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Transcendentalism, Project to Link Thoreau & Emerson to Modern Pop Culture, CCSS

Rated 4.84 out of 5, based on 448 reviews
448 Ratings
Laura Randazzo
Grade Levels
9th - 12th, Homeschool
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
2-page PDF
Laura Randazzo

What educators are saying

Transcendentalism is one of my favorite things to teach - this resource truly helped my students make current real world connections with the transcendentalist writings. Really enjoyed... Thank you.
At the end of the school year, I always ask for students to list their favorite activities - this was at the top last year!


Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were promoting the ideals of Transcendentalism way back in the mid-1800s and, yet, those same ideas still surround us today in our media and popular culture. When you pause and closely examine the music in your earbuds, the movies in your streaming accounts, and the bestsellers loaded in your e-readers, you’ll see that some of today’s artists promote the very same ideas as the founders of Transcendentalism.

For this assignment, your students will become experts on Emerson and Thoreau by finding echoes of their famous words in the works of people we enjoy today. T.V. shows, movies, cartoons/comic strips, music, products/packaging, internet news stories, and public figures are fair game as students find examples to illustrate the words of Emerson and Thoreau.

The five tenets of Transcendentalism will be the focus in this project, including non-conformity, self-reliance, importance of nature (finding enlightenment or true self in nature), favoring intuition over reason, and the celebration of the simplified life.

This packet included a 1-page student assignment handout and a 1-page rubric for grading final projects. To serve as a model for students to follow, the assignment includes a detailed example showing how Lady Gaga illustrates the tenet of non-conformity.

The assignment can be done on campus in your school's computer lab or as a take-home assignment. It usually takes my class a full week for this project – two days for internet research/product building and three more days if we also include presentations.

Want an additional team activity designed to help students connect our modern world with the teachings of Ralph Waldo Emerson? Check out these Transcendentalism Quote Analysis group activity materials: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Transcendentalism-Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Quote-Analysis-Team-Activity-CCSS-482019

Want an author biography activity to help students research Ralph Waldo Emerson's life? Click here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ralph-Waldo-Emerson-Author-Study-Worksheet-Easy-Biography-Activity-CCSS-3328995

Want an author biography activity to help students research Henry David Thoreau's life? Click here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Henry-David-Thoreau-Author-Study-Worksheet-Easy-Thoreau-Biography-Activity-CCSS-3328990

Thanks for stopping by!

Cover image credit: Pixabay, Public domain

Total Pages
2-page PDF
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).
Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.


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