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Do you enjoy nature journaling? Are you looking for a way to make it work for your family? There are all kinds of ways to keep a nature journal. How to Make a Plant Journal will show reasons why it’s a great project along with all the materials and resources you need to make it happen.
The Purpose of a Plant Journal
Some students are naturals at keeping journals in general and some are good at the nature journal, but sometimes it’s not as easy to keep it going especially as your students get older. What are some reasons to try a plant journal?
- Keep a Record Book of the Plants in Your Garden– Make it a part of your gardening experience to write and sketch about the plants your family is growing. This could be a vegetable garden, a flower garden, or a special garden they plant.
- Record the Results of Your Wildflower Walks– If you like to see what’s in bloom during the entire growing season, this is a great way to remember what you’ve seen.
- Learn about Plant Species with a Botany or Horticulture Study– This is the one Rebecca is working on now. She’s studying for the horticulture contest at the NY State Fair. In 2015 she took first place beginner and she’d like to move up to the intermediate category this year. The plants she is journaling about come from the study book.
- Biology Course Project– Whether or not you have students inclined to keep a journal on their own, they make excellent projects for biology class.
- Seasonal Adventure– Have you read about Adventure Boxes? If you have a child who likes plants, this is another way to help them discover more and incorporate other skills.
Elements of a Plant Journal
So, if you are going to assign this project, what are some things to include? Here are some ideas:
- Sketch or Drawing– You can use any medium really. Rebecca likes both watercolors and colored pencils.
- Plant Parts– Sometimes you don’t have the whole plant or telltale parts to identify a species. Including the seeds, flowers, twigs, leaves, etc will help you to discern plant varieties.
- Facts about the Plant– Where it’s found, how it grows, when it flowers, type of soil preferred, etc.
- How to Care for the Plant– This is good information if you are growing the plant yourself whether it’s in the garden or in a container on your porch.
- Dates– It’s always good to include the date of your entry especially if you are record keeping for a garden.
- Handwriting and Lettering– Be creative! This isn’t a report or a research paper. It’s a work of art in addition to being a record of studies. I’ve enjoyed seeing Rebecca’s lettering skills grow after learning some techniques from the Illustrated Nature Journaling class. Before that, she did not enjoy lettering and we didn’t see much of it in her art.
If you are in 4-H, the journals can be submitted to the Fair by using a category in either Plant Science or Environmental Science. Just a note that there may be additional criteria for those journals. But, it’s a great opportunity to see your journal at the fair. Rebecca plans to enter hers.
Materials for Making a Plant Journal
As always, the right materials go a long way to help make a lovely finished product. These are some of the items we keep on hand for journaling:
- Paper– of all kinds. Watercolor, drawing, mixed media, and patterned. You can maximize your art experience by using different kinds of paper.
- Watercolor Paints– We prefer the tube watercolors at this point and we have a palette case to use them with. If you haven’t tried tubes, now is the time!
- Palette Box– for working with your tube colors and allows for color mixing. This is a must in working with tube colors because you can shut the box and use them again the next time. Open palettes are harder to keep long term.
- Prang Watercolors– These are the best premade tray watercolors with rich colors. Skip the cheaper brands and go for these if you aren’t getting a set of tubes!
- Travel Watercolor Set– Every nature artist needs a set of traveling watercolors. You can take them with you on the go. Rebecca will pull hers out almost anywhere.
- Water Brushes– These are paint brushes with a cylinder for water which dispenses through the brush as you paint. They are fabulous for painting in the field, but they take some getting used to.
- Drywall Tape- Used for making lines on the paper for journaling. You’ll want to see other techniques from the Illustrated Nature Journaling class below!
- Felt Tip Markers– for making colorful outlines and journaling
- Sharpie Markers– for colorful lines that can be used with watercolors
- Colored Pencils– We have long since left behind the cheap pencils! Prismacolors are our favorites now and you can get them on sale.
- Plant Field Guide or Resource Book– to get your facts straight or identify what it is you are drawing
Resources for Keeping a Nature Journal
Nature journals are a beloved part of the Charlotte Mason tradition, but I also find them valuable for artists, nature appreciators, and for biological studies. Below are some of our favorite sources for inspiration and learning when it comes to keeping a nature journal.
- Illustrated Nature Journaling– A Craftsy class on how to put together a nature journal and along with instruction on lettering and other techniques. Rebecca has been using this as the basis for her new horticulture journal this year. I’ve seen her work grow after taking this class!
- Keeping a Nature Journal– One of our favorites books on inspiring and giving ideas for keeping a nature journal of your own.
- The Student’s Guide to Keeping an Art Journal– Instructional Guidelines for Keeping an Art Journal from How Great Thou Art. This one is not specifically for nature journals, but I do appreciate some of the tips and guidelines in here along with quotes to use and some compelling reasons for keeping a journal.
Other Posts on Plants & Journals
Tips for Botanical Illustration– How do you draw plants? Here are some things we learned from an artist.
3 Reasons to Make Hand Bound Books– Hand bound books make a great way to bind your nature journals. This post is an introduction to hand binding and the materials you need.
Flower Pressing & Identification– A great guide to identifying and pressing flowers.
Wildflower Blooms Art & Nature– More inspiration for learning about wildflowers and applying art to your studies.
See what skills your students can learn and how you can apply a nature journal to your study of plants.