What We Learn from Walden


Walden Pond, Sept. 08

Walden Pond, Sept. 2008

At its simplest, Henry David Thoreau’s Walden is an account of his efforts to live a simple, natural life in the woods around Walden Pond outside Concord, Mass. To high school students required to read it, the book can be tedious and less than thrilling. But, as a recent news story shows, Walden may prove to be more significant than it seems.

Check out this NPR story (Climate Changing Walden Pond’s Flowers) about an innovative use for Thoreau’s memoir.  Here’s a snippet:

Henry David Thoreau is perhaps best known for his book Walden, about living a simple life in harmony with nature. But Thoreau didn’t just love nature — he studied it and kept meticulous notes. Now, scientists are using Thoreau’s records to look at how the landscape has changed during the past 150 years.

So not only is literature enlightening, enjoyable, entertaining, and elucidating, but literature also can be an important source of historical information.

For another picture of capitalizing on the unique elements of Thoreau’s writings, see this NPR story (High School Teaches Thoreau in the Woods): “The Walden Project is an alternative [high school] program [in northern Vermont] focused on environmental studies and on the teachings of Henry David Thoreau, who did some of his best thinking outdoors at Walden Pond.”

Thoreau lives on, n’est-ce pas? and not only in the tourist gift shop across the street from Walden Pond.


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