• Tracy Kugler

One Moment a Day

This activity provides an opportunity to be creative in small chunks of time. It is designed to develop awareness of the specific facets of your natural and built environments and how they change over time.

If you like, do this activity with a friend or two and compare notes. Moments could also be interesting to share via social media. You will need materials to record your observations in a way that is meaningful to you – a camera, notepad or date book, sketchbook, or audio recorder. If you want to make this project more formal, consider participating in Nature’s Notebook or another citizen science project that could make use of your observations.

What you’ll be doing:

In the course of your day, observe your environment. You can do this while walking your dog, walking to the bus, standing in your yard, looking out your bedroom window, or any other time you are in or can see/hear/smell/feel the outdoors.

How you’ll do it:

Use all of your senses and look for specifics. What does a particular tree look like? How does the weather smell? How does the wind sound? How does the ground feel?

Guiding questions:

  1. What is the weather like? Is it warm, cold, windy, humid, sunny, cloudy? What kinds of clouds are there? What is affected by the wind? How does the sunlight look?

  2. What are the plants and animals in your environment doing? Are flowers blooming? Are trees losing their leaves or growing new ones?Are migratory birds leaving or returning? Are other animals active?

  3. What are other people doing? Are they out and about? Have they left evidence of being somewhere?

  4. How do the natural and built environments interact? What plants are growing or blooming in gardens, parks, vacant lots, along the road, or in more natural areas? What materials are used in buildings, and how does your perception of them depend on the weather or other factors? How do animals interact with human-created objects?

Recording and reflecting:

  1. Pick one specific thing from your observations to record.

  2. Record your observation however you choose. Take a single photograph, write a sentence or two (or a tweet) describing something, draw a sketch, record a sound or description. Be sure to include the date along with your


  1. Repeat the practice regularly over time – every day for a week or a month, maybe once or twice a week for a season or a year.

  2. Notice how things change over time, both in the environment and in how you notice things. What happens as the seasons change? What places are most interesting to you? What time of day do you find most stimulating? Which of your senses do you tend to focus on? How do you choose what to record?

This activity was inspired, in part, by photographer Jim Brandenberg’s Chased by the Light project, in which he limited himself to taking one photograph a day for 90 days.

Photo credits: Author

Tracy Kugler is a research scientist and project manager at the Minnesota Population Center, where she manages the TerraPop project, which provides integrated population and environmental data for researchers. She also occasionally teaches GIS and spatial analysis courses at the University of Minnesota.


#naturalenvironment #builtenvironment #changesovertime #dailyobservation

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