Wonders of the Natural World

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Great writing invites us to a sensory experience—to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste—and such writing has the power to capture our students’ interest, ignite their curiosity, and enhance their learning experience. In fact, imagery is such a powerful tool that it’s often used by activists to sway their audiences to a particular point of view.

Consider the immersive effect of this line:

“Imagine yourself in Hetch Hetchy on a sunny day in June, standing waist-deep in grass and flowers, while the great pines sway dreamily with scarcely perceptible motion.”

These are the words of John Muir, one of the most influential conservationists in United States history. With his vivid descriptions of America’s natural wonders, Muir succeeded in securing millions of acres of protected forest reserves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This Earth Day, take your students on a tour of one of the United States’ most stunning national parks with this excerpt from John Muir’s Yosemite (1912). This rich primary source provides an excellent jumping-off point for exploring the life and writings of John Muir, the early conservation movement in the United States, and the roots of the National Park Service:

This document is part of ABC-CLIO’s World History: The Modern Era database, a comprehensive study of the emergence of the modern world covering world history from 1500 to the present. Click here to activate your free preview of this database and gain access to thousands of primary sources, course essential video modules, and curated reference libraries on more than 70 historical eras, from the Spread of Protestantism to the End of Apartheid.