"A Word for Nature" Exploring Environmental Literature

A Summer Institute for Idaho Teachers
July 13-19, 2008

teachersThirty-five Idaho teachers attended the Idaho Humanities Council’s 2008 weeklong summer institute, titled ‘A Word for Nature’: Exploring Environmental Literature. Held July 13-19 at the College of Idaho in Caldwell, and supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” program, the institute featured lectures and performances by scholars and musicians from several states.

The institute included daily presentations by scholars examining several classic texts, tracing the history of American environmental thought from the early nineteenth-century through today. The texts and participating scholars were: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden led by Dr. William Johnson, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston; Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring led by Dr. Lisa Brady, Boise State University, Boise; Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It led by Dr. James Hepworth, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston; Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America led by Dr. Gary Holthaus, Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, LaMoure, North Dakota; and Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, led by Elizabeth Grossman, author, Portland, Oregon. Participants received lodging and meals, texts, and the opportunity to apply for optional college credit.

posterMany evening events were open to the public, including the keynote address by Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe, titled First Child in the Woods: On Learning to Love the Earth. Mark Raddatz presented Watch, Pray and Fight!, a one-man show highlighting John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club and one of the first modern preservationists. Elizabeth Grossman, author of Watershed: The Undamming of America, presented a talk titled A Land Ethic for the Digital Age. Greg Keeler, Montana State University, presented an evening performance – Fish, Sheep, & Environmentalists – songs about the environment, environmentalists, anti-environmentalists, and other issues. Special afternoon presenters included Gary Eller presenting Idaho Environmental Protest Songs; Rick Johnson, director of the Idaho Conservation League, discussing its work; and Rochelle Johnson, College of Idaho, discussing a project she undertook with her writing students titled Rediscovering Indian Creek, centering on a local creek that had been paved over in the 1950s.

Comments from participants: