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The John Muir Youth Award

Self Guided Assessment

DISCOVER - A Wild Place
EXPLORE - Landscape and Wildlife
CONSERVE and Protect it
SHARE Your Discoveries
LEARN About John Muir

Please note: This Self-Guided Assessment form is intended for participants age 13 and older. If you are under age 13, instead of this form, a teacher, youth group leader, parent, or other adult needs to fill out the Youth Award Interest Form.

You can undertake the Award on three levels. You should begin with the Discovery Level. Retrospective activity cannot count towards an Award.

1. Discovery Award
Requires a minimum 15 hours effort over 3 months or a 4 day Residential Project

2. Explorer Award
Requires a minimum of 30 hours effort over 6 months or an 8 day Residential Project

3. Conserver Award
Requires a minimum of 60 hours effort over 12 months or 12 days of Residential Project work

NOTES: You can combine a number of residential projects or weekends in order to make up a minimum time requirement, or do a single block of residential work.
The Award cannot be granted retrospectively (for work already undertaken)

The John Muir Award is NOT a competition. If you compete the project to the standards agreed you WILL be honored for your achievements.

How Can You Undertake the Award?

  • You can work through a school, college or university; a youth or community group; an environmental or conservation group.
  • You can form your own project group
  • You can do the Award entirely on your own

What Will You Get Out of Doing The Award?

  • Adventure, Friendship and Fun
  • Greater appreciation of wild places and wild creatures
  • New skills in conservation and communication
  • Enjoyment from working as part of a team
  • Satisfaction from helping the environment
  • Greater confidence and self-esteem
  • The respect of your friends and your community
  • A colorful Award Certificate suitable for framing

What Do You Have to Do?

For any level of the Award you undertake you must address the following 5 challenges, working under the guidance of a parent, teacher, Ranger or wildlife expert:

A 'Wild Place' can be any relatively natural area (ie. an area primarily governed by natural processes rather than by human operations) from your back-yard wildlife habitat, a stream side park, a local nature reserve, a National Park or wildlife refuge, or a high mountain forest or a Pacific coral reef.
Discuss your proposed project with parents, teachers, lecturers etc. and with local wildlife experts and the Ranger Service. 'Discovery' might imply an expedition to a remote area - in which case safety, skills training and supervision are prime considerations. You must have agreement on safety and on your proposals from your Assessor before starting any project.

You must physically explore and travel extensively, by walking, camping, canoeing, or just sitting and observing. Study and develop your understanding of what makes the area wild, how wild things (plants, animals, insects, birds, people) depend on each other in this place. The MEDIUM of exploration can be physical, geographic, scientific, artistic etc, but should engage all the senses.
Topics might include:
Why do we call this place 'wild'? What elements of landscape are wild? What animals, plants, and people live here? Why do we value this place's wildness? How is this place threatened or sustained? What did John Muir think about 'wildness'?

Possible approaches:
You might make a map, do a wildlife survey, identify plants, animals, birds. Take photographs, videos or sound diaries. Paint or draw plants, animals and landscapes. Keep a Nature Journal.

Take some personal responsibility for the conservation and protection of a wild place. This should take the form of some practical action that will leave it in better shape. This might involve research, campaigning or fundraising, pollution or litter surveys and cleanups; planting trees, shrubs or wildflowers, or clearing invasive plants.
Responsible experts should always be consulted about sensitive natural areas and you must always work under expert guidance. You may choose to campaign or raise awareness on behalf of a wild place, or raise funds etc.

Examples: Pollution clean-up; Tree planting, wildlife gardening, bird/bat box making; campaigning for wild areas or eco-systems by lobbying legislators or the press, radio and television; raise money for the conservation of the area. Make your effort something with lasting value. For example, it usually isn't enough just to clean up litter. If litter is a problem, then you should start with a litter survey/analysis, organize community support for not only removing the litter on a one-time basis but on an ongoing basis, and establish some system for ensuring that the place doesn't get cluttered again.

Tell people about your own experiences, share your knowledge, thoughts and feelings. Communicate the personal feelings, experiences and knowledge you have gained while interacting with the Wild Place you have chosen to a wider group of people: your school, family and friends, university, your local community etc.

Examples: Sharing with others might imply: producing an exhibition of photographs, paintings, drawings or words; producing a film, video-tape or slide-show; leading a guided-walk; giving a talk, writing a magazine or newspaper article, creating a website, etc.

Carry out all of the first four challenges against the background of learning about John Muir: his childhood in Scotland, his adult years in America, his world-wide adventures and explorations, his struggles to help create the Sierra Club and the National Parks system, his many books and essays on conservation.

By the end of your project, you should be able to answer all of the following questions:

  • Who was John Muir?
  • When and where was he born?
  • What adventures did he have as a boy?
  • How did he learn to love Nature?
  • What did he do to save wild places?
  • What books did he write?
  • What is John Muir Day?


  • Consult our online annotated bibliography.
  • Read John Muir's books.
  • Visit some place Muir visited. In America you can visit: Muir Woods, John Muir National Historic Site, the John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park, or any other national park. In Scotland you can visit John Muir House and John Muir Country Park in Dunbar or any of the Highland properties of the John Muir Trust. In India you can visit Simla or Darjeeling. In South America you can visit the Amazon or the Andes. Or look at some of the other places Muir visited throughout the world from Australia to Siberia, Norway to New Zealand.
  • Learn more by visiting the Sierra Club's John Muir Exhibit on the World-wide Web the John Muir Global Network.

What Should You Do Now?

If you are up to the Five Challenges, then begin!

  1. Choose the level of Award you want to start with, usually the Discovery Level.
  2. Decide on a place and focus for a project proposal - discuss with parents, teachers, friends etc.
  3. Submit a proposal. In your proposal you must address the Five Challenges and set your own goals and standards of achievement which you hope to reach.
  4. Fill in the Self-Assessment Proposal Form below (copy and paste into your word processor or e-mail program) and submit to the address indicated.


5. Your proposed project will be:
a. Approved or
b. Approved subject to minor changes or
c. Reconsideration recommended

6. The participant of the award program may be any age. However, if you are under age 13, instead of this form, a parent or other adult needs to fill out the Project Interest Form instead of this self-guided assessment form. In any case, if your project is approved, you will need a local Co-ordinator/ Assessor, who may be a teacher, youth group leader, conservation organization leader, community officer, or other responsible adult. This person will support your project and help assess and validate your achievement of the standards/ targets.

7. When you finish the project, you will meet with your Co-ordinator/ Assessor who will recommend to us whether the Award should be issued.

8. You will send us an updated version of the Proposal Form, and if you have achieved your goals, we will send to your Co-ordinator/Assessor a personalized colorful certificate of achievement to present to you.



Today's Date:

Participant name:

Participant age:
Adult Coordinator/Assessor name:



Outline of Project: ( About 30 lines of text space)

Provide more detailed information about your proposed project.

a. What are you going to do and How?
b. Proposed start date:
c. How will you judge if you have succeeded
d. How much time you will spend on this part?

a. What are you going to do and How?
b. How will you judge if you have succeeded
c. How much time you will spend on this part?

a. What are you going to do and How?
b. How will you judge if you have succeeded
c. How much time you will spend on this part?

a. What are you going to do and How?
b. How will you judge if you have succeeded
c. How much time you will spend on this part?

a. What are you going to do and How?
b. How will you judge if you have succeeded
c. How much time you will spend on this part?

The John Muir Youth Award is a program of the Sierra Club's volunteer John Muir Education Committee. Since we are volunteers, please allow 2 to 3 weeks for response to your proposal.

Send your completed form via e-mail or snail mail to:

Harold Wood
Sierra Club John Muir Education Committee
P.O. Box 3543
Visalia, CA 93278

The John Muir Youth Award

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