Belhaven Hill School

Co-ed Boarding & Day School for ages 5-13

John Muir Award


 John Muir (right) with Theodore Roosevelt in Yosemite Valley in 1903

This year Form 4, along with Christian, have used their Saturday Morning Outdoor Education lessons to work towards the John Muir Award.  This is an award set up by the John Muir Trust to encourage young people to enjoy the outdoors.

The award is split into 4 sections:

Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share.

Here is a summary of the activities Form 4 have completed as part of their award. Please click on each link to discover what Form 4 children have been getting up to.


The first strand of the award encourages the children to discover two things; ‘Who was John Muir?’ and secondly a ‘Wild Place’.  For Form 4 this was a straightforward task, being at school in Dunbar was perfect and what better way to learn about John Muir than visit where he was born on the High Street in Dunbar.

Having learnt a little bit about him in class we headed into town and were warmly welcomed by the staff at the John Muir Birthplace.  Here, Form 4 enjoyed finding out further information about his life.

They were able to see how the High Street has changed since he was a boy living in Dunbar, to how it is now.

They learnt a little about his family and also his school life in the area before he moved to America.  We looked at pictures from his time in America as well as models of some of his inventions.

On our way back to school we went to see the start/finish of the John Muir Way which lies just off the end of the High Street.  Form 4 are already familiar with the cliff walk which forms part of the John Muir Way as they have walked sections of it before and it was great for them to realise that these were the same cliffs and rock pools that John Muir used to walk and explore.

As for a Wild Place to discover ~ what better than the amazing school grounds Belhaven has to offer?  We spent time looking at the different species of tree in the shrub and simply seeing the amazing nature that lies around us.


In groups, Form 4 started to explore the shrub area in the grounds.  We identified different species of trees, went on a scavenger hunt, and even completed an Alphabet Hunt of things we could hear, see, smell and touch in the grounds.

Each member of Form 4 chose a tree so they could create a Tree Passport.

In their passport they had to describe their tree and include the height, measure the trunk and complete bark and leaf rubbings.

They had great fun measuring the height of the trees and their suggestion on how to measure the height was super:

Take one member of Form 4 and measure their height
Ask them to stand next to the chosen tree.

The rest of the group stood back a certain distance and estimated how many times the person would fit into the height of the tree.

Then came the maths!

A genius idea from them and they all enjoyed the task.  What they also enjoyed was being able to climb their favourite tree at the end as a reward for their hard work.

As always, there needed to be some wet weather plans and so Form 4 spent some time researching too.  It was just a little early for the various mini beasts to be spotted so they each chose their own mini beast and created a poster full of facts.


We also spent some time looking at how the mini beasts formed part of a larger food web.  The children also enjoyed exploring and understanding what is meant by the Countryside Code and how to respect the local natural areas around them.  Watch their favourite clip here:

The next stage of our exploration was to involve looking for the mini beasts within the grounds as well as exploring a wild place further afield down at the rock pools on the beach.



The Conserve strand of the award involves the children putting something back into their chosen Wild Place.  So with the help of Mrs Haddon in the DT Room, Form 4 had fun creating some bug hotels to put around the grounds.  We will have to keep looking to see how full the bug hotels become!  They have also, with the help of Mme Brodie and Mrs Leitch been on a litter pick and were surprised at how much litter creeps into the school grounds from over the wall.  As the weather was becoming warmer, Mme Brodie took some of the Form 4s to tidy the greenhouse ready for next term where they can begin to plant some seeds, meanwhile Mrs Leitch has arranged a delivery of trees to plant.

Also planned is a beach clean up and a ‘nurdle hunt’.  If you are not sure what a nurdle is, look it up today!

The children are also going to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly by watching some caterpillars undergo the transformation into butterflies and then release them into the grounds at Belhaven.



The last part of the award is to share their experiences.  Form 4 have created a display board in Mrs Gale’s classroom with some of their leaf rubbings and notes about John Muir.  Each pupil has their own scrapbook which they have included some of their work as a record and we hope to do a whole school assembly.


Unfortunately with the current situation on COVID -19, the last few activities such as watching the caterpillars change into butterflies, visiting the rock pools and the use of the green house will have to be put on hold, but I am hoping that Form 4 will be able to complete the award by sending some ideas and activities for them to complete at home.

Thank you to all the staff who have helped Form 4 this year work towards the John Muir Award.

Katie Gale