“The day is coming when a single carrot freshly
observed will set off a revolution.” - Paul Cezanne
The poet and scientist
developed a new approach to science involving a way
of seeing that weds artistic sensibility with exact thinking
and observation. The Nature Institute is inspired by Goethe's
approach, and in its weeklong intensive summer courses aims
to open up this new way of seeing to course participants.
We often view science as a discipline that deals with the
world in cool and distant objectivity, gaining understanding
of the world through experiments and instruments that overcome
human limitations. Goethe wrote provocatively that the human
being is the “best and most exact scientific instrument,”
and he believed that science involves human development:
“If we want to achieve a living
understanding of nature, we must become as flexible and
mobile as nature herself.”
He saw that we can transform ourselves to ever better fathom the wisdom and
depths of the world.
Much today stands in the way of this transformation. We form
abstract concepts about the world that we take to be more
real than the things themselves. Filled with our own predilections,
we don't perceive carefully how the world actually appears
and how we are interacting with it. And our experience is
increasingly mediated by all sorts of instruments and gadgets,
so we lose faith in our senses and in our ability to judge.
To counteract these habits of mind, The Nature Institute's
weeklong intensive summer courses emphasize immediate experience
and practice. Participants practice observation: observation
of natural phenomena, observation of thought processes,
and observation of how we form judgments about the world.
And this observing always involves doing-getting out into
nature and observing and drawing plants; painting elements
of a landscape; drawing geometric forms that “track”
a progression of thought. By weaving together reflection
and observation, taking in and actively creating, science
and art, we bring ourselves into inner movement, and transformation
begins. Our own process of knowing becomes more transparent
and nature shows herself from new sides.
As one participant in the 2003 course stated, “It
is such a gentle Aha! experience for me-a peeling away of
a veil or film that has covered my eyes for years. It again
gives me context and tools for seeing the familiar in a
deeper and more penetrating way.”
To read other comments from summer course participants,
Summer Courses at The Nature Institute
Evolution: Learning to Understand Life in
June 23 to 29
The topic of evolution leads into the mysteries of the development of life
on earth. It is hard to think of an area of biological inquiry that shows
so deeply the interrelatedness of all life forms and that raises such
fundamental questions about our own origins. Evolution is also a topic of
controversy, one in which scientific and religious worldviews often
restrict open-minded inquiry. Perhaps the primary challenge in any
consideration of evolution is: how can we learn to think evolutionary
processes in a way that does justice to the phenomena themselves?
In this course we will study phenomena that introduce and depict the
dynamism and complexity of evolution. It will become clear that any deep
understanding of evolution demands an evolution of human consciousness
itself. We will therefore also work on honing our capacities to perceive,
discern, and think developmental processes. The course will integrate
scientific and artistic explorations.
Morning seminars from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm
Lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm
Afternoon activities from 2 pm to 5:30 pm
The course begins on Sunday, June 23, at 7:00 pm and ends on Saturday,
June 29, at 1:00 pm
Tuition: $560 (less $30
if you register by May 1)
Tuition includes materials, as well as morning and afternoon snacks.
and complete a registration form by June 1.
We are pleased to be able to offer a limited number of tuition
reduction scholarships. To apply for a scholarship, contact us at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 518-672-0116.
Holdrege is a biologist, educator, and the director of The Nature
Holdrege is a mathematician, biologist, and educator and works at The
Nathaniel Williams is an artist and teacher.
For course location, meals, and lodging please see below.
Earth, Water, Air, Warmth
(A collaboration with Free Columbia
July 7 to 13
How does earth move? How does air rest? What is the sound of water? What
language does warmth speak? Using Goethean observation and artistic
practice, we will build our awareness of the four elements. The mornings
will be spent in nature observations and experiments, led by Henrike
Holdrege, and in the afternoons we will explore the elements around us
using watercolor, pastel, charcoal and collage, led by Laura Summer. These
techniques are both exciting and very forgiving; no experience is
necessary. Materials for painting and collage will be provided. Please
bring your own sketch book and colored pencils.
Mornings (8:30 am to 12:00 pm): Practicing Goethe’s way of knowing the
qualities of the four elements.
Afternoons (1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.): Experiencing the four elements
through painting, drawing and collage.
The course begins on Sunday evening at 7:00 pm at The Nature Institute
and ends on Saturday at 1 pm with a potluck lunch.
Tuition and registration:
Suggested donation is on a sliding scale: $300 - $560. Free Columbia Art
Course is handling registration. Tuition includes morning and afternoon
snacks. Please register by July 1 with Laura Summer at
or 518-672-7302. Also contact Laura about lodging.
is a scientist, teacher and co-founder of The Nature Institute.
is a painter, teacher, and
co-founder of the Free Columbia Art Course.
Location of Courses:
The Nature Institute is located near the hamlet of Harlemville (town of
Ghent), New York, and is nestled at the foot of the Taconic Hills. Our
neighbors include the 400-acre biodynamic Hawthorne Valley Farm, the
Hawthorne Valley School (a K-12 Waldorf school) and the Hawthorne Valley
Farm Store. Walking trails wind through forests, wetland areas, and
Click here for
We can refer participants to local families who rent rooms ($30 to $50 per
night). Camping at nearby state parks is approximately $15 per night (see
below). For a list of motels and bed & breakfasts, click here.
We provide morning and afternoon snacks. Course participants will be
responsible for all other meals. The Hawthorne Valley Farm Store has
extensive organic food and deli selections and is within walking distance
of The Nature Institute.
For reservations and site information go to: http://nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/ or call the New York State Camping Reservation Service: Reserve America (800) 456-2267.
Lake Taghkanic State Park (off the Taconic
State Parkway) is the closest and most accessible campground to The Nature
Institute. The Taconic State Park, Copake Falls
Area is also nearby if the other one is full. Information for both
campgrounds can be found on the above website.
To view 2012 Summer Course,
To view 2011 Summer Course,
To view 2010 Summer Course,
To view 2009 Summer Course,
To view 2008 Summer Course,
To view 2007 Summer Course,
To view 2006 Summer Course,
To view 2005 Summer Course,
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