Exploring Thoreau in the 21st Century

American Literature students experience the work of Thoreau in a unique manner at the Bryan Innovation Lab.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise (sic) resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.” – David Henry Thoreau

In the mid-nineteenth century, Thoreau went into the woods to learn what he could. He wrote a journal that was published under the title Walden. If Thoreau were alive today, how would he record his experiences in the woods? Would he videotape himself? Have a webpage? Blog? Instagram? Facebook?

One of the experiences Thoreau had was growing beans. Thoreau does not just tell about growing beans but the lessons he learns about himself and his environment. It is more of an essay about life than it is about growing beans.

For the past two weeks, Lynn Define’s American Literature students have been experiencing the work of Thoreau in a unique manner at the Bryan Innovation Lab. Like Thoreau, the students have been growing beans, documenting their growth, and planning how they will share their discoveries about life in the natural world. Students are fortunate the weather has cooperated and allowed the bean plants to germinate. Some groups are experimenting with hydroponics, containers, grow lights, and other methods, which they still are discovering. There are Twitter, Tumble, and Instagram accounts set up already. This unit is based on a collaborative learning method called Problem Based Learning. The students will record their findings in a way Thoreau might document his findings in the 21st century.





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