Every naturalist carries a notebook for writing down their observations and drawing sketches of the plants and animals they encounter. This notebook is called a nature journal, and it provides a place to write and draw ideas about the natural world. Through its pages, you can get to know the nature around you, whether it’s in your backyard or a state park.  

Why keep a nature journal?

Nature journaling helps youth connect with the environment by finding interesting species of plants and animals, even in urban areas. For youth and adults, a deeper understanding of their natural community through nature journaling can lead to a greater commitment to the environment.  

How to start a nature journal

  1. Choose a dedicated nature journal that is durable. If you want to draw the species you see, try a sturdy sketchbook. If you want to write about local species, bring a lined or grid journal.  
  2. Bring a pen or pencil to write your observations. If you want to draw, bring art supplies such as colored pencils or watercolors.  
  3. On the first page of your journal, write down some prompts that will help you as you observe. What types of animals do you see? What is the dominant type of vegetation? What details do you notice about the plant or animal as you sketch it? How do you feel about where you are and what you are seeing? 
  4. Start by writing down details such as the date, time, location, and weather. 
  5. Be intentional about what you write in the journal, Use detailed descriptions, record your emotions, or try using prompts to spark ideas. 
  6. Open all your senses. Record what you can hear, see, and smell.  
  7. Watch for signs of wildlife, including scat, tracks, bird nests, and spider webs.  
  8. When you get home, research your observations using your field notes as a guide.


Information from The Sierra Club Pennsylvania and The Chesapeake Bay Foundation.