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Written by
Rob Bushby
Rob Bushby

Five things you need to know about the John Muir Award

The John Muir Award is takes its name from the Victorian conservation visionary and was set up by the John Muir Trust to be an accessible way of making connections with the outdoors. At its heart, it’s all about enjoying, getting connected with, and caring for the natural environment. Here’s a simple overview…

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Participants from Cumbernauld High School - Photo credit Katrina Martin

1. What is it?

It’s a UK-wide environmental award scheme. It’s not a set syllabus, or a programme of outdoor activity. And it’s not someone telling you what to do. Basically, it’s a simple structure of 4 Challenges - you decide where and what you plan to do to meet them:

  • Discover a wild place. This can be anywhere from school grounds or a garden, to a river, coastline or mountain landscape (or any combination)
  • Explore it, in an active way – do things to get to know and understand your wild place(s). These can be active, sensory, cerebral, creative…whatever suits you/your group/your place.
  • Conserve it – do things to help look after or protect or improve your chosen place.
  • Share your experiences – in a formal or informal way, using creative approaches, technology or traditions…

It’s a framework that embraces a diverse range of self-selected activity to suit people at their own level and ability.

2. Why does it exist?

It’s a way of working with people to value wild places – a key part of what the John Muir Trust is all about. It’s a tool to help engage with the outdoors, especially people who might not usually see themselves as the ‘outdoors’ type. (And it brings John Muir’s ethos into the 21st century in a way that is relevant to everyone).

Young Scot Edinburgh College 3 Jul13

Young Scot Participants: Edinburgh College. Photo credit Young Scot

3. Who is it for?

Groups, families and individuals get involved, from all ages and backgrounds. (In groups it works best with upper primary ages and older – this guide contains information on suitability for guidance.)

It’s used to promote an environmental agenda in the Youth Sector (as a recognised youth award), in Schools and Colleges (to support outdoor learning, sustainability, supporting curriculum outcomes and giving focus to extra-curricular activities) and in many Outdoor Centres. Individuals and families take part, and Adult Groups use the Award to support community learning, development programmes and volunteering. At least 25% of Award take-up each year is with people from what can be termed ‘inclusion’ backgrounds, something the award team are particularly proud of – you can find out more by downloading the Inclusion, Wild Places, and the John Muir Award PDF.

NoransideInmates from Noranside Open Prison, Cairngorms - Photo credit Scottish Prison Service

4. Where can you do it?

Pretty much anywhere that has some natural character. We talk about a spectrum of wild places. For many, urban greenspace can be as important as rugged mountains and remote coastlines for regular, accessible, free or cheap fixes of fresh air, nature and exercise. Dunbar harbour, castle, beach, cliffs and nearby fields inspired Muir as a boy in the mid-1800s. Curiosity and wonder can be stimulated anywhere with a sense of wildness, some natural character and wildlife.

5. Where can you go for more info?

Watch a 10 minute introductory film. Look at some case studies. Download an Information Handbook for detailed guidance. See what young people think of John Muir in this 5 minute film.

John Muir - Back to the Future

When you are ready to go, complete a Proposal Form, send it in 2 weeks before you wish to start the team will discuss this with you. Here are the links you need to do all this!

John Muir Award Staff

The John Muir Award Team - Photo credit John Muir Trust

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