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John Muir: Exploring activists

Subject: Social Studies, Science

Experience and Outcomes: SOC 2-02a, SOC 2-03a, SOC 2-06a, SCN 2-20a, SCN 2-20b

John Muir was an activist and advocate for the protection of nature throughout his life. He is remembered by many for his dedication to protecting beautiful landscapes and unique natural places, and his work has had a lasting impact on ecology and conservation. He is often referred to as 'the father of national parks(this link will open in a new window)' in America for his work to protect natural spaces from commercial activity, and he wrote about the importance of being in nature for wellbeing.

Learning activity: historical activists

But John Muir wasn't the only individual campaigning for the protection of nature during 19th century and early 20th century. Other activists and naturalists working at the same time as Muir include:

Split your class into groups and ask them to research one of these historical figures to see what else they can find out about them. Ask the groups to feedback to the class.

Extension activity: contemporary activists

With climate change, deforestation and destruction of habitats being key issues of the 21st century, there are many individuals and activists working hard to protect nature and our planet.

After researching historical activists and their legacy, ask pupils to research contemporary activists. Pupils may be familiar with figures such as Greta Thunberg, but there are many others working all over the world to protect indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship with, the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by indigenous communities including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment. You can read more about this on the United Nations website(this link will open in a new window).

Books such as We Have a Dream: Meet 30 Young Indigenous People and People of Colour Protecting the Planet(this link will open in a new window) or Young Enough to Save the Planet(this link will open in a new window) are great places to start when researching contemporary activists.

Other individuals that your pupils could research include:

Ask pupils to write a short paragraph about the activist they have chosen to research, and share it with the class. Each pupil could share one reason why they like this activist. Why do they find them inspiring? What is their cause and why is it so important? Create a display of all the incredible individuals working hard to protect our planet. End on a class discussion of what pupils have learnt from these individuals, and what they can do to protect the planet.

Video We Have A Dream By Mya Rose Craig

Reflecting on learning:

Learners can: