Walking and Writing, Art and Curiosity

We believe that a good naturalist walks with ever-growing attentiveness, curiosity, wisdom, wildness, and creativity. We have found that drawing, writing, and other contemplative and creative exercises help us to grow in these ways.

winter books

Reading and Writing Nature workshop.

Our writing workshops have been lead and mentored by John T. Price, Matthew Low, Genevieve Williams, Joe Janowski, and Laura Johnson Dahlke. Essays and Poetry produced in these workshops has been featured on our blog: Loess Hills Nature Writers.



Sauntering by Robert Smith.

Our visual arts workshops have been lead and mentored by Sarah Berkeley, Anna Stoysich, and Christina Narwicz, Mark Hirsch, and Madeline Cass. Each of these visual artists has featured nature-themed art and photography in publications and galleries to celebrate the Loess Hills and challenge our concepts of nature and how humans interact with the natural world.

We seek to sharpen our attentiveness, mindfulness, to see with new eyes, and to find ourselves in unfamiliar light. No experience is necessary, only curiosity. And desire.

October 2017 nature-writing workshops: Sunday mornings at Hitchcock Nature Center. October 8th, 22nd, and 29th, 9 – 11:30am.  Workshop leaders: Genevieve Williams and Jack Phillips. For more information and to register, contact Jack at newtreeschool@gmail.com. 

Autumn Saunters: Saturdays, November 11th, 18th, and 25th at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa, 9 – 11am. No tuition, but registration is required. Contact Jack to register and for meeting place. A Pocket Guide to Sauntering is available for a $10 suggested donation.

November Nature Writing workshop, Sunday the 19th, 9am at Hitchcock Nature Center. Please register with Jack.

Poetry of Walking Loess: A Nature-writing Retreat

Sunday, December 3rd at Waubonsie State Park, 9am – 4pm.


A Saunter in the Loess Hills, after Thoreau. (Photo by Robert Smith.)

Matt Low, Ph.D. and Genevieve Williams, MFA (candidate) will be our writing mentors in the woods and by the fire as we discover how writing poetry and reflective essays can sharpen awareness and mindfulness in nature. The day will include art activities, quiet times for contemplation, a bit of yoga, bright conversations in our cozy cabin, and rugged walking for those who love to saunter late in the season.

Tuition: $40; full time students: $20. Registration by December 29th is required. More details and a list of what to bring will be provided. Contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com or 420.571.7460 for more information and to register.

December Saunters* at Waubonsie State Park

Sunday, December 10th, 9 – 11am. Waubonsie State Park, Fremont County, Iowa. We’ll meet at the overlook parking lot. Sunday, December 17th, 9 – 11am. Washawtee Unit. We’ll meet at the lodge parking lot. Sunday, December 31st, 9 – 11am. Meet at overlook parking lot.

December 30th Birding, Writing, and Sauntering Retreat at Waubonsie State Park

Saturday, December 30th: 9am – 5pm. Spend a quiet winter day sauntering, writing, and birding in the woods and in a rustic cabin by the fire with Naturalist School Faculty and other good company. Bring bird guides, writing materials, binoculars, and food and drink for the day. Bring a yoga mat or camping pad for stretching and relaxing. This day will include quiet time for walking and writing alone, as well as rugged hiking in small groups over steep terrain. Dress for cold outdoor activity. Warning: may contain yoga.

Tuition: no tuition, but donations will be appreciated. This workshop will be limited to 12 participants. Register by December 28th by contacting Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com or 402.571.7460. More details and instruction will be provided.

* A Saunter is a quiet and contemplative walk after the manner of Thoreau. To prepare, read Thoreau’s essay “Walking.”

Please contact Jack to let us know if we can expect you, and to announce changes due to weather: thenaturalistschool@gmail.com or cell: 402.571.7460. 

Saturday Saunter at Wa-shatee, January 6th, 10am -noon. Meet at Wa-shatee Lodge parking at Waubonsie State Park (enter from Bluff Road).

January 2018 Ecology and Creativity Retreat

January 20th and 21st, 9am to 4pm. Waubonsie State Park, Fremont County, Iowa.

Lichens, Liverworts, and Other Fantasies: a Nature Study and Nature Writing Retreat with Katie Thompson, Genevieve Williams, and John Price.

Saturday, January 20th: morning poetry session with Genevieve Williams, afternoon filed study of lichens, mosses, liverworts, mosses, and fungi with Katie Thompson. Saturday evening: potluck supper and night hike. Sunday, January 21st: morning field session with Katie Thompson, afternoon writing session with John Price. Visit our faculty page for faculty bios.




Tuition: A donation of $30 each day; $40 for both days is humbly requested of nonmembers. (Free to members.) To become a member, click here. Overnight cabin accommodations are available for $30 on a limited basis; contact Jack for more information. A list of what to bring will be provided.

Contact Jack Phillips at thenaturalistschool@gmail.com or 402.571.7460 for more details and to preregister. Warning: may contain yoga.

Eco-poetry with Genevieve Williams

Sunday, February 25th at Waubonsie State Park, 9am – 4pm. Tuition: $45; free to TNS members. Contact Jack for workshop details and to register.

Sunday Saunters at Gleason-Hubel WMA

Saunters are scheduled weekly throughout the year to take advantage of good weather and ecological phenologies. Watch this page for updates, or contact Jack to be put on the weekly email list. Our tentative winter Saunters are scheduled for February 18th and March 18. Contact Jack Phillips to sign up and for times, meeting place, and for more details. thenaturalistschool@gmail.com.

Very early spring birds and woodland flowers at Gleason-Hubel: Saturday, March 31st. Contact Jack for meeting time and place.

First April Saunter with Readings from Mary Oliver, etc.: a quiet walk, some poems.* Saturday morning, April 7th at Waubonsie State Park. Call Jack to register.

Frog-song Saunter: Saturday afternoon, April 14th. Waubonsie State Park. Following the contemplative practice of Thoreau, Oliver, and others in the walking tradition, we will walk quietly and let the sounds of breeding amphibians mesmerize us.

Sauntering and Writing: the practice of poetic walking and writing on foot.

Sundays, April 15*, 22, 29, Waubonise State Park Genevieve Williams, Matt Low, Anna Stoysich, Jack Phillips, and TNS faculty. Contact Jack for more information. (April 29th: morning and afternoon sessions.)

Summer Saunters and Nature Writing at Waubonsie State Park

Contact Jack for more details and to register. Free for TNS members, $10 donation for nonmembers requested.

Tree Frog Saunter, Sunday morning, May 27th.

Sunday Morning Saunter, June 10th.

Nature Writing Workshop: the Poetics of Fungi and Kin with mycologist Katie Thompson and TNS writing faculty. Saturday, June 23rd, morning through afternoon. Tuition: $35.00 ($10 for TNS members.)