Now and Then

Now and then

Now and Then


Subject area: 
Literacy, RME

Experiences and Outcomes:
Eng 3 – 30a, Lit 3 – 20a,
Lit 3 – 23a, RME 3 – 05b

The aim of this lesson is to compare and contrast your pupils’ Primary and Secondary school outdoor experiences. 

They should then write about them by creating a ‘now and then’ journal in the same way John Muir captured the natural world around him by drawing and writing in his journal when he was at Primary school in Dunbar, Scotland compared to what he experienced when he first arrived in America.

Start this activity by reading together the first section of the John Muir graphic novel The Wild Boy of Dunbar to discover how he spent his time in Scotland and once he had immigrated what his first years in America were like as a young boy and then a teenager.

Journey of a pupil’s life from Primary to Secondary school

Once your class has read this section ask them to provide examples of what John Muir did as a 7 to 11 year old during his time in Scotland.
Answers could include:

  • being constantly outdoors; 
  • falling in rock pools while exploring; 
  • getting stuck up trees, 
  • scootchers.

Encourage your pupils to discuss their own experiences of Primary school and make notes in their journals about what they did when they were the same age. Where did they play as a 7 year old?

Then they should explore what happens in Secondary school. Where do they play now? Is it the same? If not, why not? How do they find special places as?

What do they think John Muir took with him from his youth that enabled him to keep exploring?

Reflecting on Learning

  • Had learners ever considered how they use to play outdoors in the past compared to how they play outdoors as a teenager?
  • Do they think outdoor play is still important?

Learners can:

  • Write creatively recording facts about their past and present day lives
  • Help to create an outdoor learning through play area in their school grounds
  • Demonstrate that they have completed all the requirements to achieve the John Muir Award (bronze, silver or gold)

Further work/ useful resources

The John Muir Award
Introduce your pupils to the John Muir Award. Print What is the John Muir Award. Circulate copies to any pupils who are interested in taking part.

Further details are available at the John Muir Award website.

Grounds for Learning Scotland (GFL)
For more ideas and activities to use with this section of the John Muir story find out more about Grounds for Learning Scotland (GFL).

GFL provide opportunities for in directed learning by demonstrating how to provide the space to allow this to happen. For example, to have in your grounds an area that is available for pupils to look under rocks, observe birds on bird feeders etc. The guides on GFL show how to create:

  • natural play
  • as well as outdoor space as an exercise in itself 

Other resources provided on the GFL web site that could be used to follow up the Now and Then activity include:

  • Locating a pond
  • Celebrity guided tour – out and about lesson – this activity encourages better understanding of your school grounds 
  • Creating a bag garden

Finally, your class could explore how they could take part in Eco-Schools (whole-school action on sustainable development). Guidance regarding how to get involved is found at the website.


101.7 KB