Looking for a class to take? Look no further than The Voice of Nature. It won’t be offered until Summer II and Spring 2022, but it’s worth the wait. This class doubles as both a Communication Studies elective and an LAS 6, making it an ideal course for students of any major. Plus, it can be counted towards Environmental Communication, a 20-credit minor that New England College offers.
This course is taught by William Homestead, who holds Master’s degrees in Environmental Science, Communication Studies, and Creative Writing. This makes Homestead the perfect candidate to teach a class about how humans communicate with the environment. Students will discover new perspectives in this class and will learn how to properly articulate their relationship with the natural world.
Additionally, The Voice of Nature encourages students to determine if they are doing all they can individually to preserve the beauty of nature and our planet. This course dives into the harmful ways that humans have impacted the Earth and what can be done to reverse the damages. According to The Voice of Nature’s syllabus, students will “explore their ecological and spiritual identities by investigating the communicative practices of diverse cultures and participating in experiential activities.”
Students in The Voice of Nature will read two classic pieces of literature, Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walking by Henry David Thoreau, as well as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s The World We Have. Emerson and Thoreau will teach students the perspective of the transcendentalists, who were prominent in the early nineteenth century and placed an importance on the human relationship with nature. Hanh’s book will teach students about Buddhist philosophies in relation to peace and ecology. The World We Have emphasizes how important it is to have total respect for nature and live a life of least harm for all living beings. After reading these various viewpoints, students will be able to see nature from all angles and form their own unique perspective.
Though the readings are helpful and interesting, the best part of The Voice of Nature is the experiential learning. The first project in the class challenges students to participate in a daily spiritual practice for at least a week and write about their experience. Possible choices include a hiatus from social media/your phone, eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, walking meditation, sitting meditation, or contemplative prayer. Professor Homestead also encourages students to come up with their own ideas instead of choosing one from the list and can work with each student to customize their project.
For my project, I chose to take daily walks through the woods for a week and write a nature journal detailing my experiences. If nothing else, this project would at least give me an excuse to go for a walk every day. While it definitely accomplished that goal, I also found that these walks meant much more. I believe the mark of a good class is when you find yourself applying its teachings outside the classroom and can’t escape thinking about them long after I log out of the Zoom session. The Voice of Nature has had that effect. During my walks, I have found myself much more in touch with the beauty of nature and have a greater respect for the woods and water that make up our Earth. I have tested out some walking meditation practices on my walks, learned to clear my head and focus solely on the world around me, pondered the positive and negative relationships humans have with nature, and much more.
The following are pictures from my walks:
These are the sights that await you if you choose to take this class. If you need an LAS 6, a Communication Studies elective, are interested in the Environmental Communication minor, or simply have room in your schedule for a fun general elective, The Voice of Nature is the way to go.