First John Muir Youth Awards in USA
Press Release, June 1997
The Sierra Club
announces the U.S. launch of its John Muir Youth Award program in the U.S.A., modeled
after the original program in Scotland.
The first 19 elementary school children to receive the new John
Muir Youth Award ('Discovery' Level) are from the Room 222 Fourth Grade class co-taught by
Mrs. Bindl and Diane Weiss at the John Muir Elementary School, in Portage, Wisconsin. The
Portage school is noteworthy, because Portage was the nearest town to Muiršs boyhood home
in Wisconsin, only 10 or 12 miles away.
Just as John Muir immigrated to America from Scotland, so the
John Muir Youth Award program began in Scotland last year under the auspices of the John
Muir Trust. Some 29 John Muir Schools across the United States were invited to participate
in the U.S. launch of the youth award program, with Portages John Muir Elementary School
being the first to receive the awards. In order to receive a John Muir Youth Award the
children had to address 5 challenges:
- Discover a wild place.
- Explore this wild place.
- Conserve this wild place.
- Share the knowledge and experience with others.
- Find out about John Muir, who he was, why he loved wild places, how he fought to save them.
The children at Portage's John Muir Elementary School have
completed Level One (Discovery Award) of the John Muir Youth Award by spending more than
22 hours over a three-month period on these projects. All students who complete the
program of at least 15 hours may receive the Discovery Award. Higher-level awards are
planned for the future.
What Did the Children Do?
The children at Portages John Muir Elementary School discovered,
explored and conserved wildness right on their own doorstep - a part of the forested
school grounds so wild it does not even have name!
They looked at wild plants, trees, birds, insects and animals.
They drew pictures of the animals that had this place as their habitat, and made tree
posters identifying the trees by their leaves.
They made maps of this wild place, including animal homes, and
drew pictures of animals and trees of this wild place in different seasons. The students
shared their activities and displayed their pictures on a bulletin board at the school and
at the county fair. They also wrote letters to other students at other John Muir Schools
in the U.S., telling them about their area. To help conserve this wild place, they carried
out a litter clean up. In exploring John Muir's life they watched a film, Explore the
Wilderness, read a biography of Muir by Sally Tolan, and read passages from The Story of
My Boyhood and Youth by John Muir, most appropriately the chapter on Life on a Wisconsin
Farm. The students kept John Muir Journals and discussed their entries with the class.
Diane Weiss, the students' teacher, said that working on the John
Muir Youth Award helped to increase students appreciation for natural areas, helping them
to understand how development affects wildlife habitat. The children also learned about
the importance in the history of the Westward expansion of Muir's role in keeping some
natural areas protected.
Harold W. Wood, Jr., chair of the Sierra Club Environmental
Education Committee, which initiated the program in the U.S., said: "These students
are the environmental leaders of the future. The Sierra Club is proud to encourage these
students to learn about wilderness, and to learn about John Muir, who was so important in
encouraging the preservation of America's wilderness. Each student was awarded a
full-color Certificate of Achievement, a work of art in its own right, containing
photography from noted photographer Galen Rowell together with a historical photo and an
inspirational quote from John Muir."
The John Muir Youth Award is a new, ongoing project of the Sierra
Club Environmental Education Committee. For information about bringing the John Muir Youth
Award to your school or youth group, contact: Sierra Club Environmental Education
Committee, P.O. Box 3543, Visalia, CA 93291; email@example.com
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