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I tried nature journaling with 8th-grade students several times over the years. It doesn't quite work. When we emerge from the building, into the sunlight, the last thing they want to do is sit quietly to sketch or to write. Some appreciate that intention, but not many. Bringing students outside is like shaking up a bottle of soda pop--they fizz through the doors and across the parking lot into the green grass. They want to talk. They must feel, to a certain degree, that when a teacher takes you outside it is very much like that first ice cream cone at the beach during summer vacation. No rules, just joy. And that is alright too.

This particular page developed over the course of one day. I took each of my five classes outside to write and to sketch. In the end, the students produced little. Some tried, but the distraction of joy is just too great sometimes. Yet, in each class, many were interested in my page. At worst, the experience became an opportunity for me to model the power inside of attributes such as focus, patience, and observation.

This is one section from a sheet of prompts inspired by the children's book Wilfred Gordon Macdonald Partridge, by Mem Fox. This was as challenging a prompt I've responded to over the past few years. The colors of the blanket is still burned in my my memory.

During a conference with a student today, she showed me her writer's notebook--the one she keeps on her own for herself outside of school. When I asked if she ever flips through it, she said, "all the time."

After the conference, I realized that I do not flip through my notebooks as much as I ought to. When I had a moment, I found this chart. Composed with my classes several years ago, I am chuckling to myself as I realize that nothing has changed! I still agree with every single choice. It may be time to break this gem out again with my current students to see what they create and then write about.

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