AN ENVIRONMENTAL JOURNAL
has started. Time for teachers to consider ecology and develop students'
appreciation for nature. Going outside to observe plants, animals and
the habitats they live in is a suitable exercise for science classes
from grammar school through college. Teachers invariably find that students
take great interest in observing the living world.
an outstanding educator in Tennessee, has his students keep an environmental
journal. Such a class exercise accomplishes several educational goals
- to hone writing skills, convey observations and ideas and learn to
think environmentally. His suggestions for journal entries include observing,
asking questions, writing poetry or stories and studying information
in books and other sources. An environmental journal could also be a
suitable assignment for some language arts classes.
are suitable for an environmental journal. The most straightforward
is to record observations, including animal behavior and patterns of
flowering among plants. For example, one observation might be to record
how many different kinds of pollinators (bees, flies, beetles etc.)
are attracted to fall-blooming plants. A bewildering array of wasps,
some strikingly colored, buzz around flowering composites and legumes
of late summer and early autumn. Watching wasps from a safe distance
is a fun exercise and could be an observation worth recording in a journal.
Outdoor observations can be done with student teams in the schoolyard
itself. The whole class can benefit from each other's findings through
readings in the classroom.
questions is always worthwhile. Why do some birds, like wrens, stay
around all year whereas others, like most warblers, begin migrating
through in the fall? Why are moths and scarab beetles attracted to lights
at night? Why do most oak trees and hickories lose all their leaves
in the fall, but live oaks and pine trees stay green year-round?
countless other ecological questions may not have simple answers, and
often no universally accepted scientific explanation is available. Nonetheless,
have students try to find answers in a reliable source, preferably a
scientific paper or biology textbook. Make it a goal to ask a question
that scientists have not answered satisfactorily. For example, why are
female hawks and owls usually larger than males? Many scientific answers
and explanations have been offered for this question, but no single
one is agreed upon by ornithologists.
suggestion is to write an environmental poem or even a short story (with
emphasis on "short" if a teacher has to read it or a class
has to listen to it). Do these activities on days you don't get out
to observe or can't come up with a biological question that intrigues
you. "In woods and fields of summer's green / Bugs abound as I
have seen. / When winter's brown is near and far, / I can but wonder
where they are." Not sure what kind of grade I might get for that
verse, but it would provide a jumping-off point for a discussion of
insects' life cycles. Or how about a short story told by a rabbit that
has just left its hiding place under a bush and encountered a bobcat?
making lists of what plants and animals a student sees during a walk
can reveal how diverse the local environment is. Another step is to
categorize the flora and fauna observed into taxonomic categories and
then gather natural history information about them from reliable sources.
This provides an open-ended opportunity for students to learn about
their natural surroundings.
not be in school to keep an environmental journal. We all are students
of ecology because we all have something we can learn about nature.
Also, anyone might find some natural phenomenon that has gone unnoticed
or undiscovered. Taking a look at your own observations and entries
a year or more afterward can be a gratifying and enlightening experience.
Keeping an environmental journal can help anyone develop an appreciation
of nature and provide reading opportunities that will last a lifetime.
you have an environmental question or comment, email