Looking for more in Learning resources?

John Muir: creative journaling

Subject area: Literacy, expressive arts

Experiences and outcomes: LIT 3-24a, LIT 3-14a, EXA 2-03a, EXA 3-02a, EXA 3-03a

The aim of this lesson is for your pupils to observe in detail, and then draw the natural world around them, such as the components of plants, their leaves and flowers. They should then learn their Latin as well as their common names and label their drawings.

Before you begin, ask your class to look through the John Muir graphic novel and read the A Marriage Made in Heaven section up to page 84.

Print and hand out the Creative Journaling and Leaf-Flower worksheets. Then watch these free videos (approx. 40 minutes in total) from John Muir Laws(this will open in a new window).

These videos will show your pupils some basic techniques to quickly and accurately draw plants, either for field sketching or careful botanical illustrations. The videos describe how to make use of paper models which can be cut out and manipulated to teach the fundamentals of foreshortening leaves and flowers. We recommend that your pupils use the Leaf-Flower worksheet as they watch the videos because following along with their own model is much more helpful than simply watching the videos alone.

Once your pupils have learnt how to draw plants and flowers, use the glacier section in the John Muir graphic novel, starting on page 86, to show them how John Muir tried to draw the glaciers he discovered during his travels. Like John Muir, their challenge is to start using their new techniques in their own creative journal.

They should use their creative journaling to capture personal observations of a local park, woodland, garden, school ground or mini nature reserve. The idea is that they create a visual link with their surroundings using words and images in the same way that nature writers record their favourite moments with nature.

Before you head outside to complete this task, to help inspire your pupils, print and read the poems created by pupils on the worksheet Poems from Lochaber School to your class.

Back in the classroom

Once your class has been outside and captured through words and sketches the natural world around them, they can use botanical books and/or The Open University OPAL tree chart to discover the common and Latin names for the trees/plants they have sketched and then label them accordingly.

Reflecting on learning

Learners can: