How to Create a Nature Journal

Why Keep a Journal?

Scientists, naturalists, and wildlife enthusiasts keep journals to help them remember what they have seen. Many things may happen when you are out in the wild. The purpose of the journal is to record your observations for later reading. If you do a good job, you may discover exciting patterns emerging. These patterns are what usually lead to new discoveries about the world around us.

Selecting a Journal

I have found that small, unlined sketchbooks with a hard cover work best. The journal should be small enough to fit in a daypack, but large enough you can draw pictures and comfortably write in it.

Many people write in two journals at a time. I carry a journal with me in my backpack that I can jot down quick notes and illustrations while I’m out in the field. This journal tends to get dirty and a bit beat up. I write fast since I expect to be the only one reading my backpack journal.

I keep a second, nicer journal at home. After my outing into the wild, I transfer all of my notes from my backpack journal into my nice journal at home. Good journals may be found at: large bookstores, art stores, or museums.

What do I write in a Journal?

This is the fun part. What you actually write in your journal depends on what you are interested in.

You might like reptiles or other animals, plants, rocks, weather, or even the stars in the night sky. Any of these are great topics for you to write in your journal.

If you are interested in what certain animals eat, you may sit for long periods of time watching a particular animal and recording what it eats. You may draw pictures of the food items or even press leaves from the plants they are eating in the pages of your journal. You may be interested in the different animals seen during a hike. In this case it is more important writing down information you can use later to identify the animals.

You may be surprised what you have already forgotten by the time you have gotten home. The key to a good journal is in the details. Not only write in detail about what you are interested in, but also the time of day, the temperature, the weather, and specifics about the habitat that day. Insignificant details jotted down at the time may be the essential clue to an answer you have been searching for.

You also may include information you learn about animals or nature while visiting a zoo or nature center. A trip to the zoo is a great way to see lots of animals from all over the world and a trip to a nature center is a great way to see animals from your own neighborhood!

You may have a question about an animal or other subject that you could find the answer to in a book at the library. After you have found your answer, include it in your journal along with the bookss title and author.

Don’t feel that you have to stick to objective observations. Include a funny thing that happened, your feelings or your thoughts, maybe even write a poem or a song. The most interesting reading later on tend to be the author’s reaction. The next great scientific find may start with your thoughts!

Pictures

So, you are no Leonardo or Picasso, fear not! Check out the book The Voyage of Beagle by Charles Darwin. You may agree that many of the pictures in his journal were not great works of art. They weren’t meant to be. Most drawings are used as reminders on how something looked. Drawings are essential, especially when you need to remember exactly what color the stripes were, or how long the tail was.

Don’t forget to illustrate landscapes and habitats. Include sections of trail maps, and draw your own maps. Pictures may also be used to describe animal behavior and movements.

Photographs are also helpful. I take my digital camera with me on outings. Print small pictures on photo paper and glue them directly to journal pages. Use picture safe glue or archive safe photo tape (found in the scrapbook aisle in your local arts and crafts store).

rclubmoss21

Discover the Wonders at Reptiles Alive!

Do You Want to Go on a Herp Survey?

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May 3, 2012

Herpetology Survey, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

Sponsored by the Virginia Herpetology Society, the Friends of Dyke Marsh and the U.S. National Park Service

Leaders: Caroline Seitz and Brent Steury

This survey will have three segments – morning, afternoon and evening. Participants are welcome to do one, two or three. It will occur rain or shine, but not during a storm with thunder and lightning. Park in the BelleHaven picnic area parking lot.

The Schedule

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Terrestrial survey in several areas of the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. Meet at 10 a. m. in the Belle Haven parking lot to form teams. Look for the “Reptiles Alive” van.

1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Lunch (bring a picnic lunch) & Survey Recap/Count for the AM survey

2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Water survey via kayaks and canoes [bring your own boat] Meet at the Belle Haven Marina Boat Launch area

5 p.m. to sunset Dinner (on your own)

7:45 p.m. to9 p.m. (starting at sunset) Evening survey for frogs calling [bring a flashlight] + Final Species Tally and numbers Meet at the Belle Haven Parking area – look for the Reptiles Alive van

What to Wear and Bring

Prepare for all weather, for walking through brambles and woods, in muck, over rocks and on uneven surfaces. Wear waterproof shoes/boots or old shoes that can get muddy and wet. No one will be expected to wade into deep water.

Bring sun protection, camera, binoculars, notepad, pen, a garbage bag.

Bring lunch and/or dinner. There will also be time to leave and buy lunch and dinner.

Bring a flashlight if you are doing the evening walk.

RSVP: Please let one of the following know if you plan to participate and when:

Caroline Seitz, Virginia Herpetology Society, reptilesalive@gmail.com

Glenda Booth, Friends of Dyke Marsh, gbooth123@aol.com

Brent Steury, National Park Service, brent_steury@nps.gov

Lesson Session – The Blind Naturalist

This is a great lesson to teach students about their senses and how valuable they are in their observations.

Grade Levels: K-5

deer_jawDiscussion:

Naturalists use all their senses to explore the world. This activity encourages students to describe objects using their sense of touch.

Discuss how a scientist may use their different senses to learn things about the natural world with the class.

For example many ornithologists, bird researchers, study bird songs to learn more about the animals. Botanists use their sense of smell to learn more about plants. Ask students for more examples.

Materials:

cardboard boxes with hand sized hole cut in one side
various natural objects that are interesting to touch
(snake shed, pine cone, skull, feathers, fur, large seed pods, turtle shell are a few examples)

Activity:

Place a different object in each one of the boxes. Make sure the boxes are closed and the hole is located on the side of the box. Sometimes it is a good idea to tape a piece of paper on the top of the box to discourage students from looking into the box through the hole cut in the side. Write a number on each of the boxes so the students may reference them on their paper.

Each student takes turns touching the objects in the boxes. No talking, peeking, or showing each other what they have written!

They then write down a description of each object. Was it rough, smooth, hard, soft, big, small, bumpy? Encourage the children to be as detailed as possible. Have the children guess what is in each of the boxes. To add time to the activity, ask each student to try and draw what is in the boxes by feel alone.

Closure:

Have a class discussion about their experiences. Have the students share descriptions of the objects. What did they learn about each object by touching it?

Reveal each of the objects. Were any of the students correct? How did seeing the object compare to how it felt? What would the benefits be for a scientist to use all his senses when learning about something?

 

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We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18