Be Thoreau

An online conversation on learning led by Thoreau, Concord Public Schools and Concord-Carlisle Regional School District, and Concord Museum.

View the ongoing conversation at

Beginning this spring, and continuing through the end of September, the Concord Public Schools and the Concord Museum will be collaborating on a special project to commemorate the 200th birthday of Henry Thoreau.

“Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives,” Thoreau once wrote. That is what he did every day of his life, provoking other people to do the same. Thoreau believed that we all have the power to consider and make determined choices, living “deliberately,” as opposed to living “desperately” as if we had no alternatives.

Thoreau was one of America’s most original thinkers. Blending his reading with his own experiences, he developed his own way of looking at the world. Thoreau made people think. He still does.

The Concord Museum has launched a year-long initiative called BE THOREAU. The focus is on all of us in today’s world and what insights Thoreau might lend to our considerations – in other words, why does Thoreau still matter to us?

In the fall, a new exhibition about Thoreau and his journal will be coming to the Concord Museum: ‘This Ever New Self’. Part of the exhibition focuses on Thoreau’s unusual, unconventional ways of learning. For instance, he wrote often about being a lifelong student, using his Concord surroundings as his classroom. 

With that in mind, we invite you to join in an online conversation about the way we learn, in school and out of school, with others or on our own.  We are all students and we are all teachers!  Let’s see how we can learn from each other. As Thoreau once said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”

People of all ages are encouraged to join in. You can be a student in the Concord schools or C-C Regional HS, a teacher, a community member, or a visitor. Send us a description of how you discover and make sense of new things; your response can be verbal, visual, musical, or in any form that works on a website. Everyone whose submission is used will receive one complimentary admission to the exhibition (September 29, 2017 through January 18, 2018).

Here’s how you can be part of the conversation:

To begin, and let Thoreau have the first word, consider one or both of these two passages from his journal of 1851:

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” (written in August)

“We reason from our hands to our head.” (written in September)

What do you have to say to him — and to the rest of us? 

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