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Grades 7 - 9
John Muir in Yosemite

Unit Concept:

John Muir's vision led to the establishment of the National Park System.


In at least two class sessions, students will explore different ways to value the environment and will participate in a simulation of a historical debate to protect Yosemite as a National Park.


  1. Make copies of the Background Information and the Debate Cards . Make an overhead transparency of page 25, Ways to Value the Environment .


  1. Assess the students' prior understanding: What are some ways to value the environment and what issues were addressed in creating Yosemite National Park ? Use the Ways to Value the Environment overhead transparency to discuss different perspectives.

  2. Divide up the roles on the Debate Cards among groups of students to research the various roles for the debate and read the Background Information. Give the teams at least one 40- to 50-minute session to research their position in the debate and become familiar with their characters' positions. Students should synthesize their information with their teammates in preparation for the debate.

  3. Set up chairs in a circle with each group seated together with name cards for identification.

  4. Invite the Facilitator to read the Background Information sheet again to the class prior to beginning the debate. Ask the Timer to read his or her instructions.

  5. The Facilitator may introduce each group to Congress. Each group is allowed four minutes to convince Congress to vote in support of their position.

  6. After Congress has heard all the represented sides on the issue, the Facilitator will ask them to vote and announce their decision.


  1. The battle for the protection of Yosemite was largely over economics. One of the points of the debate was that the land needed to be proven "useless" economically before Congress would declare it a national park. Similar issues concerning economics and the environment face today's citizens. Further discussion might include current topics such as:

    1. Oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ;

    2. Varying restrictions on land use by different agencies, such as U.S. Bureau of Land Management , National Park Service , California Department of Forestry , and the U.S. Forest Service ;

    3. Habitat loss and endangered species, such as cutting the spotted owl's old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest and the development of land for housing in California.

Resources for Grades 7 - 12

Download this complete unit in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format (file size = 350,929 bytes).

The entire Study Guide is also available.

John Muir Day Study Guide Home

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