John Muir Award and National Parks
Written by Alan Smith, John Muir Award Regional Manager, Cairngorms National Park Authority
‘Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.’
So wrote John Muir in 1912; a message that is as valid today as it was all those years ago. John Muir’s connection with national parks is well known, Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon national parks were all influenced by his writings.
The John Muir Trust seeks to keep Muirs message alive in the UK through managing land for the benefit of biodiversity, through influencing policy at a national level and through education. The educational initiative of the John Muir Trust is the John Muir Award.
The John Muir Award is an environmental award scheme focused on wild places. It encourages awareness and responsibility for the natural environment in a spirit of fun and adventure. It is non competitive and open to all. The John Muir Award asks people to meet four challenges:
- Discover a wild place, close to home or further afield.
- Explore your wild place; find out more about its nature and wildness.
- Conserve it, do something to look after wild places and nature.
- Share your experiences with others, what have you learned, what have you achieved?
This four challenge framework lends itself nicely to meeting national park aims of conserving and enhancing, awareness and understanding and promoting enjoyment.
The educational model underpinning the John Muir Award is the ’Heart, Head, Hand’ model:
- Heart – develop strong feelings about nature or about a particular place – people will care about it, want to know more and want to do something to protect it.
- Head – understand and develop knowledge about nature and wilderness, the inter-dependence of living systems and threats to wild places – this will encourage a sense of responsibility and stronger feeling.
- Hand – get actively involved and take practical action for a place or issue – a sense of ‘putting something back’ helps people to enjoy and value the experience more.
Research has shown that touching people on these three levels can lead to behaviour change and a more sustainable way of living.
The John Muir Award is used and supported by a number of national park authorities in the UK. The Cairngorms employ a John Muir Award manager to promote and develop the use of the Award in the Cairngorms area. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, Exmoor and Snowdonia have all had involvement.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
The 50,000th John Muir Award was presented in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs NP by Adam Ingram Scottish Minister for Childhood and Early Years. The presentation took place on Inchchailloch NNR where the Backchat Youth Group from Helensburgh had done their John Muir Award.
Snowdonia National Park
Angharad Harris, Snowdonia NP Education Officer (Secondary) based at their Study Centre at Plas Tan y Bwlch, is running a programme for 8 secondary pupils from Ysgol y Moelwyn, Blaenau Ffestiniog who have behavioural and learning problems.
The pupils are going to learn about the work of the National Park, learn about nature, and will be exploring and working in the area around Blaenau Ffestiniog and at Tan y Bwlch. Rhododendron clearance will form a significant part of their work.
This will contribute to the Parks aims of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area. By working through the medium of Welsh they will be promoting the wellbeing of the Welsh language and the cultural character of local communities, and also promoting understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the area.
Encouraging people to get outside and become more aware of wild places and take some responsibility for them is central to the John Muir Award. As can be seen from the examples above this makes it a perfect fit for National Park education work. For more information contact:
John Muir Award Regional Manager
Cairngorms National Park Authority
Tel: 01479 870518