Ferrum News

Ferrum College to Dedicate Walden Inspired Cabin.



Ferrum College Dedicates Walden Inspired Cabin.
Ferrum students and faculty can commune with nature as did Henry David Thoreau.
Ferrum, Va. (November 5, 2010) – Ferrum College plans to dedicate a replica of the cabin Henry David Thoreau used as the basis for his classic work, Walden. The cabin, located on Ferrum’s 700 acre campus, will be dedicated on November 10,2010 at 11 a.m. The event will take place at the cabin located behind the soccer and lacrosse practice fields on the western boundary of campus.
The project began in 2007 as a part of a three week English experiential “e-term” course based on the writings of Thoreau. Entitled “American Nature Writing,” the hands-on course is taught by Associate Professor John Kitterman.   “The idea was for me to assist the students in building a replica of Thoreau’s cabin, while they also studied Thoreau’s writings,” mused Kitterman.
Kitterman originally planned to build the cabin during the three week course, using timber frame construction as did Thoreau, but quickly learned the plan was overly ambitious. Even after reverting to more modern techniques, he realized the cabin would take much longer to complete. “The project became a passion,” says Kitterman. “We worked on it here and there, and waited until the course was offered again last spring to add the finishing touches.”
The structure is a Spartan 10 x 16 foot single room with a fireplace and enough space for a bed, a table and three chairs. As small as that sounds, it is a foot longer than Thoreau’s cabin. It lacks Thoreau’s root cellar, but Kitterman explains that this cabin, like other replicas, is designed more to recreate the Thoreau experience than to reproduce the actual cabin. “The cabin’s location in this natural setting can help students understand where Thoreau was coming from. It’s a great way to capitalize on Ferrum’s location in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Kitterman is also writing a book about similar Thoreau-stylecabins that are being built the world over. “The global community has become more and more interested in environmental issues and sustainability,” Kitterman said, “and people from many disciplines—carpenters, artists, and educators, as well as naturalists—are going back to Thoreau for inspiration and advice.” Kitterman remarks that in the first chapter of Walden Thoreau talks about how everybody should have the opportunity to build his own house. “The fact is that most people won’t have that opportunity,” he said. “But if Ferrum students spend time in the cabin and write about it, then we as educators have taken experiential learning to a different level.”