Updated: Dec 18, 2020
In "Get Outside and Observe: Part I," we discussed the aid of Nature Journals as a way to improve the observational skills. All fields of learning should allow us to love and learn more about God. Therefore, this article will focus on the transition from observing nature to observing Scripture. (Side note: If at all possible, encourage students to keep a Nature Journal for as long as possible. The practice benefits student's developing minds in this very distracting world.)
Ideally, your students have spent a good chunk of time becoming regular observers of nature. Perhaps, they have begun asking great questions and coming to realize how the world is bigger and more interesting than before. Now it is time for them to transition to the next steps.
First, have students take their journals outside and reflect on a passage of scripture that speaks of God and his creation. Maybe students would be interested in reflecting on Genesis 1, Psalm 19, Job 38, or others. Having your students go to the familiar location where they normally make observations and reflections will allow their brains to naturally fall into the rhythms of observation.
Second, decide on a passage of scripture you would like your students to observe. For example, if I wanted my students to make observations on Genesis chapter 22, I would look for a picture of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Below is a Rembrandt, "Abraham's Sacrifice." (I found the picture on Europeana, a great database of images and the copy-write information is clearly available.) Then have your students sketch the picture. In most cases I would not tell the students what they were sketching. It may help them notice more details.
Third, have students write down their observations, questions, and other reflections based on the drawing.
Fourth, have students read Genesis 22. With a visual image in their mind, their minds will see details they would not have noticed with a normal reading.
Fifth, as this reflection and observation becomes easier for the students. Have them read a passage of scripture without any images. Have them sketch out what they are reading and then make the observations. This allows them to focus on the details and images they have created in their mind's eye.
Sixth, once the fifth skill is practiced with some ease. Have students read a passage once, and without reading it again, have them note all of the details they remember. They will be surprised with the level of detail and observational skills they have acquired.
In fact, before this journey even begins, consider starting at the end. Pick a passage of scripture (preferably one that is less familiar to most students), have them read it once with a short time limit. From memory have them jot down all of the details they remember. As they compare where they started to where they finished, they will be encouraged that observational and attention skills can aid in their reading and comprehension of the text.
As always, feel free to tweak the ideas to meet your student's needs. Time allotted for this exercise really depends on what's best for the students. Ideally, a routine time of observation would be best. Observing the progress of students with each step will determine when it is best to move on to the next step. Another suggestion is to practice these steps yourself. Practicing these steps will provide an increased awareness when students are growing in their observational skills.