Nature Journaling Curriculum

Nature Journaling is a powerful adjunct to teaching science and should be a standard part of every classroom. Journaling is an ideal way to explore with the Next Generation Science Standards. Here you can find links to three outstanding free resources: How to Teach Nature Journaling, Opening the World Through Nature Journaling, and The BEETLES curriculum.

How to Teach Nature Journaling is the comprehensive guide for educators, parents and those who wish to mentor others to develop journaling skills. It is available both as a printed book and a free PDF download. If you love the book, please consider making a donation or purchasing a copy from my store if you are able to do so. Order or download it here.

The second edition of the acclaimed curriculum, Opening the World through Journaling: Integrating art, science, and language arts, is also available as a free download. Download the curriculum here.  Much of the material in this guide has been updated and revised in How to Teach Nature Journaling. This edition was created with the support of the California Native Plant Society by John Muir Laws, Emilie Lygren, Emily Brueunig, and Celeste Lopez. This edition can be used in schoolyards, camps, nature centers, and family outings. It is geared primarily towards children age 8 and up, and meets California state standards for grades 3 through 7 but works just as well for teenagers and adults. The 2nd edition has many improvements and a wonderful new section of poetry writing activities. These activities teach children to become keen observers of the natural world by drawing and writing about plants and animals in the field. In a set of nested games and activities, students gain confidence in drawing and writing as a way to gather information. Using a set of key prompts, children and adults also discover a language to create poetry from their observations. They employ these skills and tools to put together a field guide, make treasure maps, and write poems and stories. Keeping a field journal develops and reinforces the most important science process skills; observation and documentation. All other parts of the process of science depend on these skills. We assume that we are naturally good observers, but learning to really see is a skill that must be learned and developed. Journal activities tie directly to the State of California science framework content standards and the visual and performing arts framework content standards. This project is funded to date by the JiJi Foundation.

Also, consider joining our How to Teach Nature Journaling Facebook Group, where we are building a community of nature journaling educators to ask questions, share strategies, and inspire each other on this journey.

I am an advisor for the BEETLES (Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning & Expertise Sharing) team at the Lawrence Hall of Science. I highly recommend the Field Journaling Sessions and materials. Download the free lesson plans and staff training manual here. Here is a video overview of this work.

38 thoughts on “Nature Journaling Curriculum

  1. Karen says:

    Thank you so much for making your book freely available online, I have gone through the free pdf and watched a number of your Youtube videos, and I have decided to buy a hard copy in order to incorporate nature journaling into my children’s home education. I am really excited to start this with my children.

  2. Gayle Lam says:

    I second, third and fourth the comments of gratitude for making your book available online for free during this immediate time of need. I teach Honors Bio and Environmental Science and recently deployed a digital journaling lesson for students to get outdoors, explore, propose, research, and explain/report. As if they weren’t getting too much screen time before…they certainly are now, and getting outdoors is good medicine! Thank you!

  3. Steve Rierson says:

    As a biology & human A&P educator, I am very much looking forward to using these resources to support my students (specifically given the Covid-19 environment we find ourselves in.)

    Thank you for providing materials at a reduced price as I could not have done this otherwise.

  4. Mandy van Goeije says:

    Thank you so much for making the teacher’s handbook available for free. I have your guide to nature drawing and journaling and I love it. I find it’s very extensive and incredibly helpful for beginners and more advanced artists/journalers. You seem to catch all the questions someone could have and then answer them. I’m running a little project on my facebook & Instagram called “The Little Big World” in which I encourage people to study nature in their nearest vicinity and tomorrow I’m going to recommend your book to those who’d like to dive into nature journaling. Even though I’m an artist, I was always a little reluctant to try realistic things, but your book’s helped me get over that pretty much. At the moment I’m doing a scientific nature drawing course. Just for training, but still…the step of reading amongst others your book has really helped. Thanks so much and keep up the amazing work. It will make this world a better place! Kind cross-Atlantic regards, Mandy

  5. Wendy says:

    Thank you for the generosity you show through the recent release of resources available during the California COVID -19 shelter in place time. This is a wonderful resource for teachers (Montessori especially) to use for remote learning.

  6. Mark Garner says:

    Any update on when the third edition will be out? I greatly appreciate everything that you do. The second edition is great and I have been keeping an eye out for the third edition.

    Thanks,
    Mark Garner

  7. Mark Garner says:

    Hi again!

    I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate all of your hard work. All of your resources that you have available are great. I am working with my class of middle school students on a project creating pigments, paper, and ink from natural resources. We are entering a phase where we are working on learning about block printing botanical illustrations and I’ve been using you’re multi part video on sketching flowers and leaves to help with this. I’ve been waiting with anticipation for months on your new version of the curriculum, scouring Facebook and here for any updates. I’m hoping it comes out soon.

    Thanks
    Mark Garner

  8. Stephanie says:

    I love your resources. Thank you you so much for making them available! I lead a natural history club with our homeschool co-op. We’re studying geology right now and are getting ready to use your tutorials on how to draw rocks. Do you ever make it out towards East Tennessee?

    • John Muir Laws says:

      Thank you! I am sometimes back your way but my family is in California so I spend most of my time out here. How can I be of help to you and your co-op? Let’s continue this conversation via email.

  9. Amanda Ward says:

    Hi! I am a home school mom in Colorado. I stumbled across this website today and am very excited about what you have available. I am trying to integrate nature study in our curriculum to encourage my girls to observe the beautiful world that surrounds us. Our first term we will be studying John James Audubon and learning about the various birds in our region. I am also an artist and love being able to share my love of painting nature with my girls. Your instructions on drawing animals will be a great addition to our curriculum. Just wanted to thank you for this amazing resource. Any tips on anything else you think would be beneficial for a home school environment is greatly appreciated.

    Amanda Ward

    • John Muir Laws says:

      Thank you! Let me know how your program develops. Also, let me know if you would like me to prepare any specific lessons.

  10. Rachel Miller says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing resource! I am preparing to lead a group of students using these materials, but I notice that an update is mentioned for 2018. Before I print, is the update available yet? Thanks again so much for your work!

  11. Scott J Shepherd says:

    I’m a teacher in San Diego California and discovered this page last year. I’ve just started nature journaling with our 3rd grade students as a part of our Outdoor Leadership Class. I’m so excited to continue using this curriculum. I’ve seen students sense of wonder and genuine exploration explode through using these techniques and can’t wait to continue using them. Are you planning any professional development opportunities in Southern California in the near future? Thanks for all you do!

  12. Elaine says:

    Hi! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your page! I’m an art teacher in Canada and have always wanted to start a nature journaling club but didn’t know where to start! I tried to download the free guide but I couldn’t change the country to Canada for the billing information part…is there any way you could email me the doc/pdf? Thanks so much!

  13. Sarah DeMeyer-Guyer says:

    Hey John-
    REALLY enjoyed our time with you here in Santa Cruz at the teacher leadership institute! I am so inspired and am trying to plan my kick-off of nature journaling with my 2nd grade students when school starts in the fall.

    Does any of your curriculum include guides on how to launch nature journaling in the classroom? If so, how do I find/access that? I bought your bigger book on Monday and I (and my 10 year old son have already begun pouring through it!).

    PS- Begging my admin to have you come and give a lesson to the staff : )

    • John Laws says:

      I would love to come down and teach at your school. Yes the curriculum does have ideas about starting this program in class. We are making version 3.0 and it will be even more helpful.

      • Sarah DeMeyer-Guyer says:

        Thank you!
        My family and I caught up with you at the Family Journaling class you gave in Pacifica. You were gracious enough to give us some of your time afterwards. All of us left so incredibly inspired and have continued to use our journals as a family! Thank you for everything! I cannot wait to see your 2nd grade level curriculum and am really excited to start this amazing practice with my own 2nd grade students in September! THANK YOU!

  14. Melanie says:

    John, can these be used in Texas as well? I know the resources are based off California wildlife and plant life so Im not sure how much I can use. Thank you for all the videos and lessons on this site though, theyre wonderful.

  15. Sandra Strong says:

    I am unable to access the Opening the World Through Nature Journaling download. The link continues to loop through the CNPS site without an actual download. Thanks!

  16. Mark says:

    Hi,
    I am trying to access the curriculum and the website keeps on redirecting me away from the page. Is the curriculum still available? I teach at small school in rural Northwest NJ and I am hoping to incorporate year long, weekly journaling with my 2nd and 3rd grade students next year on our school’s property and nearby nature preserves and parks. My theme for next year’s integrated curriculum
    are the natural patterns, rhythms, and cycles that surround us. Thank you for all of your bountiful resources especially videos that are free. Being a teacher with limited funds at my disposal, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate it. I hope to purchase your published books soon for my own personal use and potentially incorporate them into my classroom practice.

    • John Laws says:

      Yep, I found that too. They are revising the website and should have that fixed soon. shoot me an email and we can talk about the revision of the curriculum. It may be more useful to you.

  17. Kelli Hertzler says:

    The beetlesproject.org website is not online (disabled by host, it appears). Is there another way to access the free resources mentioned above?
    (I was able to get the one from CNPS.org. It looks great!)
    Thank you for the great resources.
    Kelli

  18. Laurie Riley says:

    Dear John,
    Our group of Audubon Canyon Ranch docents is putting together a lecture series for our advanced docent training in Spring 2018. We would be thrilled if you would be available to speak to us on Wednesday, January 17, 2017 at Pitcher Canyon on the Bolinas Lagoon. We meet at 9 a.m. and continue through lunch until 2 pm. There would be time for a morning lecture and hands-on exploration after our brought lunches.
    I know that you have been to the ACR ranch in the past, and we unanimously voted to have you return!
    I look forward to your response.
    Thanks,
    Laurie Riley

  19. Margaret Aiken says:

    Dear John,

    I have been a fan for a long time. I am curious if you would be interested/able to come to Colby College Museum of Art in Maine for a public talk/conversation about Nature Journaling as it pertains to the Audubon exhibition we are mounting here this fall.

    sincerely,
    Margaret Aiken

  20. Kim says:

    I used your observation lesson of comparing two or more similar things and drawing/writing about what’s the same and different with three classes of 30 fourth graders. In each of the three classes, even with a huge range of ability and temperament, the students were having truly authentic discovery and realizations. It was beautiful! Some compared our three redwood trees (dawn, coast & sequoia), some compared mushrooms, some compared berries, some compared kale types, some compared oxalis types. Each group of students could be heard saying, “I never noticed this…”, “Huh, that’s weird…” “I wonder why…” “I wonder how come…” It was really REAL. The teachers were thrilled. One said to me afterward, “To see Nico actually engaged in something, anything at all, and spending actual time doing something was a first.” Another teacher said, “It was great to hear their different ideas and their wonder.”

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