Nature Journaling & Phenology (with printable journal)

April 25, 2013

Nature Journaling & Phenology w/Children + Printable Journal!

Monique Barker with us today to share some wonderful tips on how to bring focus to nature journaling excursions. She also includes lots of great resources and a lovely printable journal…

My children love to keep nature journals.  We bring them whenever we visit an outdoor spot like parks, beaches, or our local botanical garden.  They run in to grab them whenever something in our yard peaks their interest.  This year we are expanding our practice of nature journaling to include a phenology record.

What is phenology?  It is the study of changes in plants and animals in response to climate and seasonal changes.  The observation of the timing of seasonal life events in plants and animals has been utilized by farmers, gardeners, scientists, and people who care for nature for centuries.  It is nature’s clever “calendar” of sorts that lets birds know when to migrate, insects to emerge, and trees to leaf out.  Phenology is also about simply enjoying the return of seasonal occurrences: spotting the first robin, noticing the vibrant reds of the sumac’s, seeing the return of the Orion constellation.  Phenology is a wonderful way to connect with the natural world around us.

Nature Journaling & Phenology w/Children + Printable Journal!

Would you and your child like to keep a phenology nature journal?  It’s fairly easy.

  • First, select a site.

I would recommend starting in a familiar location that’s easily accessible.  Your backyard would be a great place to begin.

  • Next, choose an animal or plant to observe.

Observe the same individual plant or selected species of animal each time.  If you are observing an animal, notice the level of activity and feeding, nesting, and communicating/calling activities.  For plants, look for initial growth and stages of leafing, flowering, fruit/seed production, and dormancy.

  • Now, record your observations.

This can be done with drawings or photos, written descriptions, or a combination.  You should even record when you don’t see your chosen plant or animal.  Capture as many details as you can.  Always record the date and, if you like, the time of day, weather conditions, and temperature.  Try to make your observations and recordings at least once a week and continue throughout the year.

With practice, you and your child will become more comfortable with this process.  Over time you’ll build a wonderful collection of the rhythms of seasonal life worth sharing for years to come.

To read more about phenology or to join a citizen science phenology project, visit these sites:
Rhythm of the Home
Journey North
National Phenology Network
Project BudBurst
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Citizen Science

You can also make once a month recordings of seasonal changes or conditions.  This site offers some wonderful inspiration:
Partners in Place

If you’d like to start with making monthly observations, you can use a copy of this simple phenology booklet I made (cover design by Randi, thank you!) to record them. Click on photo below to download and print:





Monique is an Early Intervention Specialist and currently a stay-at-home, home-educating mom to three children ages 5, 8, and 10 years old. She and her family live in beautiful coastal Maine. Monique loves creating playful learning experiences with and for children, especially ones that encourage a love of nature and a healthy lifestyle.


  1. Stacey said on April 25, 2013 #

    What a lovely idea. I have been taking pictures of a flowering tree in our back yard as it blooms and have been showing our girls but what a fun idea to encourage them to record too!

    • Monique B said on April 25, 2013 #

      Stacey, I hope you give it a try. Once your girls have a year’s worth of observations, it’ll be fun for them to compare the dates with subsequent years (will it bloom around the same date, what kind of critters visit it, etc). The life of the tree may become even more special…

  2. Kelli Van Noppen said on May 7, 2013 #

    Wow! Could not have come at a better time. My third graders and I are about to study Rachel Carson and embark on a watercolor adventure…this is going to be a great tool! Thank you for being so generous and sharing it.

  3. Living Almana said on March 26, 2014 #

    So wonderful! How did we miss this when it came out last year? Now retweeting.

Leave a Comment