“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” — Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles
Spring is in the air! The days are (slowly) becoming warmer; soon daffodils and crocuses will poke their heads out of the soil and buds will appear on trees. It’s the perfect time of year to practice your observational skills by keeping a nature journal.
Select a favorite spot outside—perhaps right outside your backdoor, next to a favorite stream or nestled deep in the woods—that brings you joy. Spend a few moments with your eyes closed feeling, smelling and listening. Take some mental notes about what you notice. Are the leaves rustling? Are birds in the area? Is the sun warming your face or are clouds overhead? Write or draw your first big picture impressions. Don’t worry about the accuracy of your drawing, focus on representing what you see (tip: Look at what you are drawing, not at your paper).
Next, choose something in your field of vision that will be there throughout the season, like a tree, branch or boulder. Write or draw a description of it. What strikes you? What is its most notable characteristic? If you are able to reach this feature and touch it without disturbing it, do so. What does it feel or smell like?
You can track the spot and detail in your journal all year long and observe how the landscape changes throughout the year: the different trees that bloom, the different birds you see or hear. By focusing on something small within that landscape, you will become more acquainted with the cycle of the seasons and discover the pleasure of savoring each small change.
Careful and thoughtful observation is a cornerstone of science and scientific inquiry. It is the first step in becoming curious and asking questions; it is critical to the collection of data; and it is necessary when interpreting analyzed data. It is also a valuable skill in everyday life.
Journaling, which can be done at any age, is an easy and fun introduction to the process of observation. So this spring, start a habit of observation for yourself, and encourage the young people in your life involved!
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