The cycle of the seasons in Wisconsin is a continuous drama. For an attentive observer, the deepest mysteries of life, death, and rebirth play out before your very eyes as summer descends through autumn into winter and turns again towards the light of spring.  These natural cycles constitute the most fundamental curriculum of the Metamorphosis Year, experienced through work on the farm and in the gardens and greenhouse, through careful study of plants, animals, and landscape, and through a series of group expeditions and wilderness solos throughout the year.

Mirroring these outer cycles, the structure of the Metamorphosis Year is organized into three trimesters with distinct schedules and content intended to support and challenge students as they embark on their own inner journeys of transformation.



August – November

When students arrive in August, summer is still in full bloom, although the stage has already been set for the harvest season to come.  The theme of this first trimester is experience: immersive experiences of a landscape in the Driftless Region through expeditions, solos, and field trips, experiences of the abundance of nature through the fall harvest and food preservation, and experiences of community through the formation of new bonds with other students and members of the Thoreau College community.  The guideposts to these new experiences come in the form of a structured common curriculum led by our core faculty and focused on skills and paradigms for developing strong communication and community life, on skills and tools for self-exploration and creativity through writing and the arts, and on an  exploration of ideas about the relationship between humans and nature found in ancient wisdom traditions, mythologies, and writers such as Henry David Thoreau and Robin Wall Kimmerer.




As darkness closes in and the Driftless landscape is cloaked in cold and snow, our attention and activity turns inward.  The Winter Trimester is a time for quiet reflections, deep investigations of big questions, and the crafting of bold plans for the future.  During this period, the program welcomes visiting instructors for longer, more intensive deep dives on particular topics and skills, pursuing a curriculum crafted by faculty and students to explore key questions identified out of the work of the fall.  The labor program focuses on the greenhouse, in the kitchen, and on laying plans for spring classes, internships, and projects, as well as launching a new cycle of recruitment and admissions for the year to come.  Across the organization – on expeditions, in labor, in governance bodies – students begin to take on increasingly independent leadership roles.



April – June

With the arrival of spring, Metamorphosis students complete the cycle of the year with a trimester of individualized activities crafted in collaboration with Faculty Advisors.  Labor takes the form of trimester-long internships within Thoreau College or with a local partner organization.  Academics and arts take the form of elective courses led by visiting faculty or by members of the Thoreau College community, including students.  And across the board, students take the lead during this semester – in governance bodies, in academics, in labor, and on expeditions.  Finally, all students are asked to design, complete, and present a capstone project of some kind as a culmination of their Thoreau College experience.

Note: Applications for the 2022-2023 Metamorphosis Year are now closed.

“No method nor discipline can supersede the necessity of being forever on the alert. What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your feet, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.”