|Green Thoreau: Global Warming|
|2010 Annual Gathering|
Preschoolers | Beginning Readers | Elementary Grades
Middle School (Grades 6-8)
College and University
Note to Educators. Thoreau, one of America's most important and inspiring philosophers, can be tough to teach. It's not easy to dispel his stereotypes as a curmudgeon and hermit, or else a nature-gazing cloud-head, when you have only a few classes in which to present his works and thoughts.
Henry for Preschoolers,
Beginning Readers, and Elementary Grades
...and try this Christmas with the Thoreau Family
Here are some good starters.
|Take a Hike with Henry|
|Henry Builds a Cabin|
Civil disobedience, aiding the underground railroad,
and Thoreau's famous night in jail are marvelously woven into a children�s
tale. School Library Journal says:
"At the top of his imaginary mountain, he meets an unnamed, barefoot traveler. Although the stranger's comments indicate that he is an escaped slave seeking freedom, his fur is the same color as Henry's - they are, after all, both bears. Henry gives the traveler his shoes and best wishes, then returns barefoot to his cell. Despite dealing with complex themes, Johnson's text does a fine job of explaining the essential conflicts without oversimplifying them." Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. ISBN: 0618269029
Thoreau in Middle School (Grades 6-8) and High School
For middle and high school students, Thoreau is a gateway toward a rich spectrum of topics in language arts and social studies -- the American literary "Renaissance," the Transcendentalists, environmental science and ethics, the turbulent decades leading up to the Civil War... and key figures and episodes in African American history.
Middle School students will relate to Into the
Deep Forest with Henry David Thoreau (NY: Clarion, 1995)
by Jim Murphy, an award-winning author for young readers. (Basic
retells Thoreau's last excursion to the Maine Woods, focusing
on Henry's need for nature and solitude. Evocative illustrations
by Kate Kiesler. ISBN 0395605229.
Back to top.
Thoreau Boiled Down. For Thoreau in a nutshell - with very informative summary introductions - use the excellent "Spirit of Thoreau" paperback anthologies published by Houghton Mifflin (1999) and sponsored by the Thoreau Society. Each one, grouped by a theme, is edited and introduced by a leading expert. We particularly recommend the first three --
Elevating Ourselves: Henry David Thoreau on Mountains. Edited by J. Parker Huber. Material Faith: Henry David Thoreau on Science. Edited by Laura Dassow Walls. Uncommon Learning: Henry David Thoreau on Education. Edited by Martin Bickman.
Transcendentalism for Dummies? Well, not exactly - it's actually a CliffsNotes - but we earnestly recommend Leslie Perrin Wilson's excellent Thoreau, Emerson, and Transcendentalism (IDG Books, 2000) for its knowledgeable overview, scrupulous attention to detail, and rare empathy with Mr. T. and Mr. E., the giants of the transcendentalist movement. Read it before your students do! It's also readable / searchable online. Ms. Wilson is the Curator of Special Collections at the Concord (Mass.) Free Public Library. ISBN 076458619X.
Interdisciplinary Thoreau. Thoreau is ideally suited as a basis for interdisciplinary curriculum because he belongs equally to Language Arts, Social Studies, and Natural Science...
Strongly recommended: Resources for classroom teachers -- including Thoreau-related curricula originated by educators in the public systems -- are posted online by the Thoreau Institute, which sponsors summer workshops at Walden for teachers. A couple of these curricula are described below.
- The Thoreau's Cabin Project is the creation of Bill Schechter, who teaches history at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High (not far from Walden Woods). His students, in 1997, built a full-size replica of the philosopher's Walden house as a one-semester elective. Schechter's rich curriculum, developed partly at the nearby Thoreau Insitute, offers lessons geared equally to vocational-track students and those with academic strengths.
- Equally clever is Mr. Schechter's boildown called Thoreau's Journal Drippings, an ongoing collection of memorable sayings from Thoreau's enormous Journal.
Educators focusing on the transcendental movement are well served by Michael F. Crim, A Teacher's Guide to Transcendentalism, desktop-published by the author, 1997. If you can find it, this loose-leaf volume contains a wealth of essential backgrounds, handouts, and references. There are several citations from it in Matt Feldman's informative 2003 Unitarian sermon, "Emerson and Transcendentalism."
High School Curriculum Builder - "The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail" Two Indiana teachers designed this interdisciplinary activity for Grades 10-12. Explores civil disobedience and culminates in a mock trial of Thoreau.
Back to top.
Thoreau at the College & University Level
If you're teaching at these levels, you don't need us. Still, here are our favorite guides for making Thoreau accessible and for teaching Thoreau using the Web.
- An extended guide that covers a lot of ground is Richard J. Schneider's Approaches to Teaching Thoreau's Walden and Other Works (Basic info.). Many scholars and college-level teachers contributed to this collection of 24 thoughtful essays.
- Houghton Mifflin's "Online Instructors' Guide for the Heath Anthology of American Literature" offers pages
about Thoreau, Emerson, Margaret Fuller, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, and William Lloyd Garrison, among others in its Early 19th Century section.
- American Transcendentalism -- A rich, web-savvy site by Prof. Ann Woodlief at Virginia Commonwealth U.
- Read her article "Emerson and Thoreau as American Prophets of Eco-wisdom."
- Listen to the audio lecture she titles "Teaching Walden as Transcendental Strip Tease."
- Try her hypertext-annotated Walden and "Ktaadn."
Back to top.
- Click here to read reviews of recent critical studies on this web site .
Visit all our subject areas in American
history and culture:
Harlem Renaissance | Classic Blues| Shays' Rebellion & the Constitution | Gold Rushes
Calliope Home | Comments? e-mail the Webkeeper
Updated Feb. 20, 2010