After reading "Walden", "Self-Reliance", and "Civil Disobedience" and discussing the ideas and concepts prevalent in Transcendentalist pieces of literature, I give the following assignment so that students can more deeply understand the concepts and apply them to their own ideas of how they think a society "should" be.
You are to select one partner for this project. You have one week (start to finish) to complete this project, so make sure that you select a partner you can depend on. You and your partner are going to create your own Transcendentalist Society. Remember that your society must adhere to the ideas common to this mode of thinking... specifically, the ideas of relying on one's self for true happiness, the emphasis on nature, the importance of minimal government intervention, and the belief that humans are innately good. You must complete all of the following tasks:
1. Select a name for your society. You may create a name with some meaning (from something you already know) or come up with an acronym.
2. Write a pledge illustrating the values and allegiances of your society.
3. Design and create a flag using colors and symbols to illustrate the values of your society. You may draw the flag on posterboard, or for extra credit, actually make your society's flag using fabric.
4. Develop a monetary system for your society, giving samples of the currency and explaining in detail how the system works.
5. Explain the kinds of work your society would encourage its citizens to engage in.
6. Describe the type of environment your society would be in... i.e. would it be a rural society, an urban society, an island? A combination?
7. Describe at least 3 behaviors your society would deem inappropriate/criminal behaviors. Then explain how your society would deal with those citizens who "go there".
8. Create some type of propaganda material that would encourage others to become a part of your society. Some hints: a flyer, a pamphlet, business cards, a web site, a billboard, etc.
Finally, you and your partner will professionally present your society to the rest of the class. You will dress professionally and explain all of the above aspects to the rest of the class. Not only will you get a grade for your presentation, creativity, adherence to Transcendentalist ideas, professionalism, and neatness, but the class will vote for the best society, and this team will win a prize.
I have gotten tremendous results on this project. I even had one team draw a map of their society and where it was in relation to the United States of Hysteria!!! The students love this project, and it really drives home the difficult ideas of Transcendentalism. I only give them one week because they seem to procrastinate if I give them longer.
Let me know how this works for you. Any suggestions on how to improve this, please e-mail me. firstname.lastname@example.org