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John Muir: exploring nature

Learning type: Classroom activity

Subject area: Expressive arts, numeracy and maths, social studies

Experiences and outcomes: EXA 2-03a, MNU 2-11a,b,  SOC 2-08a

The aim of this lesson is, in the spirit of John Muir, to locate and observe a specific tree throughout the seasons, taking note of all the creatures that depend upon it, at different times of the year.

Before you begin, ask your class to look through the John Muir graphic novel and read the I Will Walk One Thousand Miles section, up to page 71, where it describes how John Muir lived among the creatures in the trees.

The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre has a live webcam feed(this link will open in a new window). See if you can spot the red squirrels – scroll to the bottom of the webpage for the webcam link.

Explain that when John Muir was a teenager he realised that to understand the nature around him it was best to immerse himself in it totally to be able to discover and study plant life (such as trees), and all creatures that depend on it, more fully.

Print the Exploring Nature worksheet so your class can complete this activity.

The activity should take place during your pupils’ school holidays. Each term they should report their findings back to the class (via their Exploring Nature worksheet). Or as a class you could adopt a tree within your school grounds and collectively study it throughout the seasons. Your pupils should fill in their Exploring Nature worksheets accordingly.

Reflecting on learning

Had your learners considered:

Learners can:

Useful resources/further work


This activity can be expanded further during a biology lesson studying photosynthesis in more depth.

John Muir: Mission Explore

Pupils can also be encouraged to carry out additional activities in their own time by taking part in John Muir: Mission Explore.(this link will open in a new window)

The answer to question 3 on the pupils’ worksheet is that plant growth is affected by conditions such as light, water availability and temperature. This is why the measurement is only able to provide an approximate age.

(© The above was originally created as part of the Schoolgrounds-UK membership scheme from the national school grounds charity Learning through Landscapes, operating in Scotland as Grounds for Learning.)