Thoreau kept an extensive journal which was published in 1906 (he was the first public figure to have his journals published in their entirety). It includes about 2 million words that are organized into 14 volumes! He started writing in his journal in October of 1837, at the age of 21, and continued until November of 1861, about six months before his death.
As Thoreau would walk and explore his environment each day, he would write down what we now would call “field notes,” capturing his immediate thoughts, questions, observations or reactions to what he saw. He would then, a day or two later, convert those notes into journal entries. The Journals are a tremendous window into the life and ideas of Thoreau.
In the spirit of Thoreau, we encourage everyone, of all ages, to reflect on their daily experiences and to process their ideas through writing.
Here are a few short journaling exercises that both introduce you to Thoreau’s writing and ideas, while also offering ideas for discussion, journal prompts and activity extensions.