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A Journey with Walden, A Collaborative Modern Learning Book Talk on the Importance of an #EnviroEd Classic

October 23, 2017

thoreau

“To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem.”~ Thoreau, Walden 

Henry David Thoreau first published Walden in 1854. He described his own personal experiences living in an almost fully self-sustaining way. By immersing himself in nature he aspired to gain more of an understanding of his place and purpose through his own 19th Century version of a spiritual journey . By taking into account the values of self-efficiency, self-reflection and the spirit of essentialism, Thoreau influenced generations on the critical value of nature to one’s wellbeing.

Today, over 160 years later, we may not find to time to experience our own 2 year “sit spot” as Thoreau did but many the educator can see the value in such a project. This leads to one contemplating what a likeminded social experiment would look like in our current era.

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Paul Kelba (Sustainability Consultant, Calgary Board of Education) and Rob Ridley, (Field Centres Coordinator, Peel District School Board) are inviting participants in both elementary and secondary panels to participate in a book talk on Thoreau’s “Walden”. During the month of November, participants will read the classic, discuss the significance of Thoreau’s writings in modern society and discuss teaching strategies around the book.

Participants will be asked to partake in two bi-weekly Twitter chats using the #EnviroEd hashtag. As well, participants will be using and responding via Flipgrid (online sharing platform) on highlights and epiphanies they experience during the book talk. They will be encouraged to use other sharing (personal blogs, journal, podcasts) to reflect upon their learning and reflections.

No previous knowledge of Walden is required.

The organizers as also excited to introduce participants to the concept of gamification of Nature Philosophy as this professional learning progresses via the interactive video game: Waldengame http://waldengame.com 

This excerpt is taken from the game developers’ website:

Walden, a game is a first person simulation of the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond. The game begins in the summer of 1845 when Thoreau moved to the Pond and built his cabin there.

Players follow in his footsteps, surviving in the woods by finding food and fuel and maintaining their shelter and clothing. At the same time, players are surrounded by the beauty of the woods and the Pond, which hold a promise of a sublime life beyond these basic needs. The game follows the loose narrative of Thoreau’s first year in the woods, with each season holding its own challenges for survival and possibilities for inspiration.

The audience for the game is broad: from experimental game players to lovers of Thoreau and Transcendental literature. As such, the game offers more opportunities for reflective play than strategic challenge. The piece has a subtle narrative arc, in homage to the original text, which is not an adventure of the body pitted against nature, but of the mind and soul living in nature over the course of a New England year.

The book talk will discuss topics such as nature imagery, essentialism, self as well as literary reflection, wellbeing, connection to the outdoors, and more. This would be an excellent initiative for Humanities, English, Philosophy, Sociology teachers as well as any educator looking for ideas and reasons to discuss best practices for sustainability, environmental education and wellbeing of oneself and their learners.

If interested in joining in, please contact Pekelba@cbe.ab.ca or Rob Ridley, rob.ridley@peelsb.com Space is limited and available equally to both Boards. 

Upon enrollment educators will be provided free access to ‘Waldengame’ for their self and students as well as tips on accessing Walden the book.

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