TEACH!: Unit 1, Lesson 1.


Keeping Track of Nature: Making Journals


The participants will create a journal to use in class and
to record observations throughout the course.


  • Paper cut to 6”x 6” (or other size) 20 sheets per journal
  • 2 Cover sheets per journal cut slightly larger
  • 1 Rubber band per journal
  • 1 Stick for binding (approximately 5”)
  • Paper punch


The first explorers of the United States kept journals to create maps and to report information back to the government officials who had sent them on their journeys. In their historic journals Lewis and Clark describe new lands, people, plants, and animals they encountered all along their voyage of discovery. Journals, logs, diaries — whatever you choose to call them — are a written, drawn, or otherwise illustrated record of your experiences. They can be as simple as keeping a small notebook in your pocket and listing the birds you see in a particular location, or as elaborate as including color photographs of plants and birds you encounter. How you keep a nature log can vary too. Some people choose to keep their logs or journals on their computer; some prefer beautiful, leather-covered books; some create homemade journals or calendars; and some make simple notebooks. The form doesn’t matter, just use what works for you! There are many types of journals. Grinnell journals are used by biologists around the world. These diaries are made up of two parts: a daily account of observations in a specific place, and a running record of individual plant or animal species. Phenology journals are an account by season of the plants and animals in a specific location. This type of journal can be kept simply by recording events on a calendar such as the first robin of spring or the first snowfall. Location journals are used to keep informal records of a specific place such as a park or a backyard. This journal can be used to record plant and animal sightings, and human impacts. In almost every journal, you should include the date, time, location, and weather for each entry. This will help in later years when you reflect on the information you recorded.


1. Assemble the pages of the journal with a cover page on the top and bottom of the pile.

2. Use the hole punch to create a hole one inch from the top and one inch from the bottom alongthe left edge.

3. Thread one loop end of the rubber band through the top hole and the other end through the bottom hole.

4. Insert the stick through each loop end at the top and the bottom.

5. Decorate the cover as you wish.

6. Begin your journaling experience!

Note: You can easily disassemble your journal to add more paper as needed. You may wish to make front and back covers out of special materials or add other decorative features to make your journal special.


You may want to peruse a journal or two of some of the famous naturalists. The following are four well-known naturalists and their best-known works:

Charles Darwin. 1839. The Voyage of the Beagle: Journal of Researches into the          Natural History and Geology of the Countries Visited During the Voyage of  H.M.S. Beagle. D. Appleton and Company: New York, 1878.  Available online at http://darwinonline.org.uk/converted/pdf/1878_Researches_F33.pdf 
This is the log of Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos, which planted the seeds for his thought on evolution.

Aldo Leopold. 1949. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. Oxford
University Press: London.
The first part of this book is a literary gem of a nature journal. The second part calls for action by establishing a “Land Ethic.”

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. 1806. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Available online at https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/
These journals detail the amazing journey of Lewis and Clark as they ‘discovered’ the West.

Jean Henri Fabre. 1921. Fabre ’s Book of Insects, retold from Alexander Teixeira de Mattos’ translation of Fabre’s “Souvenirs entomologiques.” Available online at www.archive.org/details/fabresbookofinse00fabriala.
J. Henri Fabre was a French entomologist during the 1800s. His books are amazing in how he describes insects and the natural world.

Continue to:
Unit 1, Lesson 2: What is a Naturalist?



Updated: May 2018