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John Muir: now and then
Subject area: Literacy
Experiences and outcomes: ENG 2-30a, LIT 2-20a, LIT 2-23a
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 a primary school in Dunbar, Scotland compared to what he experienced when he first arrived in America. You can use our colourful transition journal to support this activity.
Start this activity by reading together pages 24-54 of the John Muir graphic novel 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.
Now ask your class to complete the Now and Then worksheet. Encourage your pupils to think about examples of what John Muir did as a 7- to 11-year-old during his time in Scotland, and then discuss their own experiences of primary school and make notes in their journals about what they did when they were the same age, for example, 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 to explore?
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 used to play outdoors in the past compared to how they play outdoors as a teenager?
- Do they think outdoor play is still important?
- 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)
If you are looking for more activities to support the transition of pupils from primary to secondary, our 10 things to do with any book for transition is a great place to start. It offers activities, such as holding an outdoor reading or writing a character postcard, that help pupils to discuss the change and challenges they face as they move to a new school.
The John Muir Award
Introduce your pupils to the John Muir Award(this will open in a new window). Print the information sheet What is the John Muir Award and hand out copies to any pupils who are interested in taking part.
Learning through Landscapes Scotland (previously Grounds for Learning)
For more ideas and activities to use with this section of the John Muir story, visit the Learning through Landscapes Scotland(this will open in a new window) (LTL) website.
LTL provides opportunities for 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 LTL show how to create:
- natural play
- outdoor space as an exercise in itself
Other resources provided on the LTL website 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(this will open in a new window) for whole-school action on sustainable development.