We the Fellows began our journey with a week of camping together at the Driftless Folk School under the guidance of the Steering Team. This week culminated in a canoeing expedition led by David Puig and set the tone for the year to come. On this trip the Fellows demonstrated our strengths and vulnerabilities to one another, establishing a foundation of trust upon which we have engaged with each other and with the project ever since. Without this foundation, the Fellows would not have been able to step up to the individual and interpersonal work that underpins the creation process of our collaborative endeavor.
Since our seminal week, the Fellows have been focused on three priorities: first, and most pragmatically, the creation of systems from the ground up that have served as the backbone for all current and future Thoreau College processes, such as the establishment of legislative policy, weekly scheduling and, perhaps most crucially, working norms within the team dynamics. We have also been focused heavily on research—exploring the collegiate ideas of L.L. Nunn in The Grey Book, understanding what led Thoreau to live in the woods near Walden Pond, and investigating the history of other experimental colleges in order to understand both their successes and their failings. Finally, we the Fellows have begun integrating ourselves and the college into the fabric of the local community, primarily through partnerships with local businesses and organizations such as the Valley Stewardship Network, community radio station WDRT, Growing for Good, and the Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School.
Equipped with our individual skills and mutual co-created goals, the Fellows have established strong group dynamics, schedules, and policies to facilitate our work. A typical day for a Fellow begins in the reflective morning hours with our respective morning rituals that carry us into the day. At 9:00 am, the full team assembles for either a single meeting which encompasses the entire morning, or two shorter ones. These meetings are where much of the intellectual shaping of Thoreau College takes place. After lunch, the Fellows might collaborate on a larger group project in the early afternoon, such as assisting a partner with a particularly large task or we might split up to work on individual projects and partnerships. Every night a different pair of Fellows prepare dinner for the whole house. Around 6pm, we meet for dinner which is often a time for sharing, vulnerability and deep questioning, where we will reflect upon their common and individual lives and the interplay between the two—not by requirement, but as a natural product of our trust in one another. These conversations may go on for hours and almost always end in laughter. After dinner, the evening meanders as a road in the night until we find ourselves preparing for the sleeping hours and the coming dawn thereafter.
On the horizon, the Fellows will engage deeply with the anthroposophical tenets of Rudolf Steiner. After we return from winter recess, we will spend over a month examining Anthroposophy through the lens of an integrated, interdisciplinary theme based learning curriculum that we will co-create along with the Steering Team. Not only will we all read Steiner's written works, but we will also practice living by his suggestions in order to explore the full breadth of his vision. Simultaneously, we will renovate the TC House attic in order to create a fifth bedroom, allowing every house member their own private space. We will continue building our relationships with our partners, strengthening ties between Thoreau College and Viroqua. The winter will serve as a time for synthesis of all we as a team have experienced so far; to assemble the stones that will serve as the foundation for Thoreau College itself.