The Western Flyer Foundation’s Community Journal Project focuses on environmental literacy through the integration of art, science, and creative writing. Middle and high school students work with art and writing mentors as they create Community Journals. Students’ journals feature observations about their local environments and communities: natural and built, human, animal and plant. Mentors teach techniques of scientific illustration and creative writing, which students use to record and communicate observations in their journals. The curriculum for this program is modeled on Steinbeck and Ricketts’s ideas about full “participation”—careful observation and reading—as well as Ricketts’s discussions of ecological levels from his Outer Shores Transcript.
Each class is paired with an art mentor and a writing mentor who visit the classes four times throughout the curriculum. Art mentors, who are professional scientific illustrators, teach field sketching and nature journaling techniques in art lessons that are integrated with concepts in ecology. Writing lessons blend creative writing prompts with literature by Steinbeck, Ricketts and other writers who explore themes of community. Writing mentors visit classes to share examples of their own work and to provide feedback on students’ creative writing. Students’ Community Journals will be presented in a public event at the end of the school year and displayed in the Western Flyer Foundation’s Gallery.