. At LitLinks, Patricia Newman invites guest authors and scientists to share activities and lessons featuring children’s books that link STEM and language arts. For example, in a recent post I contributed activities to accompany the picture book, How to Build an Insect, including instructions for making an insect-related word collection and constructing a collage insect.

Full of creative and educational suggestions on a range of topics!

2.  If your children or students are verbal learners, they might want to listen to the Solve It For Kids Podcast. Each week hosts Jennifer Swanson and Jeff Gonyea interview STEM experts. Recent podcasts featured an expert on giraffes and a meteorologist. So cool!

3. Although it is held later this month, you can check out Pollinator Week website any time.

To prepare, hop onto their resources page for bee identification guides, puzzles, posters, instructions for building a bee house, and more. Also, check the activities page for local events happening that week.

Bonus:   The Tohono Chul garden in Tucson has a multi-day lesson on pollination that is wonderful.

4. Look for National Moth Week, July 17-25, 2021. To get ready, check the kid’s page, which includes a link to a free moth coloring book!

We’ll be posting more about this in July.

Do you have a favorite place to find STEAM activities and experiments? Please let us know in the comments.

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