Encountering Nature and the Nature of Things — Foundation Course in Goethean Science
Reflections by participants in the first cohort (2018 – 2019)

students with plant

At the conclusion of each summer intensive and at the end of the overall course we ask participants to share some thoughts about their experience. Here is a selection of reflections.

Reflections after completing the whole course:

“In part, the value of this course (for me) has been the change from a more intellectual appreciation of Goethean science to experiencing in a conscious, lived way. Having the luxury of enough time here to thoroughly make and review observations, and to relate them directly to ideas from readings, or experiences of the instructors, has been essential for that metamorphosis. The identification and modification of habits (of thought and action) takes time and repetition. Similarly, doing an independent project was an indispensable component. Through living with a phenomenon (the linden tree) for many months I came face to face with many of the habits that were obstacles to a ‘fluid way of perceiving and thinking’ and had to confront them directly. I am pleased and satisfied with the progress I made so far as a result, and more clearly recognize areas that need continued work.” (High school science teacher)

“The emphasis on experiments and observations of different ‘objects’ has greatly deepened my understanding about the process by which we can come to experience a phenomenon in its wholeness. Though previously I had read about the methodology of Goethean science, it is only through the two-week sessions and my individual work that I have come to see the importance of considering multiple factors and different conditions/context in the study of nature and to appreciate the relational quality of phenomena. I have been investigating the idea of participatory knowledge since many years in other domains; the reader and discussions during our course have added new insights to my understanding!” (University lecturer in philosophy)

I really appreciate how this course has very intentionally created a structure and exercises where we are forced to slow down, quiet down, and really attend to the minute details and wonder of what is all around us in nature. Through the presentations of others on their year-long projects, I was able to live in to the joy and wonder that each person experienced studying their own phenomena, and that has permeated my daily life in a way that I hope doesn’t fade away…. Having the time and guidance to go through, practice, and see the efficacy of this work has been such a gift, and was made all the more real and meaningful by having a varied community with which to experience it. I look forward to bringing this practice home and sharing it around! (Homeschooling parent)

“I am an experiential learner through and through and this course, and the Nature Institute’s teaching and learning methods, directly satisfy my need for experiential learning. Experiencing and talking about a wide variety of things and phenomena from a wide variety of perspectives, and exploring texts, ideas, and insights in small groups have given me a wonderful foundation to work and live from. At times I’ve felt lost and unsure in this process, with this new way of looking at things, but I leave this course with a greatly increased capacity for observation, for letting things speak for themselves, so to speak, and for letting phenomena show themselves as aspects of the whole of nature. All of these I know will increasingly inform my way of being in the world. I also go with a new relationship to experimentation and an awareness that I have the capacity to follow a line of experiences into a sense for the greater experience that they, together, can help make apparent. Our practice with so-called exact sensorial imagination has also been a wonderful gift to me which I believe will strengthen my perception.” (Participant in sustainable agriculture projects)

students in classroom

Reflections after the first (2018) summer intensive:

“This course opened a door for me on how to see this world. I was wondering how I lived these years without noticing so many amazing phenomena. This course also refreshed me and inspired me for my teaching.” (High school science teacher)

“My understanding about nature and science has changed. The approach to nature that I had before was far from nature itself.” (Geography teacher, PhD student)

“Consciously discovering the playfulness of nature/life and realizing how much is overlooked when I am not acting/engaging as part of the life process around me. Now I am not taking things for granted and saying “oh yes, I know that field.” Instead I say “What can be revealed today? What processes are here?” I feel more sensitive to that which comes toward me, a new interest in the world and my participation in/with/among it.” (High school teacher)

“I feel a heightened sense of awareness of everything, whether I am familiar with it or not. New ‘eyes,’ in other words, but eyes as representative of all the senses. I recognize limits in ‘knowing’ names — that it is never enough to call something to me; that I have to be willing to let go of my walls if I ever hope to be embraced by the phenomena — the contexts, the scenarios — in which I breathe. All of this amounts to a deepening of relations with this place — Earth — and these places that compose this place.” (Writer/editor, herbalist)

“My understanding of the process of Goethean science is evolving. My excitement for living into phenomena is growing. My dedication to bringing myself and my students to their senses is deepening. My understanding of the relationship between myself and what is arising as perception is growing. I’m also more clear about the difference between modern scientific inquiry/Western abstract mindset and the sense-based, unity-diversity, relational context of the Goethean approach.” (Science teacher)

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