Discover National Parks

Discover National Parks

Discover National Parks

Subject area: 
Social Studies, Sciences, Literacy 

Experiences and Outcomes:
Soc 3 – 02a, Soc 3 – 08a,
Soc 3 – 13a, Soc 4 – 14a, 
SCN 3 – 01a,
SCN 4 – 01a,
Lit 3 – 02a, Lit 3 – 03a,
Lit 3 – 09a

The aim of this lesson is to find out:

  • Why John Muir from Dunbar, became one of Scotland’s most famous and influential conservationists and is considered today to be the 'father of National Parks’
  • Where the National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and public walkways are located in Scotland
  • What the challenges, around creating a National Park, are
  • What the benefits of having protected land are

Before you begin look through the John Muir graphic novel and read the section The Wild Man Who Changed the World which shows why John Muir became known as ‘the founding father of National Parks’.

‘Four days we camped in the Yosemite. Me, John Muir from Dunbar – and President Roosevelt! We climbed to Glacier Point and I showed him all the glories of my beloved wilderness. We talked about protecting the forests and nature.

John Muir: We mustn’t waste the wilderness. It’s a necessity – not just as fountains of timber, but as fountains of life itself.

President Roosevelt: I’ll preserve 148 million acres of forest and create many new national parks!

John Muir: Hurrah!’

Now provide your pupils with copies of the National Parks Pupil Activity Worksheet and read together the background information that explains how Dunbar-born John Muir, at the age of eleven, immigrated with his family to the United States where he later established the world’s first National Park system.

In 1893 John Muir returned to his home in Scotland and set out to walk across the land he loved. Some of the places he visited during that trip have since become protected.
It is reported that John Muir said, “Happy will be the men who, having the power and the love and the benevolent forecast to [create a park], will do it. They will not be forgotten. The trees and their lovers will sing their praises, and generations yet unborn will rise up and call them blessed.”

At the time of John’s death in 1914, the United States government had designated 230 million acres of land as protected National Parks, as a direct result of all John’s conservation work. Other countries around the world have since followed in the same format designating areas of land to be protected for future generations.

Once you have read this information show your class some photographs (as a slide show) of America and Scotland’s National Parks. This slide show has been provided by Education Scotland.

Then instruct your class to draw and write directly onto the map provided in the National Parks Pupil Activity Worksheet, where they think the following areas are located:

Scottish National Parks:

  • The Cairngorms National Park
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Long distant pathways:

  • The John Muir Way
  • The West Highland Way

Protected parkland/ nature reserves or areas of Special Scientific Interest:

  • Holyrood Park
  • John Muir Country park
  • River Tweed

Also instruct them to write onto their map where the following towns and cities are located:

Edinburgh Glasgow
Berwick upon Tweed Hawick
Perth Dumfries
Aberdeen Stirling
Inverness Fort William
Wick Portree

Once the above has been completed ask them to hand in page 3 of their worksheets – mark these maps and provide corrections where needed. Meanwhile your pupils should continue, by working in pairs, to discuss and then list all the pros (the benefits of having protected land) and cons (conflicting land use demands) they can think of, around setting up a new National Park in Scotland. They should write their answers onto their worksheets.

Hand back their maps and conclude the lesson by asking half the class to read their ‘cons’ list to the rest of the class and the other half to read out their ‘pros’ list.

Reflecting on learning

  • Did they know John Muir’s influence still supports conservation work to create protection of the natural environment around the world today?
  • Had they considered the pros and cons of creating protected areas to help conserve the natural landscape?
  • Do they think society takes care of the natural landscape in the way that it should?
  • Do they know where areas of the countryside have been preserved and protected for future generations, in Scotland?

Learners can:

Locate the National Parks and some of the areas of special scientific interest, long distant pathways, protected parkland and nature reserves on a map of Scotland
Say why National Park’s were established around the world and who was instrumental in their original creation

Further work/useful resources

You can expand this work further by getting your class to individually consider the following:

Contemporary link for today

Even though John Muir helped to create the first National Parks in the United States, which have brought many benefits, in modern times it has been recognised that these Parks have also created wild life boundaries due to being separated by roads and traffic, which is detrimental to wildlife.

Now discuss this topic in more depth by asking your class the following questions:

  • What do we mean by ‘natural wild land’ in Scotland and do we have any really ‘naturally wild land’ left?
  • If ‘wild land’ is constantly affected by humans e.g. the Forestry commission applies an industrial use of trees/ woodland in the ‘wild areas of Scotland’ and agriculture uses the lowlands to provide mono cultural crops such as grains like wheat, oats and barley and the hills are used for sheep farming, can there still be opportunities for a wide diversity of wildlife in these areas?
  • Are gardens, for example, providing a wider diversity of wild life compared to the mono culture of a ‘wheat field’ created to help feed the world?

There is now recognition that there is a need for ‘wildlife corridors’ between areas that have been specially protected. This has also been recognised in Scotland too, for example the red squirrel (a protected species) requires corridors to be created between beech forests, to aid in its continued survival.

Provide some homework for your pupils. They should use books and/or the internet to research and investigate the reasons for setting up National Parks in different parts of the world e.g. England, New Zealand, Kenya etc (Global Citizenship)

Useful resources

Visit Scotland
For background information on Scotland’s National Parks

Central Scotland Green Network
For background information on how Central Scotland is aiming to balance commercial land use and environmental concerns

Scottish Natural Heritage
For background information about Sites of Special Scientific Interest e.g. at 1 February 2014, there were 1,425 SSSIs covering just under 1,020,000 hectares or 12.7% of Scotland




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