Big Bend National Park -Shelby Thomaston


“Cynicism flourishes in air-conditioned rooms” (Williams, 2016, p. 197) is the most truthful thing I have ever read. I hate air conditioning. I also hate being hot and suffocating in stuffy places so when I am in a situation where air conditioning is not an option, it makes it easier to just live outside. Over the summer I was blessed with the removal of air-conditioning AND cell phone service from my life so I had to quickly learn where to sink my time. When I wasn’t exploring the woods behind my house and spying on bears, I liked to draw. My favorite subject was the Western tanager, and they always flew away when I got close enough to even attempt to draw them. They are starbursts with wings and I wanted nothing more than to put down the greens and browns for my brightest yellow and red. The coyote mint was a close second, it was nice because it did not fly away, and it was the most beautiful shade of purple I have ever seen.

Investigating nature is integral to appreciating it. For the first month of summer at the park, we offered nature journaling once a week; it was certainly not popular. We brainstormed why kids just did not seem to want to attend this program and decided that the name was the issue. We changed the name to nature investigators and kids immediately started attending! During the introduction of the activity, the word journal was mentioned and met with groans and looks of annoyance, but it all faded when we began drawing the objects around us. The kids were encouraged to pick up anything they wanted and draw it, it did not have to be anything outrageous or overly cool, just a simple pine cone or piece of bark. There was also heavy encouragement of the use of color.

As a future educator, I will always encourage heavy investigation of all parts of nature and probably ask kids to do A LOT of drawing. “Drawing the treasures found in nature naturally encourages children to notice the details – big and small.  It’s during the sketching that my children will notice things they might otherwise pass right on by” (C. & T.). It is so important to hold the objects we find in nature in our hands, we should take them apart, smell them, look closely, break them open, drop them from up high, whatever it takes to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. And we should ALWAYS use color.




C., & T. (2016, February 20). Why Nature Journals Are Important. Retrieved from

Williams, T. T. (2016). The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. New York, NY: Macmillan.


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