Relationship with Nature

The Wild in Our Lives

Sean Farrell, 2018
Wachusett Regional High School
Holden, MA
Grades 11-12, Nature Writing

This unit will come early in the fall semester of this one-semester course. It will follow a brief unit on journal writing, editing, observation, and an introduction to such topics with Thoreau’s journals.

The unit is intended to acquaint students with their own surroundings and to look for “the wild” in the world immediately around them, as this course will soon depart from the local to consider wilderness in distant, more grand locations. It will develop observational skills, ground students in their current landscapes, and explore the importance of wilderness in their lives so far. Primary texts will be an excerpt from H.D. Thoreau’s Walden and the full text of his essay “Walking.”

In total, this unit will take three weeks of class time, wrapping up by the end of September. By the end, we will have

-learned about a famous naturalist (Thoreau) from just down the road and read and discussed some of his philosophy

-practiced the art of observation, field-note taking, and journal writing

-learned the origins of place names nearby and evaluated the process of naming

-considered and explored the importance of wild places in our own lives

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Our Land and Our Writers: Discovering Barnstable’s Conservation Lands Through Multiple Lenses

Jerry Wollak, 2015
Barnstable High School
Hyannis, MA
English, Grade 11

The activities for this thematic approach are for high school students during their year of studying American Literature, 11th grade at Barnstable High School. Students will become familiar with a particular area of the town, namely conservation land that has been set aside for recreational, non-commercial use. Each student will walk a trail at least four times over the course of the school year, once for each of the four seasons, starting in September and concluding in June. Students will observe and take field notes on their walks. Observations will be summarized with writing and possibly drawings and photographs in their Journal. A class nature walk will take place during the first week of school in order to provide training in observing and recording information. This will take place at nearby Dunns Pond, adjacent to Barnstable High School. Classroom readings by various American nature writers will be read over the course of the year in order to develop observation skills as well as literary competency and imaginative possibilities for each student. Journal entry responses to various American writers will complement the field notes and Journal summaries. The series of assignments will culminate in a student created portfolio and presentation for the class on the topic “Barnstable’s Conservation Land and Insights from our Nature Writers”.

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Nurturing the Community Through Its Land

Cynthia M. Espinosa Marrero, 2014
Permaculture FEAST Interdisciplinary Course
Holyoke, MA
Community Education

Permaculture FEAST (for Social and Ecological Transformation) is a weekend-based permaculture design course that moves from principles and patterns to details in a supportive, respectful and collaborative atmosphere to promote rapid learning of whole systems design. The main audience for the course are young adults and adults that have a busy schedule and are interested in permaculture design. The course is centered on experiential learning and hands-on skill building, including local field trips and reskilling where we will put theory into action. It goes above and beyond the standard 72-hour design course, offering attendees over 80 hours of content with an additional focus on social permaculture and urban techniques. The course concludes with a design practicum, where participants will work in small groups to develop a design for a client.

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Our Ponds Unit

Jean Unzicker, 2012
School of Environmental Studies
Apple Valley, MN
Environmental Studies, Grade 11

In this 4 week unit students move through a process of gathering information about a local pond, evaluating the information to determine the overall health of the pond, and presenting the information in a written technical lab report and a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation is given to classmates, parents, community members and water resource managers from the local cities, Dakota County and the MN Department of Natural Resources. The unit also includes a reflective essay using Thoreau, Gretel Ehrlich, Edmund Wilson and Annie Dillard as models.

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Reading and Writing the Wild

Jessica Bane Robert, 2010
Clark University
Worcester, MA
Seminar, College

In this seminar we will be reading, blogging, journaling and workshopping our way through the American landscape (primarily) as we define and explore our connection to the wild. Though American nature writers from Emerson and Thoreau to Snyder and Dillard will be our foundation, we will take an interdisciplinary and experiential approach to our examination of wildness which will include children’s literature, poetry, film, music, and visual art. We will trek at least one of central Massachusetts’s green spaces to conduct a filed study.

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Thoreau the Locavore Asks,“Do You Know Beans About Your Beans?”: Approaching Thoreau Through Today’s Heated Local Food Debate

Andrea Ferrara Popp, 2009
Framingham High School
Framingham, MA
American Literature, Grade 11, Honors

Is the fastest way to a student’s interest and intellect through his or her stomach? This unit will find out while students reflect on their own eating habits and consider what Michael Pollan terms The Omnivore’s Dilemma. As the first part in a lesson series on Thoreau, this unit titled “Thoreau the Locavore” focuses on his bean field “experiment” and push for local, self-sustained food production. (The other units in the series will be titled “Thoreau the Naturalist” and “Thoreau the Civil Disobeyer,” looking at his relationship with nature and social stirrings, respectively.) Thoreau will be introduced as a historical figure who can easily joins today’s heated food fight. Students will learn about Thoreau’s bean fields and the changing agricultural/industrial times in which Thoreau lived and consider how this 150 year old experiment continues to be a hot topic today in the locavore debate. Through a selection of non-fiction readings from various perspectives of the debate, students will reflect on their own eating habits and consider what the 100-mile-diet would look like for them in Framingham, MA. However the food fight in our own classroom ends, hopefully students will know beans about their beans, or at least take an interest in where their food is coming from and how it is marketed to them.

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The Roots of Thoreau’s Nature Writing:
English Romanticism to American Transcendentalism

Will Cook, 2009
Framingham High School
Framingham, MA
Literature, Grades 11 and 12, Honors

This teaching unit is designed to help introduce students to writing about nature and to the history of doing so. It is by no means comprehensive but may serve as a self-contained introduction to Wordsworth, Keats, Coleridge, and Thoreau, or as springboard from which teachers might generate their own approaches and activities.

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Todos Somos Conectados

Valerie Oswald-Love, 2008
Moorestown High School
Spanish, Grades 9 and 10

Todos Somos Conectados (We are all connected) is an on-going communication project that links the common interests and concerns of two different cultures. The common bond that the two cultures share is the necessity of the preservation of natural, local habitats. Students will find that some issues that they present to each other will be quite different and some will be very similar. Through the format of a nature newsletter, students will connect through the proposition of solutions, support for each other’s conservation initiatives, and appreciation for each other’s natural world. Many communities often overlook, neglect or remove natural habitats. Many communities may not think that they have habitats worth protecting or preserving. These wondrous spots, including river banks, local woods, and small ponds, can be not only quiet, pristine sanctuaries away from the paved world, but also natural science classrooms, the best hands-on learning available to modern educators.

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Transcendental Experience: Take a Walk on the Wild[ness] Side

Julie Wright, 2007
Lynnfield High School
Lynnfield, MA
American Literature, Grade 11

This unit is designed for use in an 11th grade American Literature course in which the overriding Essential Question is “What is the American Dream”? This question asks students to consider the following concepts: Can “wildness” lead to the “preservation of the world”? to the “preservation” of humanity”? Though focused on the English classroom, the goal of this unit is to provide students with an understanding of the interconnectedness of art, history, and literature, and emphasize experiential learning through artistic and field related endeavors. Using the works of Thoreau and Emerson in conjunction with contemporary writings, we will explore the meaning of “living deliberately,” “wildness,” “wild, “preservation,” “self-reliance,” and sense of place.

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I Am Haunted by Waters

Neville Morgan Barry, 2006
Somerset High School
Somerset, MA
American Literature, Biology, and American History; Grades 9 and 10, College Prep and Honors

This 10 week course includes one lesson in English, one lesson in History, and one lesson in Biology. The unit’s focus is water, namely the rivers that separate the towns of Somerset and Fall River. This unit is an attempt to create an interdisciplinary elective course next year. Water will be examined through Macleans’ “A River Runs Through It” and other literature, through examination of rivers’ roles in American History (namely, industrial revolution and post-industrial times), and through learning about river ecosystem in the school’s own backyard. The overall goal of this unit is that students will become more aware of their environment by becoming active stewards of their community.

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Where’s Walden? An Interdisciplinary Unit on Perspective, Place, and the Meaning of Home

Jonathan Hartt, 2006
Maimonides School
Brookline, MA
American Literature, Grade 11

Designed for use in 11th grade American Literature as part of a semester spent on the American Renaissance, this multidisciplinary unit combines local history, art, and science in the study of place. Using Thoreau’s experiences and writings, we will explore the meaning of “the wild,” self-reliance, and living in community. This unit will also emphasize hands-on, field-based learning with the goal of fostering stewardship as well as scientific and artistic inquiry. Students will hike local areas and draw and journal in response to close observation. The quarter culminates in the Journal of Place and a researched presentation that they will make to a non-junior class.

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Finding Comfort in an Unfamiliar Landscape: Urban Youth Explore Nature

Erica Schwartz, 2005
English High School
Jamaica Plain, MA
English and Dance, Grades 9-12

This unit explores several “essential questions” about how urban youth can connect to an unfamiliar place using an all-inclusive set of mental, emotional, and physical sensations: through reading Thoreau’s work and writing about nature; becoming intimate with an urban nature sanctuary through observation and art; and creating a site specific dance study on nature, inspired by the words of Thoreau, performed on the grounds of the nature sanctuary.

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Observing Nature throughout the Seasons: A High School Biology Curriculum Unit

Lisa Rioles Collins, 2005
Hingham Public Schools
Hingham, MA
Biology, Grades 9-12

Thoreau went out every day observing nature and discovering changes that occurred in local flora and fauna throughout the seasons. The goal of this curriculum unit is to get students outdoors to observe the same tract of wildlands close to their school throughout the year. It is a comprehensive biology curriculum including a major field component, and engages students in observation skills, journal writing, mathematics, research, and technology.

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The Relationship between Nature and Man’s Place:
A Curriculum Unit Designed for Urban High School Biology Students

Emily Steinberg, 2005
Lowell High School
Lowell, MA
Biology, Grades 9-12

This unit is designed to help urban high school students define, and ultimately make connections to, the nature that surrounds them. Students will be guided in their definition of nature by a set of fundamental unit questions and will be asked to reflect without any previous exposure to this topic. Subsequently, the students will address these questions through provocative readings as well as journaling. In addition to defining nature, students will learn the relevance of scale in dealing with ecology. They will understand the importance of observation and how scale and subjectivity can alter what is perceived. They will also calculate their own impact on nature and, in doing so, they will be able to evaluate their own as well as man’s place in (or outside) of it.

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Natural History Writing

Matthew Burne, 2004
Reading Memorial High School
Reading, MA
Environmental Science, Grades 9-12

This unit presents a model for introducing students to natural history writers
and explores the natural history essay. It also provides a potential jumping-off
point for investigating the development and philosophical underpinnings of
environmentalism and the field of ecology. Students will read excerpts of influential natural history writers ranging from Henry David Thoreau (1814-1859) to modern writers such as Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002). Students will be asked to select a place that they will repeatedly visit throughout the unit to observe and write about. This would ideally be a property in their town that is in a relatively natural state, conservation lands or town, state, or federal parks or forests, for example, but may be their own back yard or neighborhood wood lot. They will maintain a journal throughout this unit, responding to specific writing prompts or free-writing based on their wanderings and observations. The unit culminates with students writing a natural history essay about the area they have selected.

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