Starting at about this time each year for the past ten years, as winter drags on interminably, I dream about summer camp. I spent every August of my early adolescence living in the woods of rural South-West New Hampshire at Camp Takodah. My work on the staff prompted thinking about why it is that this place and these experiences matter so much to me. After some deliberation, I can be sure that it is about more than s’mores and capture the flag. What camp has fostered in me is a respect for nature, an understanding of myself, and a love for the connection I feel between the two. The way Henry David Thoreau and other transcendentalist writers conceived of this relationship with nature and the educational opportunities such a relationship offers serve as a lens through which to study that growth.
I will delve into an application of Thoreau’s philosophy on nature and education to a modern summer camp for children through an in depth reading of Walden, Walking and other texts, the study of primary documentation and criticism, and time spent on Walden Pond in Concord, MA . With the lens of this transcendentalist thought, I will then take on the task of daily journaling and observation at Camp Takodah. Through research and personal experience, I hope to draw conclusions about the impact of one’s relationship with the environment when it is possible to step back from the pressures of modern society. What is it that draws people away from society, and what can be gained by living in the woods? Also, what is the educational and developmental significance for children who spend time reconnecting with nature for two, four, six, or eight weeks each summer?
This work is exciting to me because I have always been a passionate advocate for stepping back from social pressures to reconnect with one’s self and one’s environment. Through this work, I would like to stress the importance of a return to nature and respect for our natural world. Summer camp has always been a passion of mine, because I believe it shapes children’s world views in terms of mental, physical and emotional health and maturity. Time to live in nature, bond with their peers and get in touch with their own physicality is incredibly productive for their current and future growth. My hope for this project is that it brings new light to old philosophy; I want this project to show, in a modern context, that we still have things to learn from the transcendentalist and from nature itself. It is time we all take a moment to simplify our lives on a grander scale, and I believe summer camp illustrates a beautiful modern example of how healthy that simplicity can be.
My goal is to combine secondary and primary source research in Concord, MA, and daily journaling at Camp Takodah to create a final product that is both informative and expressive. In this way, it will be possible to explore both what Thoreau’s actions meant in his day, and why those actions and ideas are still, if not more so, relevant today. By delving into my relationship with nature I will, through the lens of Thoreau, explore more deeply the impact it has on my intellectual growth and the growth of the children I work with.