Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Creating and Using an Observation Journal

So several weeks ago we posted the exciting news of discovering a robin's nest with an egg just below our deck. (See Rockin' Robin Footprints). Over the following few days two more eggs appeared in the nest. We've been eagerly keeping an eye on the nest and we're excited to discover the eggs had hatched late last week. A quick google search helped me figure out it should be about two weeks before these little hatchlings grow enough to leave the nest.

Developing observation skills in children helps them learn to pay attention to detail in a variety of realms and encourages them to use different senses. Observation is a fundamental building stone to other scientific skills. It involves collecting and organizing information and leads to creating questions. Children learn to use a variety of strategies to answer these questions, such as inferencing and more observations. The baby robins under our deck are a perfect opportunity to purposefully practice observing how something grows and changes. (I say purposeful because most parents innately are building these skills every day with their child. Just think about how long a walk can take with a preschooler, how many things they notice as you walk, and how many questions you answer.)

In order to capture his observations I decided to create Big Brother a journal to use for the next few weeks. I used our word processing program and some free clip art I downloaded off of the internet. I know he won't want to draw in his journal every day for two weeks, so I made pages for 8 days of observations.

I printed the pages onto card stock, hole punched them, and then bound the pages together with binder rings. I added a set of colored pencils and put both into a ziploc bag to create a science kit. 

On the first page Big Brother drew what the nest looked like before the eggs had hatched. Younger children, like Big Brother, may need help observing by an adult prompting them with questions. I prompted him to think about the shape of the nest. He found brown and blue pencils. I had thought I might need to prompt him but he was already thinking about the colors on his own.

He then went back to the nest to check on the baby birds. I prompted him with the question "What do you notice?" He told me there were three, they were light brown, and they had "pricklies" on their heads. I also asked him to tell me what body parts they had. He informed me they had beaks and no wings. (Just in case you're wondering, they do have wings, they just don't look like wings to him yet.)

He drew three circles and some lines coming off as his "pricklies." (The pricklies are the beginnings of feathers.) I dated the page and wrote his observation at the top of the page.

Although he is looking at the birds multiple times a day we are not drawing them every day. He's attempting to capture the changes with his drawings and making some great observations orally. Although we're unique in being able to have a nest of baby robin's to observe, a journal like this could be used in a variety of contexts. Spring is all about growth and change, from planting gardens to changing trees to weather changes on a daily basis. So spring can also be all about observation. 


  1. Replies
    1. We used it up until the baby robins hopped from the nest. I'm thinking we'll revisit this idea with other projects this summer though.