Deeper learning through journaling

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Pepperwood and the Santa Rosa Junior College partner to offer a two-semester Bio 85 – Natural History of Pepperwood course that certifies participants as UC California Naturalists. Students have the option to submit an article for the Pepperwood Field Notes Blog as part of the course. The following is a student-submitted article.


Deeper learning through journaling

By Denise Roumbanis, Pepperwood Steward and Fall 2016 Bio 85 participant

Pepperwood is a beautiful place and having had the opportunity to spend time here and learn about its natural wonders is truly an honor. After reading an inspiring article in a local newspaper and volunteering for a work day, I wanted to learn more about becoming a Pepperwood Steward. One step in the process is to complete Bio 85 – Natural History of Pepperwood, a two-semester course offered by the Santa Rosa Junior College and Pepperwood.

In class, we learned the valuable technique of nature journaling. Through journaling, I found that taking in the beauty of nature is greatly enhanced. I get to re-experience what I see, hear and think about in the field. According to renowned naturalist, educator and artist, John Muir Laws, “observing and journaling will slow you down and make you stop, sit down, look and look again.” It’s the closer look that helps you go deeper and see the wondrous intricacies that you might otherwise miss.

Observations in the field

Based on the Grinnell Method, in class we learned to make notes in the field and then transcribe our recollections later in a narrative format. I jotted down the time, general conditions and habitats I had explored, what I had seen, heard, and sensed. I noted my impressions of the weather, terrain, and vegetation and the plant and animal species I had observed or seen signs of. I recorded the details with words and sketches: the design and shape of a flower, the mosaic pattern of a garter snake, the smell of the soil after a rain, or the call of a red-tailed hawk circling above.

Later, I used the notes and sketches to create a narrative that told the tale of my outing. The better my notes, the more I was able to recall. I could replay the details and elaborate on the sketches I had made and ask myself, “What questions do I have? What do I want to learn more about? What elements of nature most fascinate me?”

Take it in and keep it

The value of journaling cannot be understated and, for me, it has added tremendous value to the class! It is a truly transformative tool that can add richness to our experience and help us see and feel the many layers of nature. The process has changed me from, what I would now call a casual observer, to a participant with a keener eye for detail and a strong desire to keep learning.

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