Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were promoting the ideals of Transcendentalism way back in the mid-1800s and, yet, those same ideas still surround us today in our media and popular culture. When you pause and closely examine the music in your earbuds, the movies in your DVR, and the bestsellers loaded in your Kindle, you’ll see that some of today’s artists promote the very same ideas as the fathers of Transcendentalism.
For this assignment, your students will become experts on Emerson and Thoreau by finding echoes of their famous words in the works of people we enjoy today. T.V. shows, movies, cartoons/comic strips, music, products/packaging, internet news stories, and public figures are fair game as students find examples to illustrate the words of Emerson and Thoreau.
The five tenets of Transcendentalism will be covered in this project, including non-conformity, self-reliance, importance of nature (finding enlightenment or true self in nature), favoring intuition over reason, and the celebration of the simplified life.
This packet included a 1-page student handout and a 1-page rubric for grading final projects. To serve as a sample for students to follow, the assignment includes a detailed example showing how Lady Gaga illustrates the tenet of non-conformity.
The assignment can be done on campus in your school's computer lab or as a take-home assignment. It usually takes my class a full week for this project – two days for internet research/product building and three days for presentations.
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Want more pop culture materials to use with your study of Transcendentalism?
Click HERE to see how Duck Dynasty links to Emerson and Thoreau
Click HERE for materials using nature photography to illustrate the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson
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