The Bloomfield Hills High School Language Arts department is collaborating with the Johnson Nature Center to provide students with a unique learning experience: connecting literature to nature. Recently, students in grade 9 read The Catcher in the Rye, and attended a field experience along the trails at the JNC. Along the way, JNC guides discussed the book with the students and provided journal prompts about the concept of change, as well as the exploratory theme in literature called “the Hero’s Journey,” in which students think about where the protagonist is born, where they are from, and where they are going.
Language Arts teacher Katie Locano notes, “I was particularly excited about some of the work done by the nature center guides to make some connections between the book and the visit. For instance, the topic of change, our feelings toward change, and Holden's feelings toward change were great. Not everyone in my group knew what actually happens to the ducks and the fish when the water freezes, so understanding the literal answer and then considering the deeper meaning for Holden was helpful. Also, when our guide took us to the lookout and the prairie, my group talked about what's to come in the book when Holden discusses wanting to catch kids jumping from the cliff into the rye. Though we are not at this spot yet in the text, I look forward to making this connection when we get there.”
Garrett Johnson, a JNC guide, reflects on this new program: “Literature acts as a gateway into other connections, whether that’s the outdoors, a hobby, or an activity. In this case, with The Catcher in the Rye, we see all the changes that the main character goes through connecting with our program of changing through seasons and over time, and personal changes as well.”
Students in grade 9 also did some follow-up activities to solidify connections between the book and the field experience. In one class, students journaled about how Central Park, which is an important location to protagonist Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, is an oasis in NYC, similar to how the JNC is an oasis in our community. Beginning in our Bloomin’ Preschools programs, students in Bloomfield Hills Schools visit the Johnson Nature Center for educational field trips. The JNC is most certainly an oasis, providing our community with a serene connection to nature as well as opportunities for educational enrichment that extend beyond the classroom.