Educational Philosophy

Aristotle says that learning is one of life's greatest pleasures, and we at NELP believe that diverse kinds of learning make for an even more valuable and pleasurable education. Accordingly, we provide opportunities for NELPers to learn about things as different (or similar) as the rhythm of a poem and the song of a bird, the shaping of a piece of pottery and the shaping of a novel, the seasoning of a stew and the seasoning of an artistic style. We believe that intellectual and physical challenges are often parallel, and that each kind of learning reinforces other kinds. We try to respond to students' interests and to draw on students' abilities, harmonizing special interests with the central purposes of the program. Each year NELP is different because of the interests and talents of the participants.

Learning at NELP is informed by the natural world rather than being shaped by the built environment of classrooms in Ann Arbor. Communal living—where students and teachers share work, recreation, and academic experiences—further intensifies learning.

NELP is a cooperative community. All NELPers belong to work groups. Work responsibilities rotate among the groups, which prepare meals, wash dishes and pots, and clean bathrooms and other common areas. NELP begins with a work day during which equipment is unpacked and camp set up, and it ends with another work day to pack it all up again and clean up after ourselves. We value hard work and simple living at NELP, as a way to build a solid foundation for out intellectual explorations during the program, free of unnecessary distractions.

At NELP, the different aspects of our lives are unified, and our daily rhythms are dictated by this fact. We live, work, relax, and study together--you scrub pots with the same people you study poems and climb mountains with. Life at NELP is full, and we surely accomplish a great deal each day-- but the frantic "all nighter" is as out of place at NELP as the frenetic Ann Arbor party.

We have classes every day, but we also have opportunity for exploring the environment, for quiet conversations with other NELPers and NELP instructors, and for solitude. It can be challenging at first, but eventually NELPers come to find the right balance between solitude and group activity in the program. In fact, striking this balance is key at NELP, and something that lots of NELPers take with them into their post-NELP studies.