Theme: Outdoor Classroom

Nature Journals

Objective: Children will observe changes in plants and animals in nature and will record these changes in their journals.


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What You Will Need

  • Construction paper – 1 sheet per child
  • Copy paper – 5 sheets per child
  • Stapler (adult use)
  • Crayons – 1 pack per child
  • Pencil – 1 per child

What To Do

Note: This lesson requires (1) taking a walk outside 1 day per week for several weeks and (2) constructing a journal for each child prior to the lesson. To construct the journal, fold the construction paper and the copy paper in half. To make a journal, place 5 folded sheets of copy paper inside the folded construction paper, and staple in place.

  1. Discuss the plants and animals that the children may have seen near the school (see Guiding Student Inquiry).
  2. Tell the children that they are going to be nature scientists and that they will be keeping a journal of the plants and animals they see in nature.
  3. Take the children outside for a nature walk.
  4. Upon returning to the classroom, discuss the plants and animals that the children saw and where these items were located (trees, bushes, and flowers in fields, insects crawling, animals, nests in trees, and so on).
  5. Distribute the notebooks, and have the children draw the plants and animals that they observed.
  6. Go for a nature walk each week, and have the children record their observations on a separate page in their journals.
  7. Discuss any changes in nature that the children recorded, such as leaves changing, flowers wilting, grass turning yellow or brown, different animals/insects or no animals/insects, and so forth.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe the plants you saw.
  • Describe any animals or insects you saw.
  • Tell me where you saw the plants/animals.
  • Explain how nature changed in your drawings (from page to page).

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Have the children focus on one item, such as a tree. They can draw the tree each week from early spring to early summer or from late summer to early fall to note the changes.
  • Place pictures of nature and the plants and animals common to your region in the discovery or science area for further investigation.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe the plants that they saw?
  • Could children describe the animals or insects that they saw?
  • Could children explain where the plants/animals were located?
  • Could children explain how nature changed as reflected in their drawings?

Did You Know?

Whether you live in the city, in the suburbs, or in the country, nature is all around you. Trees, bushes, flowers, and insects live in many different settings. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and a variety of birds are commonly found in cities, suburbs, and in the country.

The natural world is rich with life and opportunities to explore and learn. Providing children with opportunities to find special places to explore will help them create a relationship with nature. As children explore, they automatically connect with their natural surroundings. Giving the children the freedom to discover and enjoy nature inspires a desire to appreciate and care for the natural environment.  

Did You Know?

Whether you live in the city, in the suburbs, or in the country, nature is all around you. Trees, bushes, flowers, and insects live in many different settings. Squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and a variety of birds are commonly found in cities, suburbs, and in the country.

Learn More


  • nature – the physical world and things in their natural state.
  • scientist – a person who works in or studies a science.
  • journal – a written record of a person’s experiences, thoughts, or daily events.
  • record – to put in writing.
  • observation – a careful look at something.
  • change – to make different.


  • nature
  • scientist
  • journal
  • record
  • observation
  • change

Child-Friendly Definitions

Lesson Tips

  • You could take the notebooks, crayons, and blankets outside. Have the children sit or lie on the blankets to draw what they see in nature.
  • Be sure to inform parents and guardians that their children will be going outside for a nature walk, so the children should come to school dressed appropriately.


  • Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman
  • Listen, Listen by Phillis Gershator
  • Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
  • Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak
  • Winter’s Coming: A Story of Seasonal Change by Jan Thornhill

Common Core State
Standards Initiative

These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge.[2]

Visit the CCSS website

Important Legal Disclosures & Information

  1. While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

  2. There are currently no Common Core Standards for pre-k, but these lessons are aligned as closely as possible to capture the requirements and meet the goals of Common Core Standards. However, these lessons were neither reviewed or approved by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices or the Council of Chief State School Officers, which together are the owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards.

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