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. -- Henry David Thoreau

Many Unitarian Universalists applaud Henry David Thoreau as a transcendentalist who truly understood the world. He believed in a simple world where we can look to the rhythms of nature for examples of a good life. Opinionated and philosophical, Thoreau was likely considered a curmudgeon by some of his peers. Dying at age 44, he lived a short life by today's standards, yet his writings were prophetic and ageless.

The lessons of modeling our home life after nature and keeping life simple are relevant to children in today's world. Thoreau observed animals in nature as they created their family homes, using their homes to rest, to eat, and to grow, and to protect their young. While never a spouse, nor a parent, Thoreau taught school and tutored Ralph Waldo Emerson's children. These experiences surely helped him to understand the cycle of human life as beginning with the birth of young.

In Walden, Thoreau sets out a life of deliberate living that includes learning. He chose nature as an instructor. This session introduces children to the idea of learning from nature as they observe nature and transfer the knowledge they gain to their own family homes and their shared faith home.

In this session, participants use nature journals. The Leader Resources section for this session offers ideas for making journals for your participants before the session.

The Faith in Action activity engages participants in a clean-up of a public green space within walking distance of your meeting location. Consider incorporating the Closing for this session into this Faith in Action activity. An outdoor closing ritual will reinforce this session's focus on our human relationship with the natural world.

Goals

This session will:

  • Introduce Henry David Thoreau
  • Demonstrate the simple life as an expression of Unitarian Universalist faith, using Thoreau as an example
  • Help participants develop skills of observation in nature as a way to learn about ourselves
  • Guide participants to explore the natural cycle of growth in nature

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Explore the practice of picture journaling
  • Explore the connectedness of their family home, the natural world, and their faith home
  • Become familiar with Henry David Thoreau's life in nature
  • Build a home in nature
  • Look at nature through a window and draw their observations
  • Optional: Transform a public green space through a trash clean-up project

For more information contact religiouseducation@uua.org.