Lesson Plan: Life and Legacy of John Muir

John Muir: Early Life

Author James Hunt describes John Muir's early life from his childhood through becoming a young adult.


Throughout his life, John Muir was an explorer, inventor, naturalist and conservationist. His experiences led him to new understandings about life and relationships. He is considered to be one of the nation’s most significant environmental leaders and the father of the national park system. In this lesson, students will hear about John Muir's childhood, how he was motivated to explore the world and how he made a global impact.


  • Step 1:

    As a class, view the video below to provide information on John Muir's early life. Engage in class discussion using the questions below. Students can take notes on the accompanying handout.

    Handout: “Life and Legacy of John Muir” (Google Doc)

    Video Clip: John Muir - Early Life (6:11)

    Author James Hunt describes John Muir's early life from his childhood through becoming a young adult.

    1. Describe John Muir's childhood in Dunbar, Scotland.

    2. Explain Muir's invention and how it led to him attending the University of Wisconsin.

    3. How did Muir become interested in studying nature?
  • Step 2:

    Ask students to view the following videos and take notes on the accompanying handout to hear how John Muir was motivated and learn how he discovered his philosophy on life, relationships and death. Discuss students' responses as a class.

    Video Clip: John Muir - Wandering Botanist (3:00)

    James Hunt explains John Muir's motivations and the path on which he traveled.

    1. What motivated John Muir to explore nature?

    2. Describe the gear he took with him and the path on which he traveled.
  • Video Clip: John Muir - Philosophy (9:38)

    Author James Hunt explains how John Muir's experiences in nature led to his philosophy on life, nature, relationships and death.

    1. Explain Muir's views of life and death as he reflected on his experiences in Bonaventure Cemetery and Cedar Key, FL.

    2. According to James Hunt, what are the takeaways people should gain from John Muir's journals?
  • Step 3:

    As a class, view the following video and links to the associated bills to learn about the legacy of John Muir. Discuss his contributions and how they are relevant today.

    Video Clip: John Muir's Legacy (1:27)

    Harold Wood, Sierra Club, John Muir Education Team Chair, briefly talks about the global impact of John Muir's exploration and his legacy.

    H.R. 1719: John Muir National Historic Site Expansion Act

    S. 729: John Muir National Historic Site Expansion Act

  • Step 4

    Culminating Activity: Ask students to select one of the following activities to complete and share with the class.

    Environmental Protection: Which aspect of the environment would you like to protect? Explain your reasoning and map out your action plan. You may also want to consider creating a Public Service Announcement persuading the public to agree with your position or writing a letter to your member of Congress to suggest actions on this issue.

    Exploration: Which areas of nature would you like to explore? Explain your reasoning and generate a list of questions you would like research along your journey.

    Field Trip: Consider a virtual trip to a national park or visit an outdoor park in your neighborhood. Write a journal entry or poem after your experience to document your observations and feelings.

Additional Resources


  • Arrogance
  • Botany
  • Dominion
  • Eradicate
  • Estuary
  • Humility
  • Sierra Club
  • Vagabond


Environmental Policy & Land UsePolitical PartiesU.S. History


High SchoolUniversity