Henry David Thoreau is famous for having spent a year in nature, having rejected the ways of the world. However, he did not seek to completely reject all human conventions; instead, he wanted to show that a reliance on all things human with a near rejection of the natural world would result in imbalance. He sought to find a middle ground between the two worlds.
The Thoreau Experiment presented here is designed to show students that a reliance on technology, combined with a near rejection of observation to the world around them and to their inner world results in an imbalance much in the way Thoreau shared in the 1800’s. The goal of this experiment is to help students acknowledge that the “old ways” of spending time in nature or with themselves is crucial to their lives and well-being.
Students are given a list of experiments to choose from, ranging from stargazing to bird watching to taking a walk. All experiments have rules for students to follow such as: put your cell phones away, take notes during the experiment, etc.
Once the lesson is introduced (which, if time for discussion is allowed can take up to an hour), students have a week to complete the experiment and then write an essay about the experience.
The experiment is aligned to the Common Core Standards and includes a list of standards addressed in the appendix.