Exploring Yosemite to Understand the Purpose of Art and Our Ethical Duty to the Wilderness

On their field study, these 4th-grade students Gained a First-Hand understanding of how John Muir used art to contribute to the creation of the park.

As part of our 4th-grade Fall Learning Expedition titled “Poetry, Poets, and Becoming Writers”, our students examined the purpose of art alongside our ethical duty to the wilderness. Fortunately for us, we need to look no further than the works of John Muir and Yosemite National Park, which is just 4 hours to our south, to put these concepts together. During their field study in Yosemite, our students would gain a first-hand understanding of how John Muir used art to contribute to the creation of the park.

Guided by our 4th-Grade Crew Leader Carolyn Highland and our Physical Education Teacher Patrick O’Malley, our 4th-grade crew packed into three suburbans and made the 4-hour drive into Yosemite Valley for a 3 day / 2 night experience in the park. Before their trip, students read several of John Muir’s essays to set the stage for the trip.

Once they settled into their camp spots, the crew stretched their legs as they walked in the footsteps of John Muir to Soda Springs

As they entered the park, students saw rock walls towering over them as they drove the windy roads through the valley. Once they settled into their camp spots, the crew stretched their legs as they walked in the footsteps of John Muir to Soda Springs and skipped stones in the Tuolumne River where they learned watercolor techniques among oaks and maples and painted their surroundings.

Once they made it to Yosemite Falls, they gazed up at the awe-inspiring vistas and wrote poetry. Next, they hopped from rock to rock in dry creekbeds and drank in the majesty of their surroundings as they sat below El Capitan during golden hour. At the campsite, students huddled around the campfire clutching hot chocolate and giving appreciations for each other

Throughout their experiences in the park, students not only learned about the purpose of art, they also learned to persevere while setting up tents, how to collaborate on cook crews, how to handle conflict with empathy and grace, how to support each other in moments of need, and how to care for their environment by practicing Leave No Trace.

Having seen this magnificent national park with their own eyes, students will be more inclined to advocate for their public land so that they and others can enjoy for years to come.

We'd like to appreciate Lora Spielman, Art Educator at Happy Isles Art & Nature Center, and TEA Parent Volunteers Misty Knight and Nichole Cook for helping make this field study an amazing experience for our students.