In the 12th Grade Transcendentalist block, we read and explored the works of four great literary figures in America: Henry David Thoreau, through the non-fiction account of his experiment at Walden Pond; Ralph Waldo Emerson, through his philosophical essays; and Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson through their poetry. Each gave America a literature of originality in form and content that had at its center a view of the modern human’s necessity for self-reliance, direct experience, and original perception of truth, especially through openness and relationship to the natural world.

The Transcendentalists ~ 12th Grade Block


The students read excerpts from the authors’ works and convey their understanding of the texts in daily discussions and nightly journals, where they also record their own musings, a goal being to also appreciate the activity of their own minds. Each student leads class discussion on various days with a presentation of a chapter from Walden and an Emerson essay. Each student also writes an original personal essay, “Another Chapter in Walden” in the style of and with themes arising from Thoreau’s famous work, and completes an “experiential” project which requires an artistic rendering of a personal encounter with Nature, also in the spirit of Thoreau. In addition, each student prepares and delivers a “Lyceum Lecture” on a topic of personal inspiration, modeled after Emerson’s orations, and composes a “Song of Myself,” a creative writing piece in the style of Walt Whitman.

Cherrie Latuner, High School Literature

Thoughts from the 12th Grade

The Transcendentalists ~ 12th Grade Block

Perhaps my favorite part of our Transcendentalists block was the classroom discussions we held during Main Lesson regarding the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. As we all pulled apart the texts and debated their significance, I was struck by the magnitude of relevance that the Transcendentalists movement still holds for our modern world.  ~Marina

Throughout our 12th grade Transcendentalists block, we spent extensive hours in nature. This block allowed me to acknowledge my already-established safe haven within the vast outdoors.  ~Teresa

Throughout our Transcendentalists block I felt my connection with nature rekindled through the Experiential projects as well as in writing my original Walden chapter. I felt myself grow closer to the nature that I had strayed away from.  ~Sophia

Transcendentalists was a lot of work for me. It was very satisfying to complete the assignments. I also enjoyed the field trip to Walden Pond.  ~Parker

It was very meaningful to create a [Lyceum] lecture that was on a topic important to me, and to be able to revise it to a draft that I was proud of. Presenting the lecture, although nerve-wracking, felt very rewarding.  ~Mike Kiely

The Transcendentalists ~ 12th Grade Block

The work in our Transcendentalists block continues to extend into my life. I feel a greater and much needed connection with my mind and the world around me. The daily time in nature began to exist as a meditation.  ~Willow

In our Transcendentalists block, I began to connect to nature on a deeper level. ~Sylvie-Grace

It was a transforming experience to study the Transcendentalists. A highlight for me was the Lyceum Lecture evening.  ~Grace

The Transcendentalists block was an opportunity for us to express our unfiltered thoughts that came out of our nightly journaling.  ~Will

The Transcendentalists block was an introspective process of looking out into nature. I found my worldly views reflected in the veins of a leaf…  ~Mila

During the Transcendentalists block our daily journaling assignment strengthened my relationship with nature…I discovered a new appreciation of our symbiotic relationship with nature and all living things.  ~Hannah