Guest blog post by Science Educator Emily Buckner
It was a foggy week for the twelve students who came to Hurricane for the Middle School Island Ecology program; but without the ability to see past our own shoreline came the opportunity to truly focus in on this unique place. The week’s main goal was to become better naturalists, individuals who were observant, curious about the world around them, and asking thoughtful questions. One of the main ways we cultivated these skills was by creating and utilizing nature journals, a space where we could record our own thoughts, observations and learning, in the style that best suited our thought process, such as writing, drawing, poetry, lists, etc. (and often a combination of several of those things).
Nature journaling is a great way to develop a sense of place and connection to nature. Forcing you to slow down and really notice your surroundings, journaling can help you track environmental and seasonal changes and allow you to start making connections and see patterns. Thinking about how things are connected is the basis of ecology and environmental stewardship and the ability to recognize patterns is an essential component to being a scientist, making the practice of nature journaling a truly interdisciplinary skill. We were thrilled to see all these things play out over the course of the week with such a wonderful group of middle schoolers.
By the end of the program each students’ journal was full of notes, drawings, pressed flowers and leaves, in addition to goals for how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, a daily ‘rose, bud, thorn’, and some ideas for future research projects they would like to do on Hurricane. In addition to the journals, the group also created a visual representation of their experience on the island, putting their observations and memories into drawings and placing them on a physical map of Hurricane. This map was proudly presented to the rest of the island community and now sits in the galley as one more example of how people who visit this place can truly make it their own.