Growing Seasons at Thoreau College is a 9-month, residential program for young adults seeking to challenge and cultivate themselves through an immersive, holistic curriculum designed to engage each participant as a whole human being. Each Growing Season is organized around a distinct theme of broad contemporary and perennial significance, this year’s being HUMANS & NATURE. A broad tradition in Western thought and culture has for centuries held that nature and humankind are fundamentally opposed to and in conflict with one another. Whether in folk tales filled with dark forests and dangerous animals, or in economic drives to drain the swamps and subdue the virgin soil, or environmental narratives of humankind as a disease infecting and polluting the purity of wild nature, the story told in Western culture has long been one of unceasing warfare between ancient and irreconcilable foes. Growing Seasons I takes on this false dichotomy, and seeks to answer Wendell Berry’s urgent question “What are people for?” on both a personal and a societal level.
Although thematically diverse, each Growing Season incorporates a set of core activities:
- Rigorous academic engagement with diverse worldviews, great books, scientific research, and works of art related to the theme of the year
- Immersive experiences in nature, including wilderness expeditions, solo retreats, and disciplined observational studies of natural phenomena
- Introduction to disciplines and practices for lifelong inner development, including journaling, biography work, and structured contemplation
- Creative artistic work in various media, designed to support the theme and the work of inner development
- Intentional community living in a self-governing household of peers, supported by training in communication skills and strategies for working with conflict
- Practical work experiences with agriculture, carpentry, cooking and food preservation, and other manual skills, including service work within the local community
- Participation in the governance and ongoing development of Thoreau College
Rooted in the unique ecological and cultural landscape of the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin, the schedule of each Growing Season program begins in March and ends in December, mirroring the agricultural year and the cycle of nature in the upper Midwest. Over the course of the year, participants spend time living in two distinct physical contexts: during the spring and fall, participants live in the small town of Viroqua, Wisconsin, a vibrant community of artists, educators, entrepreneurs, and farmers. Then, for six weeks in July and August, the program moves to the country for an immersion in the rhythms of nature and agriculture at Bear Creek Farm, a diversified organic farm and educational campus for the Driftless Folk School, located about 30 minutes away from Viroqua.
Through an integrated program of study, artistic creation, reflection, labor, and active community life, Growing Seasons participants explore what it means to be a human being today and what we are each called to do with our lives at this moment in history. Now accepting applications at thoreaucollege.org!
To read more about Thoreau College and the experience of founding fellow, Colleen Smereka, click here.