Journaling for Nature in the Ottawa River Watershed

Nature journaling is the process of writing, drawing, or using numbers and maps to record information about our observations in nature. Youth Water Leader Rachel Balderson describes an online workshop she ran with local artist Emily Rose Michaud to teach the process of nature journaling to a group of young adults from around Ottawa.

Written by Youth Water Leader Rachel Balderson

The Youth Water Leader Program is a network created to foster youth engagement around issues affecting the Ottawa River watershed. It was developed in 2019 as a tool for promoting youth-led projects that spread awareness and promote collaboration around the protection of the Ottawa River. 

Within weeks of applying to this program, I found myself whitewater rafting for the first time down the Ottawa River with a group of 6 other young adults, all motivated to make positive changes towards the protection of the Ottawa River. Over the course of the program, we found ourselves on guided museum tours, participating in creative art workshops, and digging up artifacts along the shore of the Ottawa River!

Through the program, I was also able to work on a series of drawings of species-at-risk in the Ottawa River watershed. With the help of the Ottawa Riverkeeper team, I was able to transform these drawings into an interactive memory game to add to their Learning Library, which is a collection of educational outreach materials. 

Species-at-risk memory game.

From this experience, Naomi Sarazin, Senior Manager of Youth and Education Programs, supported me in applying for Nature Canada’s Young Leaders Grant. This annual grant is awarded to selected youth under 30 to develop a project that helps connect Canadians to nature. Upon receiving the grant, Naomi connected me with an established artist and educator, Emily Rose Michaud, who acted as a mentor in implementing a project. The project, with adjustments made during the pandemic, turned into a 6-week online workshop series teaching the process of nature journaling to a group of young adults from around Ottawa.

Nature journaling is the process of writing, drawing, or using numbers and maps to record information about our observations in nature. Through the grant, we provided journal kits to participants with journals, pencils, and watercolour paints. Every week held a different theme, from drawing, to painting, to writing poetry and stories. Emily and I developed short presentations with simple exercises every week, and provided time for participants to share entries from their own journals. These weekly meetings provided a meaningful opportunity to connect with each other and deepen our personal connection to nature through journaling, particularly during a time of greater social isolation.

It is our hope that participants will continue to use their journals while spending time in nature this summer and beyond. For me personally, developing these workshops with the help of Ottawa Riverkeeper and Emily Rose Michaud was a very rewarding experience. It helped me share a practice that I love with others while also thinking about ways to develop engaging content for a diverse audience. 

I would highly recommend getting involved with Ottawa Riverkeeper’s Youth Water Leader Program. Their support can help bring your own ideas and vision to reality and ultimately make our watershed a healthier, more connected place to live.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *