Kids’ Nature Journal Club
If you’re going to have a nature journal club for children, one great place to start is around Lake Tahoe. With bird species, other types of wildlife and plants and flowers galore during all seasons, it can be a place rich to discover more about the world in which we live. That’s part of the motivation behind the Kids’ Nature Journal Club at South Lake Tahoe.
“It’s great if we can help the community to be healthy and teach kids to love and respect nature and the land around them,” said Gavin Furman, a library assistant with El Dorado County Library in South Lake Tahoe and club organizer. “One of the good things about nature journaling is that it teaches you to look closer and really contemplate what you are looking at.”
The club, for ages 10-18, meets twice a month, on second and fourth Saturday mornings for about 90 minutes. Furman spends about half that time on a lesson with slides.
“Sometimes, I’ll talk about how to identify feathers that you might find, or say where they came from on a bird or if the shaft of the feathers are clipped, then maybe they were caught by a hawk,” Furman said. “I try to talk about a different subject each time, and then we just do some free journaling and try to go outside if the weather cooperates.”
Furman began the Kids’ Nature Journal Club five years ago. It stemmed from a book called Keeping a Nature Journal that he received as a child. In the book, you’re encouraged to draw pictures of what you see in nature and then research and learn more about the animals, flowers, plants and other elements of nature you find. He remembered it once he started working for the library and also used some ideas from famous naturist and artist Jon Muir Laws.
“I just had an idea to start my own little thing here, even though I’m not a great artist,” Furman said. “I thought the library would be a good venue for this kind of thing.”
Lucky for the club, the El Dorado County Library is in a prime spot in Tahoe to see nature in action. “We’re right across from the lake, so it’s a pretty good place to collect things for the journal,” Furman said.
Furman said that there have been a few kids in the club who have taken that extra step beyond Saturdays to study nature on their own. He told the stories of two sisters who were regulars at the club who encouraged their cousin from Montana to do some journaling with them during a visit. There’s also another club member who visited Bali and went to a bird sanctuary and did some journaling there.
“She took photos, so we put together a Powerpoint, and she came up with a cool game to go with it, with prizes and everything,” Furman said. “It’s cool to see kids open up to the idea like that.”
Furman describes himself as “a huge bird nerd,” and while that’s a big part of the club, there’s also some content around wildflowers, landscapes and how they can be created, and the variety of butterflies and other insects that are also a part of nature.
“I think one of the things I’ve seen is an increase in confidence in what they are looking at,” he said. “Most of them are shy about showing their drawings, but I try to encourage them and stick to the message of it not being how beautiful you can draw, but trying to capture those details.”