Course Syllabus

Environmental Studies 484: The Literature of Nature and Place
Syllabus #1528
4 credits

Wendy Walker
Senior Instructor
Environmental Studies
Phone: (360) 650-3504

Full Course Syllabus: Download syllabus ENVS 484 self-paced syllabus 1528.docx



Junior standing or permission of instructor


This course will introduce students to an overview of nature writers, the history of nature writing and the role of nature writers in influencing our perceptions of nature and place in nature.  Course satisfies WP3, ENVS requirement for ESCI students and a requirement for the Environmental Education major.


  • Students will read, discuss and write critically about the work of non-fiction nature writers.
  • Student will focus on one writer, read his/her work more widely and deeply and present author.
  • Student will write an original nature essay and present this work.
  • Students may develop a lifetime habit of reading, appreciating and writing literature of nature and place.


Students will be able to:

  • read four books and write a structure response paper to each.
  • edit the first drafts following guidelines provided by instructor and rewrite papers.
  • research one author and his/her writing and creatively present author via video.
  • keep a nature journal and rewrite drafts into an original polished nature essay.
  • present their original writing aloud in a meaningful way via video.


Required Books: Refuge, by Terry Tempest Williams; The Meadow, by James Galvin; Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Selected Books: One book by one of these aughors is required reading: Choose from these authors: Aldo Leopold, Loren Eiseley, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, Doug Chadwick, Barry Lopez, Diane Ackerman, Maria Ruth, Lyanda Haupt, Rick Bass, annie Dillard, Kathleen Dean Moore, Michael Pollen, Joseph Wood Krutch, Hnery Beston, John McFarlane or other nature authors approved by instructor.

Technology: Access to a computer, internet and a device to video your author presentation (cell phone will suffice).


The textbooks may be obtained online through a price comparison website such as Plan on purchasing your textbooks early and always be sure you are purchasing the correct edition of the book for this syllabus.


Response papers to 4 books: drafts and final versions 28 points
Discussion Replies and Nature Journal Writing 25 points
Selected nature writer video presentation 15 points
Viewing and responding to nature writer and nature essay videos from past students 5 points
Draft (5 pts.) and Final (15 pts.) Version of Original Essay 20 points
Video Presentation of reading original essay aloud 5 points
Self Evaluation of your effort and achievement in course 2 points



Note: To complete the course in one 10-week quarter try to turn assignments in at the "suggested pace."

Module 1: Week One suggested pace
Homework 1:

  • Read excerpts from Henry David Thoreau and author info and respond to questions.
  • Read Terry Tempest Williams: Author Information.
  • View web video of Terry Tempest Williams talk and respond to questions.
  • Start nature journal writing and try two of the types of nature writing and post 2 nature journal entries.
  • Read first half of Refuge.

Module 2: Week Two suggested pace
Homework 2:

  • Watch PowerPoint "History of Nature Writing: 1700-1850": Origins of nature writing: Gilbert White; Henry David Thoreau.
  • Read selections by White and Thoreau, choose a favorite quote from each and write a short analysis of how the authors differ in content and style.
  • Select the author you want to research via reading bout them online.
  • Explain why you chose that author.
  • Read the rest of Refuge.
  • Turn in draft Refuge (Williams) paper.

Homework 3:

  • View PowerPoint presentation on "History of Nature Writing: 1850-1930": Burroughs, Muir, Austin, Whitman.
  • Read selections from each authro under "files" on Canvas.
  • Pick two of the authors to compare and write 2 pages contrasting them. Describe how they grow out of the tradition established by Thoreau and move beyond it.

Module 3: Week Three suggested pace
Homework 4:

  • View PowerPoint presentation on "History of nature writing: 1930-2000:": Eiseley, Carson, Leopold, Krutch, Abbey.
  • Respond to questions and describe how each authro incorporated science into his/her writing.
  • Turn in final Refuge (Williams) paper.

Homework 5:

  • Read "Literacy Techniques in Nature Writing" and "Author information James Galvin"
  • Watch web interview with James Galvin.
  • Write a two-page nature journal ntry consciously using at least two of the literary techniques.
  • Create a time line for the events in The Meadow

Module 4: Week Four: suggested pace
Homework 6:

  • Read selections from authors Dillard, Lopez, Berry and post answers to questions in Canvas assignment.
  • Finish The Meadow and submit draft paper.

Module 5: Week Five suggested pace
Homework 7:

  • Modern Nature Writers: Read excerpts from Abbey, Lopez and Dillard and respond to discussion questions and activity suggestions.
  • The Meadow final paper due.

Module 6: Week Six suggested pace
Homework 8:

  • View video and read written author presentation: Robin Wall Kimmerer.
  • Modern Nature - read Jenny Hahn's Sleeping With Otters chapter from Spirited Waters and write a response to questions in Canvas assignment.
  • Watch videos of former student author presentation and original essay and respond to questions.
  • Post video of your author presentation.
  • Braiding Sweetgrass draft paper due.

Module 7: Week Seven suggested pace
Homework 9:

  • Interview an elder about traditional knowledge about plants/food/cooking/gardening.
  • Post description of or transcript of interview.
  • Post an excerpt from your nature journal on how you find gratitude for and in nature.
  • Final drafts Braiding Sweetgrass due.

Module 8: Week Eight suggested pace
Homework 10:

  • Post favorite nature journal entries and explain how you will expand them into nature essay.
  • Response paper to selected author due.

Module 9: Week Nine suggested pace

  • Post draft of original nature essay on Canvas.

Module 10: Week Ten suggested pace

  • Post final of Original Nature Essays.
  • Post video of you reading your essay aloud.
  • Post self-evaluation of class work and your suggested grade and rationale.


ALWAYS make a copy of your work BEFORE submitting it. If lessons are lost, it is far easier to resubmit a copy than to rewrite an entire assignment. All assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for the course.  Under no circumstances may you submit all, or even most, lessons at one time. All work must be submitted in Canvas.

Time Considerations (a message from the Western Online office) - Organize your time so that you spread the work out over 10 to 12 weeks, just like a regular academic quarter. Treat your Self-paced course as the serious learning experience that it is. True learning takes time: time for reading, time for processing new information, time for reflection. When students get into trouble in a Self-paced course it is most often when they try to rush through a large part of the work at the end of the quarter or right before their own deadline.

Remember that careful grading and feedback takes time and our instructors have other classes and students. The instructor cannot be expected to grade assignments immediately because you have a deadline. Allow for your mailing time to and from the Western Online office and back and forth to the instructor’s office.

Plan your schedule for completing your work.


Your instructor, Professor Walker, would be glad to discuss your questions with you.  You may include a note with your assignment,  or e-mail her at

Course Summary:

Date Details Due