Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Oh, California

Understanding Primary Sources:
What Did John Muir See?

Objective: Students read and analyze a selection from John Muir's writing to understand his point of view about California's natural resources. Students create a display of images that show California's natural resources.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3-4 hours over 3 days

Building Background:
Review John Muir's efforts to preserve California's natural resources in the Yosemite Valley. Explain to students that during the late 1800s he wrote articles and letters to government officials encouraging the preservation of the land, water, plants, and animals. Largely through his efforts, Yosemite became the United States' first national park. You might direct students to the map on page 19 of their textbooks or an atlas to locate Yosemite National Park. Tell students that they will be reading a section of John Muir's journal and learning more about what he saw and felt after seeing Yosemite for the first time.

What To Do:

1. Pass out the John Muir and California's Resources worksheet. Have students read the passage silently, then you read the passage aloud. Define any words that might be unclear to students. Then have students work on their own to fill out the worksheet.

2. When they finish, have students share their answers. Keep a list of their responses to each question on the board. Ask students to name of other natural resources not referred to in Muir's journal.

3. Instruct students to look through library picture books showing California's natural resources. Tell them to look both for images showing resources that Muir mentioned in his writings, and resources that he didn't mention in the entry. Have them work in small groups to find at least three images showing different natural resources from around the state.

4. Students should copy the images they find. Once each team has collected three images each, have them work together to set up a bulletin board display of their images. Groups should plan the arrangement of the images, then design and create labels which identify the resources their images are showing. Have the class vote on a title for the bulletin board display and make a title banner.

Discuss with students the impact of one man — John Muir — on the state of California. Ask students to describe California's natural environment today if Muir had never seen Yosemite or moved to the state, or worked so hard to preserve what he loved.


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