“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 course participant has remarked, “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
Reading in the Book of
Nature: Enlivening Observation and Thinking Through Plant Study
June 29 to July 5
When we read, we participate in meaning – the meaning that is inherent in
the text. It is not enough to know word definitions and grammatical rules
to read. Similarly, when we observe and strive to understand the natural
world around us, it is not enough to know names and an array of
characteristics. Rather we must try to see the relations between, say,
parts of a plant and understand how a plant relates to its environment.
What is a plant expressing through its unique way of being? Can we begin
to fathom the deeper meanings that are present in the living world? This
is no simple task, because it demands a new kind of relational knowing
that moves from a clear understanding of details to a perception of
processes and interconnections. In this course we want to take steps in
learning to read in the book of nature through:
exercises in flexible thinking;
careful study of plants in the local surroundings;
clay modeling with a focus on metamorphosis.
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 29, at 7:00 pm and ends on Saturday,
July 5, at 1:00 pm with a potluck lunch.
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 15.
We are pleased to offer tuition reduction:
Holdrege is a biologist, educator, and the director of The Nature
Holdrege is a mathematician, biologist, and educator and works at The
Patrick Stolfo is an artist and art teacher
with many years of experience.
For course location, meals, and lodging please see below.
Dynamic Embryology and
July 31 to August 3
This course explores human prenatal development and how the shaping of the
body (morphogenesis) expresses essential attributes of the development of
the human being as a being of spirit and matter, of body and mind. The
scientific method of phenomenology is used to open up a truly holistic
understanding of the human being. By following the processes forming the
human embryo, the course will shed light onto such themes as healthy
development, the purpose and wisdom of the human form, and, indeed, the
very meaning of human existence.
This course will be taught by Jaap van der Wal, PhD, MD. Jaap is a retired
teacher of Anatomy and Embryology at the University of Maastricht,
Holland, with a special focus on human embryology. He teaches courses
around the world and presents his unique perspectives on human development
in a lively way with great clarity. This course will be of special
relevance for health professionals and educators, and will be of interest
to everyone who wants to learn more about the remarkable nature of human
Many resources are available on Dr. van der Wal’s
Mornings: 9 am to 12:30 pm
Lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm
Afternoons: 2 pm to 5:30 pm
The course begins on Thursday at 9 am at The Nature Institute and ends on
Sunday at 1 pm.
Please note: an earlier version of this page
erroneously listed the course as beginning on Thursday at 7 pm.
Tuition: $350 (less $25
if you register by June 1)
Tuition includes morning and afternoon snacks.
Please download and complete a registration form by July 21.
for Waldorf Educators are available.
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 2013 Summer Course,
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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