Guests learn nature journaling at Hunter's Home

Lee Guthrie | Daily Press

Jim Mullenax shows the class how he draws a plant's growth progress and blue jays.

PARK HILL - Kids and parents learned the art of nature journaling at a March 18 class hosted by the historic Hunter's Home.

Jim Mullenax, a volunteer at Prairie Grove Battlefield Park, shared with a group of homeschoolers and their mothers how create nature journals.

"We go to nature group [homeschool class], but it's always been very informal," said Mary Allen, mother of three children in the class. "This was a great opportunity to learn from somebody else and it may make [the children] more interested in it."

For two years Mullenax has taught nature journaling at the battlefield park. He is currently reading a book on the Lewis and Clark expedition to get more material to share with his students.

"That's basically where nature journaling came from," said Mullenax. "When the British Navy would do their explorations, they would always make sure they had an artist, a botanist, and a zoologist to go with them."

Map drawing is another element of these journals. The outcome of many battles were determined by how well the map was drawn.

Around 1850, a young lady named Emily visited Hunter Home. While Emily was there she kept a journal and wrote about what she saw, the people she interacted with, and descriptions of the land. Some of the items she attached to the pages are still in the journal.

A nature drawing requires three things: A sketch or doodle, numbers, and words. The words can be a description, and the numbers can be the date, the temperature, or measurements.

"Don't draw what's in your head; draw what's directly in front of you. Don't let the fact that you think you're not good at doodling stop you from doing nature journaling, because you could be good at words or numbers," said Mullenax.

Asking questions is helpful for nature journaling.

"Say you are going for a walk out in the woods. What would you want to draw?" asked Mullenax. "Maybe you see a red feather. Or you could document the growth of a plant and its progress over a period of time."

Mullenax suggested attaching an interesting item to the page by making two small slits in the paper and slipping the stem of the feather or leaf through.

"The point of nature journaling is that you are getting out and seeing stuff," said Mullenax.

Nature journaling isn't especially cost-prohibitive.

"You can do great nature journals with pencil, paper and ink pen," said Mullenax. "Now, some of you probably want to get fancy."

This can be achieved with colored pencils and water-soluable pencils, which are easier to carry into the woods than watercolors.

Mullenax showed the group a paint brush enclosed in a tube that holds its own water supply.

Mullenax said nature journals can help record memories of trips if properly labelled and dated.

"If you go see grandmother for Christmas, you can give that journal to her as a gift," said Mullenax. "She will love it more than any other present you could give her."

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