Our students are encouraged to investigate, collect data from their surroundings, test hypotheses, and pursue their questions with their peers and teachers. In addition, students keep their own nature journals to record their own impressions and inquiries regarding the natural world.
Nature journals are a way for our students to interpret and record the natural sights they see around them. By encouraging students to write down their observations, students develop a more detailed awareness of their surroundings. In Lower Elementary, sometimes teachers will ask students to draw or observe a particular tree, mushroom, or landscape; other times students choose to write or draw about something that they see. Not only does this give our children a chance to practice their writing skills, it gives them the time to notice the details and small changes that occur around them on a daily basis. Oftentimes, these observations prompt questions from the students: Why are some leaves red and others brown? Why is there snow on one hillside, but not on the other? What happens to the water in Fort Creek? Asking questions and recording changes creates concrete connections between the student and the natural world.
In Upper Elementary, in addition to providing students an outlet to express their creative, individual styles, nature journaling becomes a key learning tool. Upper elementary students have multiple landscapes and ecologies that they observe; throughout the year, they document changes they see in their journals. For example, after heavy rainfall in the area, the physical appearance of the Baker River and surrounds changed dramatically. Students used knowledge drawn from their nature journals to track, document and draw conclusions as to why this seasonal change was occurring and how it affects the land. After journaling, experiencing first hand, and participating in an inquiry based discussion, students were able to confidently make hypotheses regarding the current physical state of the Baker River.