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John Muir: discover national parks

Subject area: Social studies, sciences, literacy

Experiences and outcomes: SOC 2-02a, SOC 2-06a, SOC 2-13a,SOC 2-14a, LIT 2-02a, LIT 2-09a, LIT 2-10a

The aim of this lesson is to find out:

Before you begin, look through the John Muir graphic novel and read the section The Wild Man Who Changed the World, up to page 108, which shows why John Muir became known as 'the founding father of National Parks'. But it's important to note that John Muir wasn't the only individual campaigning for the protection of nature. Find out more about other activists and naturalists working in the 19th century and early 20th century.


Now provide your pupils with copies of the National Parks 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 America where he later established the world's first National Park system.

Once you have read this information, show your class the photographs of America and Scotland's national parks in the downloadable PowerPoint presentation.

Then instruct your class to mark where they think the protected areas in Scotland are located on the National Parks worksheet.

Once this activity 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 (e.g. the benefits of having protected land) and cons (e.g. 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 out their cons list and the other half to read out their pros list.

Further work

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

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 wildlife 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:

There is now recognition that there is a need for 'wildlife corridors' between areas that have been specially protected. This has 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.

They should research and investigate the reasons for national parks in different parts of the world such as England, New Zealand, Kenya or Japan. Do these natural parks have similar issues with wildlife boundaries? Pupils can use the National Parks website(this link will open in a new window) to find national parks across the world, and begin to research how and why they have been established.

Reflecting on learning

Learners can:

Useful resources

Visit Scotland(this link will open in a new window)

Find further information about Scotland's National Parks.

Central Scotland Green Network(this link will open in a new window)

For information on how central Scotland is aiming to balance commercial land use and environmental concerns.

Nature Scotland(this link will open in a new window)

For information about Sites of Special Scientific Interest.