Vol. 6, No. 3


1. Science Notebooks in the Classroom: Top Tips
2. Taking Note of Scientists’ Field Notes
3. More Journals?

1. Learning to Record; Recording to Learn
Incorporating science notebooks into your classroom can yield significant rewards for students, at every grade level. Used conscientiously, journals can develop and hone scientific, math, literacy, and critical thinking skills. The key to ensuring these benefits is to expose students to rich and varied opportunities for exploration, opportunities that demonstrate how recording firsthand information, ideas, questions, and observations is an integral part of the learning process.

Here are a few suggestions to maximize the impact that science notebooks and field journals can have in your classroom:

• Present the notebooks as important tools that will enable your students to work as scientists, recording in words and drawings what they see and think about the world around them.

• Commit to using them on a regular basis and participate in recording information in your own journal so that students see that you value the process.

• Offer rich opportunities for firsthand exploration, so that students become genuinely engaged in investigations that intrigue them. They will be more willing to record information in their journals if they see it as part of a dynamic process of discovery, rather than as a predetermined, box-ticking exercise with foregone conclusions.

What are your top tips? Please share your ideas, experiences, examples of student work, or anything else with FHL’s community of learners. Email us at If we publish your submission in an upcoming enewsletter or online at the FHL website, we will send you a free class set of field journals, just in time for the new school year!

Keep an eye out for more journaling tips from FHL in the coming months.

A formatted journal, designed for use in classrooms, offers prompts for recording observations, questions, measurements, and drawings. Check out Firsthand Learning’s Field Journal and Young Observer’s Notebook (for younger students, K-3).

2. Taking Note of Scientists’ Field Notes
Notebooks can be powerful pedagogical tools in the classroom, but they are just as important for professional scientists working in the field, as a new book edited by Michael R. Canfield beautifully illustrates. Field Notes on Science and Nature highlights the diverse ways researchers across many disciplines record observations and data in field notebooks, demonstrating how such entries are vital to scientists’ work despite more recent technological advances in data collection.

Read a review of the book published in the Wall Street Journal.

Take your students outside to make entries in their own field notebooks. Here are some resources to get you started:

Download Firsthand Learning’s free lesson on how to introduce field journals to students.

• Check out the Smithsonian’s educational materials introducing nature journals.

• Get inspired! Clare Walker Leslie’s book, Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, melds art and personal reflection with careful observations of the changing seasons. Follow her mini-tutorials and you will be amazed at how well you can capture in drawings what you see around you.

Try the fun and flexible FHL mini-journals. Download these free small-scale journals, print them off, fold them up, and go investigate!

3. What’s Next for Journals?
Firsthand Learning journals feature detailed and illustrated introductory overviews, tables of content, formatted pages to encourage writing, drawing, and questions, and rulers on the cover to take measurements. Now we are considering expanding our journal and notebook offerings to include targeted subject journals.

Would you be interested in specific content journals, such as ones to use at the zoo or on a trip, or ones to help children write about themselves, their families, or technology? If so, click here to easily register your interest.

What new journals would you like to see? Please email us with your ideas and questions at
Thanks for the feedback!
The Firsthand Learning Catalog offers nature journals, hands-on science kits, posters, and more. Go to

We hope you found this edition of the FIRSTHAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER informative. Please contact us with any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have by emailing us at:

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