In Writing and Drawing in the Naturalist’s Journal: Reviving the Tradition of the Naturalist’s Journal as an Effective Learning Tool, biologists Joseph M. Dirnberger, Steven McCullagh, and Tom Howick describe the value of naturalist journals as a learning tool in today’s classrooms and in informal learning environments.
In a world of climate-controlled environments, Dirnberger et al. (2005) are passionate advocates for getting students outside and engaged in recording their observations in words and pictures. Concerned that climate-controlled environments and prepackaged electronic content has made the outdoors irrelevant and foreign, Dirnberger et al. (2005) have written an informative resource for teachers who may want to incorporate journals into their classrooms.
Dirnberger et al. (2005) have found that naturalist journals engage students with nature, increases student familiarity with and understanding of nature, and establishes a sense of ownership over content that only moments before was unknown to the student.
The successful incorporation of naturalist journals requires teachers to continually remind students that the role of naturalist journals is to achieve enhanced understanding, not to create masterpieces in natural history art.
Dirnberger et al. (2005) have found that naturalist journals are the most effective as learning tools when:
- Students pair written descriptions with drawings.
- Students are taught to be observant in the field, yet selective about the information they record.
- Students limit their observations to what is relevant for any given task.
- Students include scientific terminology (where appropriate), as well as scientific names.
- Students’ written entries are kept brief-and-to-the-point, yet are complete enough to encourage thoughtful reflection.
Dirnberger, McCullagh, and Howick have several helpful suggestions for teachers and their paper is a valuable reference for any educator who wants to incorporate journaling into their curriculum. A copy of this article may be purchased at The NSTA Learning Center (99¢).
Dirnberger Joseph M., Steven McCullagh, and Tom Howick. 2005. Writing & drawing in the naturalist’s journal: Reviving the tradition of the naturalist’s journal as an effective learning tool. Science Teacher 72(1):38-42.