an orange diamond shaped sign with "H 44" is nailed to a tree to mark a trail

Homeschool Co-op Nature Journaling

a single yellow daisy-like flower with long miniature fllowers in the center

No matter how old you get, may you always stop to fill your pockets with smooth stones, empty snail shells & other little treasures.

Why Nature Journaling with a Co-0p?

My girl and I had the privilege to share a morning with a “co-op incubator” – a community of families from which a co-op might well spring. In their midst I was reminded of the beauty of community. Children love outdoors exploration. But not sitting still to sketch. Ever on to the next discovery, my children considered journaling requests rather akin to a request to stop breathing. This was, admittedly, partly my own fault. Nature walks were sadly neglected many months, meaning that my peeps would try to cram a weeks-worth of experiences into one walk. Who wants to stop now? And why would they regard it with interest when they rarely saw me sketch? But, the magic of the co-op lies in making memories together. Sketch books come out and pencils scratch quietly, memorializing the best parts of their time together. Interest and excitement are contagious, and often more readily found with other children. So it was here.

a spike of yellow flowers stands in front of a field of green and yellow flowers
A wood snail sits on top of a rotting stump, stretching its head out of its shell to explore.
a large hole in a dirt bank opens to an animals den

The wisdom of our trip planner was sublime. She did not delve into the woods or blaze a trail through wildflowers. Our group of children, babies and tots went from curiosity to curiosity, wending their way around the field of flowers. Our old fashioned identification guides unfolded. Identification apps were pulled out to find names of various fauna and flora as we ambled along. After a single lap, blankets and sketchbooks materialized and chidren drew.

a pale yellow green spiky sweet gum ball rests on the ground

Shortly after, picnics popped up to keep spirits high. Every tot had a bit of success – from the non-drawers who spotted wooly bumblebees and iridescent flies to the older children who identified and drew several things with especial attention to detail.  In under two hours we had learned, shared discoveries, compared them, chatted and had lunch. And my own child was ready for the next journalling date. Did I tell you the planner was a genius?

indian summer1
A catepillar crawls up a blade of grass
light brown shelf fungi grows in a line up the side of a tree

We had to leave our group lunching, but returned later during a break in errands. They was long gone. But my peep launched herself down the trail with pencil and sketchbook in pocket, eager for new subjects. And this time, the flames of curiosity freshly spurred, she was content to sketch on her own. The beauty of community had done its job. She found wonders everywhere.

a young child walks on a shaded trail in the woods
  • This is probably the best place for cross country running IMHO.
  • Off-road bikes would be a blast here.
  • Poison ivy is rampant. Long socks are wise.
  • Bug spray is also wise. We like this one.
  • There is a Soccer Complex, as well as a Gate A and a Gate B entrance. The Gate A entrance has porta potties close to the parking area.
  • There are a few picnic tables and trash cans at the gate.
  • Leashed dogs are allowed if you pick up after them.
  • Although the trails are very well marked, they are rough in several places and the reception for the QR codes on the markers isn’t always super.

Where are your favorite trails? Do you have any favorite spots in this massive park? 

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