Nature Writing course offers outdoor experience for students


Courtesy: Molly McNett

Lorado Taft Campus offers a course on nature writing, incorporating English and Environmental Studies.

NIU’s Nature Writing course is giving students the opportunity to explore their passions of both nature and writing in an outdoor class.

This is the first semester that the class has been offered at NIU. The class is held outdoors and is hosted at the Lorado Taft Field Campus, 1414 N River Road, Oregon, IL. Students get the opportunity to walk around the outdoors Campus to experience the scenery firsthand and engage in various writing exercises based around nature and the environment.


The class is cross-listed in both english and environmental studies, and aims to give a variety of students interested in both writing and nature the opportunity to explore how the areas of english and environmental studies can come together.

The class is also reading various poems and books that were inspired by nature, such as Henry Thoreau’s “Walden” and “Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants” by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

“We have students who are interesting in writing memoir or personal writing, we have people writing poetry, we have budding scientists, and it’s really interesting to get together out here and walk around in the woods do writing exercises and see how their ideas bounce off of each other,” said english instructor Molly McNett, who is teaching the course this semester.

The class is field trip based, with a bus regularly taking students to the Lorado Taft Field Campus which is located 35 miles west of DeKalb in Oregon, Illinois.


The campus has a history of mixing art and nature, as it was once home to the Eagle’s Nest Art Colony, which housed and inspired many artists and writers from the transcendentalist writer Margaret Fuller to the sculptor Lorado Taft, who the campus itself is named after. The nature writing class is the first for-credit class that has been held on the Lorado Taft Field Campus since 2000.

“Hopefully we’ll run the class again and there’ll be a way for students to sign up,” McNett said. “You don’t have to be an english major or an environmental studies major. We’re all affected by the changing climate, we’re all becoming increasingly interested in sustainable ways of being and living, and so I think almost anyone would be interested in some of the things we’re touching on here.”

While there currently are no plans to offer the course after this semester, McNett says that she would love to teach it again in the future.

For news on any future workshops and other events open to the public, students can check the Lorado Taft Campus Facebook page. If students are interested in seeing the Nature Writing course being offered again, they can contact Molly McNett at [email protected] or associate professor Melissa Adams-Campbell at [email protected].