Concerned students have very little exposure to the outside world, middle school science teacher Janita Cormell and professor Toni Ivey created a curriculum that uses writing as a tool to reaquaint students with nature. In Nature Journaling: Enhancing Students’ Connections to the Environment Through Writing, you’ll discover that writing can be used as more than a tool for reflective thinking. Cormell and Ivey (2012) show that writing encourages people to share their thoughts, to engage in analytical conversation, to see the world around them, and to describe what they see through drawing.
To reverse the disconnect between youth and nature the authors feel is coming at the hands of technology and the fact that too much outdoor science is taught indoors, Cormell and Ivey (2012) created a research project that called upon students to discuss, illustrate, and write about issues affecting the environment and the relationship humans have with it.
The authors began their project by teaching students how to create their own journals. They then arranged for students to spend 30 minutes each week in the outdoor classroom at Cormell’s school. While outdoors, students participated in several learning activities. Some activities encouraged reflective thinking. Others were designed to enhance students’ listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.
Cormell & Ivey (2012) observed that nature journaling increased the “depth of (student) understanding of the environment” and helped Cormell’s students “make better connections between science activities, writing and the environment”. In their article, they discuss eight journaling exercises, the rubric they used to assess student understanding of the environment before and after their study, and provide a list of resources for teachers.
Interpretive naturalists may find the activity Cormell & Ivey (2012) used to enhance students’ observation skills of particular interest. Students became so engaged with this activity, they took on the role of interpretive guide all on their own.
Cormell, Janita and Toni Ivey. 2012. Nature journaling: Enhancing students’ connections to the environment through writing.
Science Scope. 35(5): 38-43