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What if nature works according to artistic impulses? If it were so, human science, according to nature, would have to be imbued with artistic principles, for otherwise there would be no possibility of understanding nature.

-Rudolf Steiner, The Younger Generation

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear.

-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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.  The core of Growing Seasons is an extensive and multifaceted exploration of relationship - relationship with community, with work, with ideas, with place, with nature, and with the self.  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 become and to do with our lives at this moment in history. Inspired by Rudolf Steiner's insights into the spiritual dimensions of the natural world and Henry David Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond, participants in Growing Seasons will have an opportunity, in the context of a supportive community of fellow seekers, to enter deeply--head, heart and hands--into the essential facts of life. From these profound encounters with themselves, with nature, and with one another, they may embark on the great human project of constructing a life of integrity, purpose, and wholeness.

Each Growing Season is organized around a distinct theme of broad contemporary and perennial significance, but each also incorporates a  common set of core activities. These include:

  • 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.

Each day of the Thoreau College week integrates intellectual, artistic, social, and practical activities. In a typical day, the first half of the morning is reserved for more intellectually oriented work, the second half of the morning for more social or artistic work, and the afternoons for more practical activities. Though a different schedule prevails during our time at Bear Creek Farm, we always strive to integrate head, heart, and hands.  For much of the year, Growing Seasons observes a 4-day, Monday-Thursday schedule to enable participants to seek outside employment and opportunities for independent reflection, exploration, and creative work on the remaining three days of the week.

Each Growing Season is designed as an independent 9-month educational experience, but some participants may also choose to re-enroll in 2 or more Growing Seasons for an enhanced experience and deeper participation in governance and leadership roles within the college. At this time, Thoreau College has neither sought nor received formal academic accreditation and the Growing Seasons program does not confer any formal qualification, certification, or transferrable credits.

Thoreau College is an equal opportunity employer and complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination. Thoreau College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight, or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions.