Connect, Explore, Engage Template

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Unit Title:

...Like John:  Saunter.  Observe.  Sit.  Observe.  Write.  Repeat.


Students will develop background knowledge and appreciation for the contributions of naturalist and advocate, John Muir.  Students will use his strategies to communicate the value of natural locations within their community.  In addition, students will explore, virtually, national parks that were preserved due to John Muir's work.  Finally, students will discover that advocacy is still necessary for both national and state resources.

Grade Level:

4th to 5th grade

This could be easily extended to upper-grade lessons.

Lesson author(s):

Hannah Coddington

Instructional Materials Needed (if applicable):

List things needed to complete the lesson or other citations of other resources or curriculum integrated

Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts Addressed

W.4.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information

          W.4.1.a Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational

          structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.

          W.4.1.b Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.

          W.4.1.c Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order

          to, in addition).

         W.4.1.d Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

W.4.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCR.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

SL.4.2 Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally

Wisconsin Standards for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Standards Addressed 


Learning Priority:  Perspective

Students develop and connect with their sense of place and well-being through observation and questioning.


Learning Priority:  Cultural Systems Emphasis


Identify historical or contemporary cultural events that have shaped perspectives about a

sustainability issue.

Identify how humans have shaped and managed natural systems, cultural systems, and the

impact of change on both systems.


Learning Priority:  Evaluation and Reflection


Reflect on the immediate and potential future outcomes of a stewardship experience, and

strategize options that would minimize risks while maximizing outcomes for the sustainability of natural and cultural systems.

Evidence of Need:

Current 4th-grade students are unaware of John Muir's influence upon the national park system.  Additionally, they can gain an appreciation for the natural spaces around them and developing plans to visit parks in Wisconsin and around the United States.

Evidence of Success:

Students will:

Document and share important life moments of John Muir.

Curate a list of John Muir Quotes

Capture and curate images from a preserved natural space in their community.

Create a convincing essay for community members to continue to preserve and utilize this natural space.

Curate images of national parks that were preserved through the influence of John Muir.

Digitally explore state parks, curating a list of five "must-visit" parks.

Create essay to share vision for future of state parks, forests, and natural areas.


I can select and paraphrase the most important life events of naturalist and national park advocate, John Muir.

Formative Assessment:

Students will work together to create and share an annotated timeline of the most significant life events of John Muir.

Extension--Students could create their own "top ten" timeline by combining events from their small group and other presentation.  


How did one man, John Muir, impact our nation?  

1.  Watch the following video created by the National Park Service to develop an understanding of John Muir's connection to Wisconsin and his impact on the National Park System.

Hutchison, S. & Wheeler, C., (Producer & Director)(2017).  Documentary: A Glorious Journey. [Documentary]. United States: The Great Divide Pictures.  Retreived from

2.  Create a group presentation--a narrated timeline--of the most significant life events of John Muir.

Inquiry Experience 2   

Setting and Estimated Time:  60 minute class/ 30-60 minutes out of school

Learning Target:  

I can use photography to share my connection with a place of natural beauty within my community.

Formative Assessment:

Students will create a curated list of John Muir quotes that they find the most powerful.  

Students will capture the beauty of a natural place within your community using photography--and upload three images to the Siftr.


John Muir's passion for nature developed on his family's farm in Wisconsin.

1.  Check out this story from

Lewis, Chelsey.  (July 30, 2016) Father of national parks John Muir called Wisconsin home.

2.  Please spend time reading the following quotes from John Muir, curated by the Sierra Club--which John Muir founded.  Curate a list of 3-5 quotes that you find are the most powerful.  

Wood, Harold (2019). Quotations from John Muir.  Retrieved from 

3.  Visit a place of natural beauty in your own community.  How has that beauty been preserved for you and for future generations?  Saunter.  Sit.  Observe.  Use pictures to capture the beauty of this place.  Please upload three pictures of this area using the following Siftr:                   

  *Take special note of how this space impacts your sense of well-being.

4. Caption at least one image with one of your curated quotes from John Muir.  

Inquiry Experience 3

Setting and Estimated Time:  20 minutes for planning/60 minutes-120 minutes for writing.

Learning Target:  

I can create an essay to convince community members to support and utilize a natural resource within our community, responsibly.

Formative Assessment:

Students will create an essay that will include a thesis, three powerful reasons, at least two pieces of evidence for each reason, and a strong conclusion.


John Muir wrote to share his observations in nature---convincing people that land should be preserved for human enjoyment and well-being, without unnecessary development.  Use your observations about the place that you were drawn to in your community (this could be a community par, state natural area, or a privately owned property) within your community that can bring enjoyment, peace, and restoration to the people of your community.  Write an essay to convince your community members to continue to support and responsibly utilize this area.  Add pictures that you took while exploring this location for the Siftr assignment.

Create an essay that will include a thesis, three powerful reasons, at least two pieces of evidence for each reason, and a strong conclusion.  Please use at least one quotation from John Muir within your essay.


Inquiry Experience 4

Setting and Estimated Time:  30-40 minutes of virtual exploration/60 minutes to create Google Drawings poster

Learning Target:

I can use digital tools to determine a national park that I would like to explore someday.  I can curate images, properly crediting photo sources, into a poster to communicate why I would like to visit that national park.

Formative Assessment:

Students will create a Google Drawing poster with properly credited photo sources to explore and appreciate one of the national parks championed by John Muir.


1.  Consider the legacy of John Muir by viewing the following article and photographs.

Van Niekerken, B. (2018, January 16). How Hetch Hetchy Valley's natural beauty was sacrificed to quench SF's thirst. Retrieved from

2.  John Muir is called "The Father of the National Park System."  While the Valley of Hetch-Hetchy was lost, he had a significant role in preserving the following parks.  Note the value of his fight when you compare the Hetch-Hetchy images with the images of the places that were preserved.  Please explore these parks using the following link:


Yosemite Valley

Sequoia National Park

Grand Canyon

Mt. Ranier

National Parks of the United States,-94.20828246,312.21005962a,12000000d,35y,0h,0t,0r/data=Ci0SKxIgMzVhNjc1YmQ0NjVjMTFlOTg0Yjg1NTMyNWRjMDk2MzQiB3ZveV90b2M

2.  Choose one of the parks that you would like to saunter in.  Create a poster in Google Drawings of places that you would want to explore...views that you would want to take in, if you were to visit that national park.  Include two quotes from John Muir on your poster.  

Observe the following to properly credit photo sources:                                                      

1. Search using Google Images                                                                   

2. Under Tools--Select “Labeled for reuse with modification”                                       

3. Give Proper Attribution:  TITLE of image (with hyperlink to online location), AUTHOR, & LICENSE for image.

****Consider viewing the following resource from Jennifer Gonzalez at Cult of Pedagogy:

Gonzalez, Jennifer.  (2017, November 13). Teaching students to legally use images online. Retrieved from

Examples of properly attributed photos (note the hyperlinks):

Rainbow at the Vernal Falls at Yosemite National Park by Jan Benutzer: Jan2K, is licensed under  CC by 2.0

Bridalveil rainbow by Lisa Brewster, is licensed under CC by 2.0


 Inquiry Experience 5

Setting and Estimated Time:  

Learning Target:

I can digitally explore our state parks, forests, and rec areas--creating a list of 5 that I would like to visit.

Formative Assessment:

Students will curate a list of the top five state parks, forests, and rec areas that they would like to explore.


John Muir valued the beauty of Wisconsin.  Many others had a vision for the preservation of natural areas within Wisconsin.  A map of all of the Wisconsin State parks, forests, and rec areas is found here:

Please utilize Google image searches to develop your understanding of the natural beauty that Wisconsin has to offer within its state park system.  

Create a list of the top five state parks, forests, and rec areas that you would like to explore.  

Create an infographic, properly attributing the image.  This infographic should include the location of the area within Wisconsin, at least one image that makes the area memorable, and the name of the park, forest, or rec area.

Extension--Consider collaborating with other districts by contributing to the following Siftr:   4th Graders IN Wisconsin State Parks, Forests, and Natural Areas


 Inquiry Experience 6

Setting and Estimated Time:  20 minutes planning & discussion/60-120 minutes for writing, revision, editing/20 minutes sharing

Learning Target:

I can create an essay to convince stakeholders of the importance of preserving state natural areas and experiences for all people in Wisconsin.

Formative Assessment:

Students will create an essay with a thesis and three reasons supported by evidence including research, polls, microstories, lists, and quotes.  The conclusion will include a call to action.


Decisions about National Parks and state natural areas are still being made today.  Read the following pieces:

Privatization works in Alaska

Glacier privatization

***Consider investigating the developments in the Kohler-Andrae golf course.

PEOPLE chose to set aside land within Wisconsin...and the United States.  It requires people and resources to maintain these areas.  The future of these places is still being decided.  It is time to develop your thoughts on these matters.  Should national and state parks be privatized?  What are the risks?  What are the benefits?  

Please take a position---ie.:  "Whether or not parks are privatized, the state park land and experience should be preserved and accessible to all people within the state.

What are the three most important components of a state park experience?  Consider accessibility, cost, balancing services with a natural experience, etc.

Create an essay supporting your position using lists, microstories, and quotes to support your three reasons.

Double check your plan for evidence of high quality instructional ELA materials as outlined by

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