Students should have a journal dedicated to this unit for in-class and on-site writing. The journal can be used for free writing, taking notes, drawings, photos, and drafts of creative writing and opinion pieces. Journals can be purchased or homemade and can be decorated by students with river themes.
• increase their observation and thinking skills through taking notes and responding to new information;
• experience a variety of journal writing styles and ways of writing about nature.
purchased or student made journals
When students take a class field trip to the river or go on their own, they should write in their journals about what they see and experience. Students could be assigned to visit the river once a week for a month and write about their visits. They could also visit the river in different seasons and write comparative entries. There are many types of journal entries, ranging from introspective and philosophical entries such as Thoreau's, to scientific observations such as Darwin's. Many artists keep journals that combine drawing with writing. Journal styles, exercises to sharpen sensory perception, and many ideas for writing about nature are included in the "Nature Writing and Journal Keeping" chapter of Literature and the Land, Roux, Enuna Wood (see "Resources"). Some ideas, to be used at various points in the unit, are:
Imagine floating in the water and sensing the connection between your body, the river, and all of the water in the world. This passage from Loren Eiseley's The Immense Journey (1957, Random House: New York) about floating in the Platte River is an excellent follow-up reading.
“You have probably never experienced in yourself the meandering roots of a whole watershed or felt your outstretched fingers touching, by some kind of clairvoyant extension, the brooks of snow-line glaciers at the same time that you were flowing toward the Gulf over the eroded debris of worn-down mountains. Poet MacKnight Black has spoken of being 'limbed...with waters gripping pole and pole...”
Teachers can establish a regular schedule for reading and responding to students' journals and students can also respond to each other's journals. Responses can include questions, points the reader found interesting, or descriptions of similar experiences. Journals can be assessed according to criteria established by the teacher and the class ahead of time, for example, length, effort, regularity of entries, variety, topics covered, etc.. They should be graded only once or twice rather than with every response.