Teach writing using the environment

Finding the words

Nature can be a powerful source of inspiration and motivation for budding writers. The vast silence of a snow-filled forest?the curls and curves of frost on a window?images all around us just beg to be recorded. Writing about the environment can help students gain basic skills that will last a lifetime.

The environment also encourages reading. A walk in the woods can pique young readers' interest in outdoor adventure books. An hour spent turning over rocks or exploring the edge of a pond can send children scurrying to books that not only answer questions they've raised, but also expose them to related topics.

Writing can help children understand and appreciate nature. It gives them a chance to hone and share the thoughts and feelings that come with experiencing the world around them. When children create a nature journal by combining writing and sketches, they build their observation and analytical skills. When they read others' responses to the inspiration offered by the environment, their own observations gain depth and dimension. Writing and reading about the world around us unleashes questions?and answers. It stimulates appreciation. It helps refine existing ideas and gives birth to new ones.

Some ideas

How can you blend reading, writing, and environmental education? Here are some ideas:

  • Start each day by having students record in a journal something they noticed about nature since they last wrote. Encourage them to engage all of their senses?to smell the cold air at recess, feel the frost on a twig, listen to the birds talk as they move from feeder to tree and back again.
  • Base a creative writing session on nature. Have students imagine themselves to be a living or nonliving thing they have observed, then write about their experiences from that perspective. What is it like to be a stick, bug, deer, water droplet, minnow, snowflake, boulder?
  • Have students follow an environmental controversy. Collect news articles and opinion pieces and discuss the various perspectives. Then have students write letters to the editor of your local paper expressing their own informed opinions.
  • Use nature writing to demonstrate the use of visual words, analogy and metaphor. Study others' writings, then try your own.
  • Hone students' understanding of local environmental issues by having them create a newsletter on topics of importance to your school or community.

(From Winter 2001 Interconnections)