Abundance of Distractions

This post originally appeared in Dr. Rachel A. Larimore’s weekly Samara newsletter on January 16, 2024. If you’re interested in receiving these emails, scroll to the bottom of this page to subscribe.

“The months of the year, from January up to June, are a geometric progression in the abundance of distractions.”

~Aldo Leopold,  A Sand County Almanac

I often think of this Leopold quote during winter here in the Northern Hemisphere when things seem quiet outside. 

And, oh, it’s been winter the last few days, hasn’t it?! I love the sound of the snow as you walk on it in these extreme temps–crunch, crunch, crunch.

Leading up to the snow last week I was hearing a lot of comments around town like “We’ve usually had several storms by now” or “Any day now we’ll get our big winter storm.” 

Then, with the extreme weather this past week even the news has been full of “unusual temps” and “lowest temps in years.” Not to mention the extreme flooding and snowfall in other places. 

The way we know these things is by keeping records from year-to-year. In this case those records are related to weather. These weather events in turn influence the behaviors of plants and animals. The process of keeping track of the events and patterns of plants and animals from year-to-year is called phenology. 

Phenology is foundational to nature-based emergent curriculum. 

In nature-based emergent curriculum we provide materials for free play and teacher-led activities which build off children’s interests. Because we’re spending so much time outdoors, children’s interests will almost always relate to what is happening seasonally. The more we know about what is happening outdoors, the easier it is to prepare for what children might be drawn to.

January is a great time to start a phenology journal.  

As Leopold said, the distractions only increase as we move through the year. There will slowly be more bird calls, more insects, more buds popping and forming into leaves, animals having babies, and so on. That means now, when there are fewer distractions, is a great time to start a phenology journal!

You can start a phenology journal digitally or in an old-school notebook. What do you write down? The date, location, and what you noticed about the natural world! It truly can be that simple. For example, a journal entry might read, January 16, backyard, dark-eyed juncos. 

Now, if you want to do even more with your phenology record keeping, check out this beautiful Perpetual Journal or this resource on how to make your own phenology wheel

Or, if you’re a member of The Grove, be sure to check out the Phenology Journaling document which includes a wheel template, the phenology record sheet, and the temperature tracker. If you’re not a member, you can join The Grove today and get immediate access!

I hope you’ll take time to enjoy the minimal distractions and deeply observe and appreciate the distractions that exist right now. What tracks do you notice in the snow? Is there ice forming where you are? What birds are you seeing? What sounds is nature making right now?

Enjoy–and stay warm and dry! 

Keep changing lives,


Rachel A. Larimore, Ph.D., Chief Visionary of Samara Learning


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