Encountering Nature and the Nature of Things
Foundation Course in Goethean Science

Two-week residential intensives in July 2020 and July 2021,
with guided study and practice during the year

Core Faculty: Craig Holdrege, Henrike Holdrege, Jon McAlice, John Gouldthorpe

If we want to attain a living understanding of nature,
we must become as living and flexible as nature herself.

                                                                     — Goethe

This new program offers the challenge and the opportunity to move beyond the static, object-like abstractions of contemporary thought toward a fluid, transformative way of perceiving and thinking. When we begin to apprehend the dynamic and relational nature of the world, we embark on a scientific pathway to its living qualities. Nature begins to show herself in surprising new ways, and our connection to her deepens.

Canada lily

With the will to learn from the phenomena, we can develop what Goethe called “delicate empiricism.” This demands practice and the willingness to confront ingrained habits of thought that prevent us from experiencing nature as creative activity. Overcoming such habits and developing new flexible ways of seeing and thinking are not matters of surface change. They call for an in-depth transformation, something this program aims to facilitate.

The knowledge [we] seek is not meant for controlling the world, but, rather, for
unlocking it and letting a mute world become one that speaks to us in a thousand places.

— Erwin Straus                  

Summer Intensives:

2020 intensive: July 13 to July 25 (arrival on July 12)

2021 intensive: July 12 to July 24 (arrival on July 11)

These intensives will include:

  • Guided explorations — the senses and sense experience; the qualities of the living world; the process of knowing and the experience of thinking; methods of phenomenological inquiry; understanding the nature and power of abstract thought
  • Text studies to deepen the understanding of phenomena-based contextual science
  • Artistic work to heighten our faculties of perception and imagination
  • Field trips

To read some reflections from participants in the 2018/2019 Foundation Course, click here.

The Nature Institute provides an ideal setting for a nature-based course of study. It is located in rural eastern New York, at the foot of the Taconic Hills. Surrounded by forests, meadows, wetlands, creeks, ponds and many transitional habitats, the Institute is also the steward of a nearby 29-acre nature preserve. The Institute neighbors Hawthorne Valley, with its biodynamic farm, farmscape ecology program, natural food store, and K-12 Waldorf school.

Guided Study and Individual Practice (August 2020 to July 2021):

During the nonresidential portion of the program, participants will regularly:

  • Pursue an independent, observation-based research project with journaling
  • Study, journal, and discuss texts to deepen our understanding of phenomena-based contextual science

The text study will be facilitated by John Gouldthorpe. In addition, each student will have a core faculty member as mentor.

students in creek

Who Is the Program For?

For people who are deeply interested in nature and serious about developing an understanding and practice of the science of phenomena, an approach that is contextual, qualitative, and holistic — what we often call “Goethean science.” For example, the program offers scientists, educators, farmers, herbalists, medical practitioners, and undergraduate or graduate students the opportunity to instill new life into their work. We expect participants to have some previous familiarity with this approach.

The program has a minimum enrollment of ten and a maximum of twenty five participants. College students should inquire about the possibility of receiving course credits.

This course is in English and we are unable to accommodate non-English speakers.

Tuition: $3,250

We have kept the fee as low as possible. If you are seriously interested in the course, but your financial situation would prohibit your attending, please apply for financial assistance (below). Some scholarship funds are available.

Also, if you are unable to pay the full tuition up front, it’s possible to pay over the course of the year. In that case, we ask participants to pay $1,000 of their tuition before the course starts (this includes the deposit) followed by either monthly payments ($250) or quarterly payments ($750).

If accepted, all students need to pay a $400 non-refundable deposit in order to hold their place.

Please apply by February 15, 2020. Since space is limited in the program, we encourage you to apply early:


To apply online, click here, or to download an application form, click here.

To apply online for financial assistance, click here, or to download a financial assistance form click here.

Housing, Transportation, and Food:

We can place participants with local families who rent rooms ($30 to $50 per night) or, if you prefer, you can choose to stay at local motels or bed and breakfasts (here’s a list). If you are coming from far away, we have suggestions for public transportation to the Institute (here) and can also help coordinate local transportation while you're attending the course. Most lodging will not be within walking distance.

Concerning food, we provide morning and afternoon snacks, but otherwise course participants are responsible for their meals (the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store has extensive organic food and deli selections and is within walking distance of the Institute). At most homes you can prepare your own breakfast, and you can also use the small tea kitchen at the Institute for lunch.

We estimate the total cost of housing and food (based on staying with a local family, preparing some of your own meals, and eating others at the farm store) to be $750 – $1000 for the two weeks.

Core Faculty:

Craig Holdrege is a biologist, educator, and the director of The Nature Institute. He is deeply interested in the interconnected nature of things and how we can understand life in truly living ways as a basis for responsible human action.

Henrike Holdrege is a mathematician, biologist, educator, and co-founder of The Nature Institute. She makes every effort to ground her teaching in human experience and to break through abstractions to what can truly touch us in the world through careful, perceptive, and thoughtful inquiry.

Jon McAlice has been active in the international Waldorf school movement for many years as a teacher and lecturer. He has a special interest in the psychology of learning and the senses.

John Gouldthorpe has a background in archetypal psychology. The main thread in his interests today is the relationship between perception, conception, imagination and identity.

For more information please contact us:
Telephone: 518-672-0116
Email: info@natureinstitute.org

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