California Native Plant Society

CNPS Education Program

Youth Education

New 2nd Edition of the CNPS Nature Journaling Curriculum now available

Student adding to her nature journal
photo credit: David Rosen Wildside Photography and Public Relations
We are proud to be able to offer a spectacular new edition of our curriculum that will work in a multitude of settings from school yards, camps, and nature centers to CNPS events and family outings. It is geared primarily towards children age 8 and up, and meets California state standards for grades 3 through 7 but works just as well for teenagers and adults. The 2nd edition has many improvements and a wonderful new section of poetry writing activities that fit hand in glove with nature journaling.

The 2nd Edition Opening the World through Journaling: Integrating art, science, and language arts, is written for CNPS by John Muir Laws, Emilie Lygren, Emily Breunig, and Celeste Lopez. It teaches children to become keen observers of the natural world by drawing and writing about the plants and animals in situ. In a set of nested games and activities, students gain confidence in drawing and writing to as a way to gather information. Using a set of key prompts, children and adults also discover a language to create poetry from their observations. They employ these skills and tools to put together a field guide, make treasure maps, and to write poems and stories. John Muir Laws says,

"Keeping a field journal develops and reinforces the most important science process skills; observation and documentation. All other parts of the process of science depend on these skills. We assume that we are naturally good observers, but learning to really see is a skill that must be learned and developed. Journal activities tie directly to the State of California science framework content standards and the visual and performing arts framework content standards."

It is important for us to know how and if we are meeting our goals and to report back to our supporters. We would like to know what schools, organizations, and groups are interested in the curriculum and the settings in which they use it. For this reason we request your name, organization, city, email address and how you expect to use the materials. CNPS will not share your email address with other organizations or entities. We encourage you to evaluate the material and share with us any extensions or stories of your experiences using the curriculum. Questions, comments, extensions, and stories may be sent to Becky Reilly at .

This project is funded to date by the JiJi Foundation.

You may download the 2nd Edition curriculum here. Softcover copies of the curriculum can also be purchased through the CNPS Store. We also offer a Nature Journaling Kit for budding botanists in the CNPS Store.


Drawing Plants with John Muir Laws

This video series features John Muir Laws who will teach you some basic techniques to help you quickly and accurately draw plants, either for field sketching or careful botanical illustrations. These videos make use of paper models which you can cut out and manipulate to teach yourself the fundamentals of foreshortening leaves and flowers. Following along with your own model is much more helpful than simply watching the videos alone. These videos were sponsored by CNPS and the JiJi Foundation. Watch the videos at the John Muir Laws Youtube channel.

John Muir Laws drawing templates:


Other Cool Nature and Native Plant related Educational Resources for for teachers, parents, students, environmental educators, and the generally curious.



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