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John Muir: creative journaling

Subject area: Literacy, expressive arts

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

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 link will open in a new window) and share this article from Candice Purwin on journaling for wellbeing. Discuss the article as a group. What do they things the benefits of journaling for wellbeing might be? Why might some find it helpful?

The John Muir Laws(this link will open in a new window) 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.

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 one of the tree survey charts available from Imperial College London(this link will open in a new window) to discover the common and Latin names for the trees/plants they have sketched and then label them accordingly. Pupils can use our fun transition journal download to create their own booklet of the natural world. It can also be linked to the earlier discussion around journaling for wellbeing through the mood tracker and thought bubbles to help pupils record their feelings.

Reflecting on learning

Learners can: