Fruiting Body of Blue-stain Fungus
Blue-stain Fungus on a Log
Spending more time outside these days? Start a nature journal as a family or just for you. Nature journaling allows for meditative reflection, whether you stop somewhere on a trail, pick a spot in your backyard, or look outside your window. A nature journal is a space for you to be creative and let nature be the inspiration for what you create.
Here are a few tips to get your own journal started. Be sure to follow Baltimore Woods Nature Center social media for weekly journaling prompts and to see what our environmental educators are writing in their own journals!
1. Select a journal-a sketch pad or notebook
2. Choose your medium-pen, pencil, markers, or a paintbrush (or all of the above)!
3. Find a sit spot-it can be the same every week or different! Try to find a comfortable spot with few distractions.
4. Start journaling- spend as much or as little time as you like, but enjoy this quiet moment to yourself.
Nature journal entries vary by person and age. Try different methods and pick what feels right to you in the moment. Write a poem, draw something big or small, describe what you see and hear, share your thoughts and feelings, or write down questions to look up later. Use your nature journal to help focus your mind, take a break from technology, and connect yourself to the earth.
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram every Monday for the next prompt. If you’re just getting started, you’ll find a list below of topics we’ve already featured.
Weekly Journaling Topics
Week of July 12 – July 18
While on a hike, perhaps you have noticed a unique blue hue among the greens and browns of the forest floor. That blue hue may be the work of the Blue-stain fungus (Ophiostoma spp. Ceratocystis spp.). Blue-Stain fungus is carried onto and into a tree by bark beetles and other wood-inhabiting insects. This fungus is often found on dead and decaying conifer trees.
For your nature journal activity this week, take a trip to a local park such as Baltimore Woods and search for colorful fungi. Write or draw what the fungus looks like and try to identify it when you get home. Fungi can be very small, so look closely and carefully!
Helpful hunting tip- look for fungi after it rains or in moist places like marshy forests.
Week of July 5 – July 11
When we share our newsletter, The Overlook, we include a few Almanac facts from the months in that quarter. One of our almanac facts for July is, “Praying mantises sway side to side to camouflage with leaves moving in the breeze.” This is a very clever adaption of an incredible insect! All plants and animals have some adaptations that help them survive year after year.
This week, go for a walk around your neighborhood or in a nearby park and think about what some of the adaptations might be of the plants and animals you see or hear on your walk. Write these adaptations down in your nature journal and look them up to see if you are correct!
Week of June 28 – July 4
It can be difficult to stay present in the current moment. Our minds always seem to be drifting off to somewhere else. A good way to stay present in the moment is through grounding techniques. This week for your nature journal prompt head outside to your yard, a local park, or a Baltimore Woods trail to try a grounding technique. Find a good spot to sit or stand, get comfortable. Close your eyes for a few moments, write down any sounds you hear and anything you smell. Open your eyes and write down the first five things you see. Connect your senses to the place you are in. Try this in a few spots, take note of any differences in the different spots.
Week of June 21 – June 27
Baltimore Woods Nature Center has been providing hands-on/minds-on education in the city of Syracuse for nearly 20 years with the Nature in the City program. At first glance, the name “Nature in the City” may seem like a misnomer. Of course there is nature in cities. Nature is everywhere, after all. However, access to green spaces in Syracuse and in cities across the globe can be met with significant barriers. Nature in the City programming focuses on helping elementary school students explore wild spaces around them — but it is about so much more than going outside. Nature in the City provides critical STEM and science curriculum in each lesson. Teachers remark that students connect with Nature in the City throughout the year. One teacher commented, “The students were able to link a current science lesson with something they learned or participated in during the Nature in the City lessons.”
In the spirit of education go to a park, take a stroll through your neighborhood, or look around your backyard. Find something that piques your curiosity, take a picture, and do some research on it. Write your findings in your journal.
Week of June 14 – June 20
There is a reason that the landscape you see everyday looks the way it does. Much of it may be the result of human actions in the recent past, but underneath that is the legacy of geologic movements of epic proportions!
This week in your nature journal, find one piece of the landscape near where you live and examine it closely. It could be a pond in your backyard, or a stream or valley you see regularly. Think about what kind of process could have formed it. You can research it on your own or maybe your chosen feature will be discussed later this week as we learn about geology together!
Week of June 7 – June 13
In nature beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and can be created by some of the most unlikely creatures. Have you ever seen an intricate spider web shimmering in the sun? Or admired the gold spots on monarch chrysalises? How about the delicate house of a caddisfly larvae?
This week in your nature journal take a moment to draw or write about something nature that was created by an insect and you think is beautiful. Insects are all around us and although we may not always like them take this moment to appreciate the beauty that they are capable of creating. If you want, challenge yourself to find the beauty that the most annoying insects, like wasps and slugs, create.
Week of May 31 – June 6
Have you been enjoying the magnitude of colors that have suddenly popped onto the scene in the past couple weeks? It’s as if we have been viewing the landscape through dusty glasses, and spring showers have washed them clean! There is much wisdom we can gather from the plants. The one bit of advice they seem to be sharing right now is to let yourself bloom to your full potential!
Take a few moments this week to sit and observe the flowers or trees, focus on the colors or textures that grab your attention. Select a particular plant and write about why you are drawn to it. Is it the way it smells, or possibly the shapes or design of the petals or leaves, or perhaps it’s just the species that interests you? Is it stirring up a memory of when you were younger and had more carefree days to spend out in nature? Whatever it is, spend a few moments free writing how it makes you feel and what you can do to harness those good feelings for later!
Week of May 24 – May 30
Weird and Wacky Nature
There is a saying in the Environmental Education profession that goes something like, “If you’ve seen it in a movie, nature did it first…and better…and probably even weirder.” Just look at slime molds, glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, or a dragonfly’s mouth. You don’t have to go very far to find weird and wacky nature.
For your nature journal activity this week, take a trip around your backyard or to your favorite natural area and find something that makes you say, “Whoa…wait…what?”. What do you notice when you look close? Next, ask it some questions and write the answers in your journal. Ask things like: Who are you? What do you do for a living? How do you eat? Where did you come from? It’s OK if you don’t know the real scientific answers, just write whatever comes to your mind. Make a quick sketch, then do a little research when you get home – you might be surprised at how weird your find really is!
Week of May 17 – May 23
Imagine Yourself as a Raindrop
If April showers bring May flowers what do May showers bring? Springtime is known for rainy days but don’t let the clouds dampen your spirits. Water is necessary for all living things.
In your journal this week write a poem, a short story, or draw a picture in which you envision yourself as a raindrop falling from the sky. What will your journey be? Where will you land? Will a plant’s roots suck you up or will you become a drink for a butterfly? Will you wet a bird’s feathers or will you make a puddle for someone to jump in? The sky’s the limit!
Week of May 10-May 16
What little friends might you find under a rock or a log? Roll over a few things and see what you discover! Keep track of how many different critters you find and draw your favorite. The creatures you reveal rely on the habitat under the log or rock, so make sure you carefully roll it back into place once you’re finished. Happy log rolling!
Week of May 3- May 9
Nature is at once a noun, concept, force, and phenomenon. It is nearly impossible to categorize. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the word “mother” cannot neatly fit into any one category, either. Mothers and motherhood dance along an entangled web of definitions, actions, words, and emotions. These two six-letter words, nature and mother, have profound and complex meanings to individuals and societies at large.
In your journal this week, draw two T-charts. The first T-chart is the “society” chart. On top of one column, write “Mother.” On top of the second column, write “Nature.” Under the “Mother” column, write down the characteristics of mothers as understood in society. Then under the “Nature” column, write down the characteristics of nature as understood in society. Take a moment to look at your lists. Do you notice any similarities between the lists? Any differences? Write down your observations.
The second T-chart is the “personal” chart. Label this chart the same as the first chart, with “Mother” heading one column and “Nature” the other. This time, write down the characteristics of “mother” and “nature” that mean something to you personally. Take a moment to look at these lists. Do you notice any similarities? Any differences? How does this T-chart differ from your first T-chart? Write down your observations.
Week of April 27-May 2
Most insects go through a metamorphosis or a great change throughout their lives. The butterfly for instance is seen as a sign of endurance, transitions and hope. The caterpillar goes through many obstacles until it’s ready to go through the ultimate transformation into a butterfly.
Think about your own life for a moment. What great change have you gone through? How has it helped to shape the person you are today?
Or maybe you feel like you’re still the caterpillar preparing for a transformation. How can you make sure to nurture yourself better during this time?
Week of April 20-April 25
This Wednesday is the 50th Earth Day! That’s a lot of years of people committing to protect the environment. This week, write about something you do that helps the environment. Do you walk to school, compost, or recycle?
If you’re having trouble thinking of something, try writing about something you want to do, but haven’t found time for yet. Maybe starting a pollinator garden or making a birdhouse!
Week of April 12-April 18
You’ve likely been woken up by birds chirping or heard a wonderful chorus walking down the street, but then continued on with your day. Fully immerse your sense of hearing in their songs with sound mapping. With your journal at your sit spot, place an X on the paper-this represents where you are sitting. Close your eyes and listen to the birds. Every time you hear a sound, use a symbol to mark the direction and general distance you heard it in.
At the end, circle the symbol that represents your favorite bird song. What did it sound like?
Week of April 6-April 11
Outside, many different flowers are starting to bloom in the city as well as in wild places. Count their petals; how many different colors are there? If you find one with thin leaves like blades of grass and six purple petals, it just may be a crocus.
Try drawing the crocus. If you want help with drawing strategies click here for a video tutorial by Baltimore Woods Naturalist Rand Michaels
Week of March 30 – April 4
Take time this week to observe nature waking up from the cold temperatures and the snowy depths of winter. You can do this daily at the same spot or taking a walk outside and just looking around. Think about how a wildflower pushes through the soil, through dried leaves and other obstacles to get to the sun. It’s waited months underground, saving energy until the perfect moment. No matter the obstacles those green shoots will find the sun. What wisdom can we learn by observing the plants? Take a moment to write down ways that you can use this renewing spring energy to inspire positive changes in your life.
Week of March 23-28
Look out your window, think of and describe ways that nature helps your mental, emotional, or physical health or think of new ways you could integrate nature into your life for your health.