“Lectio Divina” is a Latin term for the Christian practice of “divine reading”, a way to read the scriptures, meditating upon them, and moving forward in prayer. The reader is changed by this deep and powerful experience; but what has this to do with nature study?
These three stages of learning are reflected through many ideas of education. They are a truly wonderful way to approach nature study. Let us look at the three stages of Lectio Divina and how we can bring these ideas to the study of nature.
- Reading ~ Observing
When studying nature, this would be the stage at which we closely observe. Like the grammar stage of The Trivium, we are learning the facts about our subject. We spend time closely observing nature, learning, reading books and field guides and building up a store of knowledge about our subject.
In our nature journals, this may look like:
Key facts such as the location, date, time of day or night.
Brief notes on the weather.
We may make quick sketches to capture what we see, notes at the sides of our sketches to help us remember key details, such as notes on textures, position etc.
Latin names of subjects
- Meditating ~ Thinking
This is such an important step in nature study; not to be rushed or missed by the harried parent! Reflecting upon what we have learned, making our own connections, thinking critically is important to building a relationship with, and understanding, the natural world around us. How does all that we observed in stage one fit together? This would be the logic stage within The Trivium.
In our journals we may make notes on connections; ‘what does this remind me of ?’ I would strongly urge you to read this blog post by naturalist John Muir Laws: Prompts For Deeper Nature Observation. His questions, I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of, are wonderful, thought provoking tools.
- Praying ~ Responding
The final stage is our response to all we have learned and discovered. We have been changed by our experiences and have a need to communicate and express that. We cannot do this stage well, or authentically, without the building blocks of the previous stages, like the Rhetoric stage in The Trivium.
Our nature journals are the perfect place to respond; we may choose to:
Create more intricate, fully formed paintings or drawings of the focus of our nature study.
An arrangement of pressed flowers or leaves
Quotes that pertain to the subject
Passages of scripture
Poetry; either written by ourselves in response to our wonder at the focus of our studies, or poetry written by another, that our heart connects with.
Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to the journal keeper.
These stages are not fixed rules, but an oft-practiced pattern to mark the way as we progress in our journaling of the natural world, and enter into a deeper relationship and knowledge.