Nature Writing Guide

The problem most students seem to have is that they see nature as “Other.” Nature is a tourist destination, a place on the map, something saved by buying and selling crunchy candy. They rarely understand that they themselves might actually be a part of it.

— Christian McEwen and Mark Statman

The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing is a collection of essays written by nature writers, poets, fiction writers, and educators. Editors Christian McEwen and Mark Statman published this book for teachers because they wanted to change how the subject of nature is approached in the classroom.

Contributors to this book are:

  • Gary Snyder - The power of language and observation.

  • Matthew Sharpe – How to lead a conversation about nature in an urban classroom.

  • Susan Karwoska – Using children’s literature to explore nature in the city.

  • Joseph Bruchac – Teaching the value of listening to connect with, and write about, nature.

  • Sam Swope – How to write about common objects in many different ways.

  • Eleanor J. Bader – How to write an advocacy essay.

  • Kim Stafford – Recording the thoughts and words of children.

  • John Tallmadge – Looking for wildness in the city.

  • Mary Oliver – How to keep a notebook of felt experiences.

  • Barbara Bash – Field sketchbooks in the city.

  • Sarah Juniper Rabkin – Seeing through the eyes of a scientific illustrator.

  • Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth – Nature journaling with school groups.

  • Christian McEwen – Using the five senses to write about nature.

  • Suzanne Rogier Marshall – How to transition from looking to writing.

  • Holly Masturzo – How to encourage observation through discovery.

  • Ann H. Zwinger – How to write a natural history essay.

  • Carolyn Duckworth – Tools for exploring an animal and an issue.

  • Mary Edwards Wertsch– How to write nature poems (specifically question poems).

  • Michael Morse – Writing about nature using the senses and observing transformations in nature.

  • Penny Harter – Lessons that address how to write about animals (grades 4-12).

  • William J. Higginson – How to write haiku and linked poems (includes renku topics and guidelines for teachers)

  • Cynde Gregory – A garden writing exercise that is a good lead-in to a unit about plants.

  • Jordan Clary – Using nature imagery in poetry.

  • Jack Collom – A wonderful collection of writing ideas for poetry.

  • Terry Hermsen – An exercise in creative memory (poems to help humans recall what they have forgotten about Earth, Wind, Air and Fire).

  • Margot Fortunator Galt – Nature as teacher and guide (circle poems, writing about landscapes, seasons).

  • Janine Pommy Vega – How to help students speak for something in nature (persona poems).

  • Barry Gilmore – Exercises in naming things, observing and describing.

  • Carol F. Peck – An idea to incorporate writing with social studies curricula.

Tania Marien