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How to Make Leaf Rubbings

Taking the time to draw leaves helps you observe the details. For young children, a wonderful starting place for a homeschool leaf nature study is to make leaf rubbings.

When my children were young, autumn walks always included collecting colorful leaves. We might get home with handfuls of leaves in a rainbow of autumn shades. We would talk about the shapes and what tree each leaf came from or which ones were our favorites. Once home, we’d pull out crayons or markers and attempt to draw a few of the leaves on paper to be hung on the refrigerator or given as gifts to grandparents. Nature study was casual and enjoyable.

As they grew older and we would be out during our homeschool day, I would sometimes follow up with a more detailed nature study lesson using the Handbook of Nature Study or our tree field guide. The amount of information we would cover really depended on the children’s interest and my aim. By high school we were more deliberate in our autumn leaf studies using more scientific vocabulary and I expected them to create a more detailed nature journal as part of our more formal science lessons.

Learning about trees, leaves, autumn, and the neighborhood can build over many years and still seem to be just a part of learning about the world we live in and the trees that share the same space.

I love this quote from Anna Botsford Comstock:

“During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, ‘This is a white-oak leaf,’ the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades.” Anna Botsford-Comstock

Leaf Homeschool Nature Study: How to Make Leaf Rubbings

I have many resources here on my website that will help your family learn about leaves, some for younger students and some for older and more advanced students. I’ve found that taking time to draw leaves makes you observe them closely and see the specific features each tree’s leaves involve.

I highly recommend starting with simple sketching and/or rubbing of leaves with younger children.

  • You can watch my short YouTube video that shares some of my tips for drawing leaves, how to make leaf rubbings, and using a flower press for pressing leaves here: Tips for Drawing Leaves.
  • You may wish to complete the Outdoor Hour Challenge that features collecting leaves. Click over and read how to complete a simple leaf study: Collecting Leaves.
  • Watercolor crayons demonstration – Fall Leaf for the Nature Journal. I created this YouTube video a long time ago that shows how I use watercolor crayons in my nature journal. It makes me want to go gather some leaves and do this again in my nature journal!

  • Making Leaf Prints with Ink: This activity is wonderful for older students to quickly create a leaf nature journal page using ink pads and leaves they collect.
  • Image of the cover 9/15 NL

Now that autumn is here, I’m trying to embrace its beauty. We don’t have much “fall color” here in my part of the world but the little bit we do have will be appreciated and perhaps even make its way into my nature journal.

Members can look in the library for many more printable tree and leaf activities and notebook pages in the Trees course.

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find hundreds of homeschool nature studies plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

Taking the time to draw leaves helps you observe the details. For young children, a wonderful starting place for a homeschool leaf nature study is to make leaf rubbings.
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Creating a Nature Journal Supply Kit

Creating a nature journal with your children is an experience you all can enjoy. I always told my children (and myself) that there’s really no right or wrong way to create a page, except if you never gave it a try. Over the years, I had to create a routine for nature journaling or we would procrastinate or forget it altogether.

One way to give us a better chance of creating a nature journal was to take our journal and our supplies along on our nature walk so we could create a page right at the moment. But, this meant I needed to be a little prepared before we left the house.

Nature Journal supplies basic

What did we take along with us?

When the children were younger they exclusively used spiral bound journals because they were easier to take along with us when we did our sketching. We used No. 2 pencils and colored pencils pretty much for all the entries.

Nature Journal supplies pouch with pens pencils

For variety and as they grew older, we started to use colored pencils and thin markers to create our nature entries. Watercolors often gave a wonderful result but they required a bit more effort because you needed to bring along a water source, the brushes, and a paper towel or cloth in addition to the journal.

Nature Journal Kit in ziploc

I found that keeping our supplies all together in one spot and storing them in an easy to find place, made it more likely that we would actually complete a page while we were taking our Outdoor Hour.

I suggest you find a container like a plastic crate, a tote bag, or a backpack to use as a storage container for your journal supplies. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Don’t use anything too large or too heavy or you won’t want to lug it around on your nature walks.

Nature Journal supplies watercolors

I have a plastic container that I purchased at the Dollar Tree store many years ago that has held up nicely, but I’m sure you have something sitting around your house that you could start off using for now.

Gather your supplies and remember to keep it simple. A few No. 2 pencils with erasers, a small set of colored pencils, a small set of watercolors and a brush, some tape, a pair of scissors, a water container, and a pencil sharpener can form the foundation of your supply kit.

Over time, your family will find favorite supplies to have when journaling on the road. The most important part of journaling is to have experiences to document on the journal pages. Start there. Create the opportunity for a good nature study and then follow up with a little time to work in your nature journal.

The habit of nature journaling is something that will benefit your child long after they have grown up. It teaches important observation and documenting skills that will benefit other areas of study and real life.

 




 

Please note the links above are my Amazon affiliate links to products I have purchased and highly recommend.

Getting Started with Nature Journals

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Nature Journal Project – November 2017

Weekly Nature Journal Project

November 2017

 

As I prepared to write this entry, I took a few moments to reflect on how much I have come to look forward to the time I can spend in my nature journal each week. It doesn’t feel like a chore but rather an extension of how I’m growing as a person, an Oregonian, and a naturalist. The outdoor time comes first, the observations and questions come second, and then keeping a record of what I have discovered comes with ease.

It’s always easier to make a nature journal page if I have something I’m excited about capturing on paper.

Here are my nature ramblings from the month of November.

 

Watercolor Landscape Nature Journal

I’m often mesmerized by the landscape scene out my back window. It is ever changing, even from minute to minute. The clouds, the water, the sky, the birds, the plants, the light…always something to marvel at as I stand, many times distracted from chores, at my picture window.  I tried to use watercolors to make a record of a certain day and I love the way it turned out.

November Recap Page Nature Journal

Recaps are some of my favorite pages in my journal. It gives me the freedom to include a lot of different random thoughts all on one page.

Wild Rye Grass Nature Journal

This page illustrates the “whole to parts” idea for a nature journal. Instead of just including a sketch of the whole subject, you add smaller sketches of interesting parts. On this page, I drew the seed head and the roots. Now I have a better appreciation for the grasses that grow out behind my house and their importance to the habitat and the wildlife that frequent there.

American Beaver Nature Journal Page

After researching the beaver, I wanted to make a page to highlight the things I learned and appreciated about this truly amazing mammal. I can look for signs of our beavers as we walk along the river and feel a connection because I have a deeper understanding of how they behave and live. I really hope we find their lodge and perhaps even spy them at some point in the future.

Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge

Don’t forget that I am sharing a nature journal page each week on my Instagram account if you want to see the pages as they unfold. Follow me here: Instagram – outdoorhourchallenge. And, if you want to create a page and share it on your Instagram for me to see, use the hashtag #OHCnaturejournal

Autumn 2010 Outdoor Hour Challenge

Join us for the autumn season series of Outdoor Hour Challenges using the ideas in the Autumn 2010 ebook.

 

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September Leaf Study – Smoke Tree

September Leaf Study Smoke Tree using the Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter

“During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, ‘This is a white-oak leaf,’ the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades.” Anna Botsford-Comstock

The September newsletter was all about trees and a leaf study. I was trying to find a new subject for my study this month and decided upon a fairly new tree I have growing in my front yard. We have not pruned it to be a tree but have let it grow more in the shape of a bush. Our smoke tree provided a wonderful focal point for my leaf study using the suggestions in the newsletter and on the notebook page provided.

Note: If you subscribe to this blog, you will receive each month’s newsletter in an email. If you are interested in access to all the back issues of the newsletter, you can purchase any level of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study and those will be available for download. See the Join Us page for more details.

Doing research on this interesting plant, I learned it has numerous common names including mist tree, cloud tree, wig tree, and Jupiter’s beard. I have always liked these trees because they develop this interesting pink “smoke” over the summer months and then the leaves turn a deep reddish purple in the autumn. Our smoke tree has just started to blush with red color on many of the leaves. Soon it will be ablaze with its autumn splendor.

Smoke Tree Leaf Study using the Handbook of Nature Study (4)

 Can you see the hint of red in some of the leaves above? I used the prompt from the newsletter to compare the top and bottom of the leaves. The tops of the leaves are a dark gray green color and the backs are more of a silvery green color. You can feel the veins on the bottom of the leaf but the tops are smooth. Also, you can see the beginnings of the dark little fruits that form on this plant in the fall.

Smoke Tree Leaf Study using the Handbook of Nature Study (5)

I used the suggestion on the notebook page to smell the leaf and then to crush it and see if that enhances the scent. Yes! I thought the leaf had the fragrance of spicy earth but when I was doing my reading about the smoke tree, I found that it said the crushed leaf smells like orange peel. Once they put that thought in my head I had to agree…orange peels. In the photo above, you can see a few of the dark small seeds mixed in with the pink smoke.

Smoke Tree Leaf Study using the Handbook of Nature Study (1)

So here is my completed notebook page with all my observations and interesting facts…an a watercolor drawing of the leaf. I may print a photo of the tree and attach it to the back of my notebook page for my journal since I have one that I took that I especially like. My page is now tucked away in my nature journal binder and thinking about it makes me happy.

Using the notebook page, I realized that I need to make the prompt on the next notebook page a little more narrow so if we want to use it as a nature journal topper it will fit in a sketchbook or blank nature journal better. Look for that next month!

 

Need some additional ideas?

Here is a video I made on how to make a watercolor leaf which is especially good for beginners: Watercolor Leaf on YouTube.

I created another video featuring watercolor crayons that create a beautiful leaf in my nature journal: Watercolor Crayons – Leaf Demonstration.

Here is a link to Hearts and Trees: Fall Nature Study- Things to Do With Leaves (10 things to do with leaves)

 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Spring Cattail Observations

Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Cattail Observations @handbookofnaturestudy

Outdoor Hour Challenge:

This is a classic springtime study here on the Outdoor Hour Challenge. Take a few minutes this week to think about where you might find some cattails to observe. If nothing else, take a walk at a local stream or pond to explore the springtime weather with your children.

Spring Cattail Observations: This challenge has some simple cattail observations to try with your family.

Spring Cattail Observations: You will find a free printable notebook page in this challenge.

Special Activity:Watercolor Activity


Take some time this week to pull out the watercolors to record your springtime cattail in your nature journal. Fun Suggestion: Use the water from your stream or pond to watercolor!

I searched on Pinterest for “watercolor cattails” and I found loads of inspiration to get started: Pinterest – Watercolor Cattails.

Getting Started Suggestion:

If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #2.   Take a walk and then discuss with your children what they enjoyed during their outdoor time. Help them find words to record in their nature journal or you can follow up with the accompanying notebook page from the ebook. Additional idea: While you are out during your outdoor time, find a wildflower, weed, or leaf to put into your flower press.

Handbook of Nature Study Ultimate Naturalist Library

Note: You can find the Getting Started ebook in all levels of membership here at the Handbook of Nature Study.

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Nature Journal Topper Printable – Getting Started

This month in the Handbook of Nature Study newsletter I created a brand new printable for helping your children start working in their very own nature journal.

The printable Nature Journal Toppers are a simple way to help a child get over the “blank page” fear by providing a simple prompt.

What is a Nature Journal Topper?
The prompts in the Nature Journal Topper will allow them to cut and then adhere a short nature study idea to the top of any page, then complete the suggestion in their own way. Sometimes the page will include a suggestion for a sketch, a photo, a list, or an observation.

I chose to start with the spring tree Nature Journal Toppers as well as the list prompt provided in the March 2014 newsletter. Allow your child to create a page that fits their style. I used watercolors to paint a background on my page but that is my personal style. I will fill in the page as the month goes by.

Your child can complete as many of the prompts each month as they wish. I am hoping that these Nature Journal Toppers will give you family a little help in encouraging even the most reluctant nature journaler.

I will be including this feature in the up-coming editions of the Handbook of Nature Study newsletter. Some families really enjoy the nature study grids from the newsletter so we may go back to those in the future.

I would enjoy hearing how using the Nature Journal Toppers help your family.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Snow Study


The Winter Snow challenge from the Winter Wednesday ebook is a fun one to have on hand whenever you get some snow. I wish you all a great week of nature study!

Original Challenge: Snow
Use the suggestions in this challenge to complete a snow related experiment, recording the results on the accompanying notebook page or in your nature journal. There are also some additional ideas for non-snow related activities to substitute if you live where there is no snow. You can also use the Winter Nature Walk printable from Hearts and Trees.

Special Activity: Watercolor With Snow
Bring a cup or so of snow in and let it melt. Use the resulting water to watercolor a winter scene.

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #3.  Make sure to read the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study for this challenge. We all need reminders about how to encourage our children in their nature journals. This week you can record a winter scene in your journals or use the notebook page from the ebook to keep a record of your outdoor time.  

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OHC Blog Carnival
You are welcome to submit any of you blog Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Entries for the current month are due on 1/30/14.

Nature Study Bundle Button

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Autumn Watercolor Nature Journal Idea

Up in the Desolation Wilderness, we enjoyed a walk along Lily Lake (see Glen Alpine Springs). The view said autumn and the sunshine felt glorious. Sitting on a rock for a few minutes, we were able to take in the scene and make an autumn afternoon memory.

We also took a long bike ride along the bike trail at South Lake Tahoe. The day was a perfect to be enjoying the colors, sights, and sounds of autumn. The aspens were past prime but there were other trees, shrubs, and ferns that contributed to the golden glow of the day.

We made a side trip to go view the Kokanee salmon that are spawning in Taylor Creek right now. No bears this year but we did see and hear three hawks and also observed signs of beaver activity.

I used fall colors to make a border and now I will journal my thoughts in the blank space.

I brought along my nature journal and watercolors and came up with a way to create a simple and easy journal page as we sat and enjoyed the afternoon sunshine. I chose my favorite fall colors, making an abstract border and then added a title box with my sky-blue color paint. Now that I am home and have a few minutes, I will journal our experiences during our hike and bike ride.

My tip for using watercolors in your nature journal – Keep it easy and fun…be inspired by your outdoor time.

This post contains affiliate links to products I highly recommend and/or use.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Autumn Weather Study

Autumn Weather Nature Study
Outdoor Hour Challenge

Use some of the ideas in these autumn weather challenges from the past:
Seasonal Weather – Autumn 2009 -free printable notebook page
Seasonal Weather – Autumn Observations  – with links
Weather Walk – free printable notebook page
Outdoor Hour Challenge #40 Seasonal Weather Study – free printable notebook page
Seasonal Weather – photo challenge with free printable notebook page

Autumn Watercolor – Leaves, Clouds, Acorns, or Anything Else
Bring out your watercolors (or watercolor pencils or watercolor crayons) and create a page for your nature journal as part of your Autumn Weather Challenge.

Watercolor Crayons – Complete Leaf Sketch and Video
Watercolor Clouds


You can also try one of the video watercolor tutorials on my daughter’s blog:
Hearts and Trees – Watercolor and Rubbing Alcohol

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #1. If you haven’t tried any of the Getting Started suggestions yet this season, give Challenge #1 a try…super easy for every family to just take a walk together and then have a follow-up discussion and offer time for a nature journal page. Keep it light and easy. 

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OHC Blog Carnival

You are welcome to submit any of you blog Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Entries for the current month are due on 10/30/13.

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Watercolor Pencil 101 Tutorial Video and Printable

Watercolor pencils are my favorite art supply and I use them regularly in my nature journal. Over the years I have learned a few techniques for using watercolor pencils in a variety of ways…each with its own effects and advantages.

I will share them here but for a more detailed look at how to do each technique, watch the handy video below: Watercolor Pencils 101 Tutorial.

Color and then brush with a wet brush:
Use your watercolor pencil to fill in a space, then add water.You can use your pencils to blend and layer color before or after adding water. I especially like to use this technique in my nature journal because I can do my sketching in the field and then add the water later…even much later at home.

Dip the watercolor pencil in water first:
Dip the tip of your pencil in water and then use it to fill in your sketch.This is a nice technique for sketching in the field since you don’t need to take along any paint brushes. You don’t even need to carry water with you if you have a source in the field like a lake or stream.

Wet the paper first:
Try wetting your paper first and then adding your watercolor pencil. This works well for filling in larger areas of your sketch like the sky. Just remember that if you are working directly in your nature journal that this technique may warp your paper when it dries.

Use a wet brush on the pencil tip:
Use the tip of your watercolor pencil like a paint palette by brushing it with a wet paint brush.

Wet brush on broken watercolor pencil pigment:
Collect all those broken tips and use as a sort of paint palette by stroking with a wet paint brush. Use this technique if you break off a tip when sketching in the field and you don’t have a pencil sharpener to make another point on your watercolor pencil.


Watercolor Pencils 101 Tutorial Printable – Give it a try with your children! Remember that watercoloring on printer paper is different than using watercolor paper. Try both and have fun!
I use a mixed media paper sketchbook for my nature journal and watercolors do make the pages a little wavy. I don’t mind the results but you may wish to work on watercolor paper and then adhere it into your nature journal

You can watch more of my YouTube videos on my YouTube Channel

Nature Journal Cover Watercolor Pages @handbookofnaturestudy

I used a mixed media journal so when I use watercolors directly on the pages they end up a little wavy. This doesn’t bother me because I love the character it gives my journal.

You may be interested in adding art and music appreciation into your week using my plans from Harmony Fine Arts. I invite you click over and see all the things available from grades 1-12.

How to Get Started with Harmony Fine Arts