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English Students Experience Transcendentalism

Marielle Newton’s 11th-grade American literature students have been studying transcendentalism, a philosophical movement from the mid-1800s rooted in the goodness of people and nature. Students recently experienced the lesson in a hands-on way. They went outside on a chilly December morning and just listened for five minutes. Students climbed trees, sat on benches and the grass and listened for natural and man-made sounds, documenting what they heard. The class then reconvened for a discussion. Later in the week, students gave up unnecessary technology for a day and added a goal to simplify their lives. “Some did things like cooking their own food, making sure to spend time with their family playing a board game, or even going to dinner with their moms and having a real conversation! The students said afterwards (as they do every year) that it was such a welcome opportunity to put away the social media they’re so often absorbed in to think about what’s important outside of the technology with which we surround ourselves every day,” Newton said. “Some of them even decided to try to limit or be more mindful of their phone and internet use. It’s a great way to bring Emerson and Thoreau (the Transcendentalist authors we read) alive!”