This 60 minute lesson introduces students to techniques for closely observing nature and drawing like a scientist.


  • Students will practice careful observation skills.
  • Students will practice sketching like a scientist

Like scientists, practitioners sketch and draw to capture and communicate information about observations in nature. Students studying biomimicry should be encouraged to keep a notebook or nature journal to capture their observations, questions, and ideas as they explore the natural world and connect what they see and learn to possible design solutions. This lesson introduces scientific sketching in a way that is approachable and differentiated from fine art (which can be intimidating for some students and teachers).

In this lesson, students draw leaves (or another item from nature) following guidance provided in a slide presentation. Their task is to create a drawing that is specific enough that another student will be able to identify which leaf the drawing depicts. A mnemonic “ABCDE” (Accurate, Big, Colorful, Detailed, Explained) is provided to help students understand what makes a good scientific sketch and enable teachers to give meaningful feedback to students as they work. After students have created their drawings, they play a matching game to identify who drew which leaf.

This lesson is part of a collection of resources for teaching with Science Notebooks from the California Academy of Sciences. The followup lessons Sketching for Observation and Scientific Sketching Practice offer some additional techniques and strategies for building student confidence and observation skills.