Environmental Literature Institute at Exeter

See you next summer!

Our 2022 conference has concluded. Registration for next summer's conference will open later this year.

Join us for the 6th annual Environmental Literature Institute at Exeter!

Dear ELI friends, 

After a prolonged COVID-19 hiatus, we’re excited to invite you to join the sixth Environmental Literature Institute at Phillips Exeter Academy. ELI is a transformative experience that will expand your thinking about environmental education and revitalize your work with students and colleagues. This week-long institute aims to cultivate a community of educators interested in environmentally-focused teaching and learning. ELI foregrounds how the methods and approaches of disciplines in the Humanities, including among others English, Language Arts, Foreign Language Study, History, and Philosophy, can enhance environmental learning. The various workshops, speakers, and events will offer rich ideas for teachers in all disciplines, including the natural and social sciences.

When we gather this June, it will have been three years since we were last together, three years and a world of upheavals since we walked beside the Exeter River with the extraordinary poet and scholar Alison Hawthorne Deming. We think often of the poem Alison wrote during that ELI field excursion and how her words then seemed prescient to where we are today. You can read Alison's poem in Scientific American.

As we think about our own teaching and its evolution since the onset of the pandemic, we’re struck by how much more frequently we’re “pulling threads of hope” and attempting to (re)weave them with our students into webs of connection. We find ourselves leaning fully into both joy and grief with our students. We're quicker to celebrate with them the myriad delights, big and small, that emerge even in the face of so much chaos, pain, and loss. We’re quicker to search for moments of connection in the classroom and beyond it. And we're quicker too to allow space for grief (our students' and our own), and for approaching our classrooms as shelters where we can be more fully human together. The pedagogy of joy, and the pedagogy of loss: the two go hand and hand. We've found how necessary it is to let go of those things that keep us from our humanity: grades, rigor, notions of “excellence.” To echo the great Indian author Arundhati Roy, we believe the pandemic can be a portal to a world that is more just, sustainable, and joyful. Yet despite our individual best efforts, the machinery of rigor grinds on. That is why this work must be collective.

In that spirit, never more than now do we need teachers who are committed to this possibility, and we are hopeful that ELI will provide the space and time for such teachers to come together. Our goal for ELI 2022 is to center joy, connection, and renewal, and to that end, we are excited that Sarah Jaquette Ray will join us as our Keynote Speaker. Sarah’s work focuses on the psychological and emotional dimensions of being human in this time of multiple interlocking crises, and her most recent book, A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety, offers practical and philosophical strategies for both students and their teachers. And we are welcoming BACK to ELI a team of alumni into leadership roles–Christie Beveridge Howell, Charley Mull, Katie Forrestall, and Dr. Susee Witt. 

We hope you will consider joining us for your professional development work this summer. We can say without hesitation that working with this community of teachers has been one of the highlights of our professional careers. The work this community is doing in the realm of environmental education feels important, deep, and relevant right now. More so than ever. For many of our leaders and participants, ELI has become an intellectual home, and we hope it will become yours, too.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email. In the meantime, for a detailed glimpse of what we’ve been up to at past Institutes, please see Michael Brosnan’s blog piece about ELI 2017 and our ASLE news pieces from ELI 2019, ELI 2018, ELI 2017, and ELI 2016.  Additionally, participant feedback from past ELI’s will help provide a sense of how powerful the ELI experience has been for attending educators.

Sincerely, Jason and Stephen


2022 ELI Leadership Team

Jason BreMiller, ELI Director, Phillips Exeter Academy

Dr. Stephen Siperstein, ELI Assistant Director, Choate Rosemary Hall

Dr. Sarah Jaquette Ray, Keynote Speaker and Workshop Leader

Dr. Susee Witt, The College Preparatory School

Christie Beveridge Howell, UP for Learning

Charley Mull, Worcester Academy 


More About ELI

The institute will offer resources to help participants develop their courses as well as networking tools to foster professional development. Our vision is for you to experience the conversations, workshops, and field experiences needed to nourish your teaching. If you are looking to build a new course or program from the ground up; if you are interested in refining curriculum for an existing course or program; or if you’ve ever craved the opportunity to connect with other teachers who care deeply about environmental education, then ELI is for you.

Who Can Attend?

ELI is open to any middle, secondary, or post-secondary educator. While ELI signals an English-specific approach, it is a professional development experience inclusive of all educational contexts, forms, and disciplines. In the past, we have welcomed teachers from English, Science, Art, Foreign Language, and History Departments. We also welcome Administrators, Sustainability Coordinators, and Outdoor Educators. We believe the experience is enriched by these multi-disciplinary encounters. In order to enhance cross-disciplinary and intra-institutional dialogue, some schools have elected to send multiple colleagues from the same school, including colleagues from various departments. In past years, some of the courses represented by ELI attendees have included:

  • Traditional Literature, Art, Writing, History, and Science courses
  • Collaborative and Interdisciplinary courses
  • Experiential Place-based courses
  • Project-Based, Design Thinking, or Applied Learning courses
  • Service Learning courses
  • Field-based courses

Institute Structure

In order to optimize contact time with Institute Leaders and to nurture a creative, idea-inspiring culture, the number of institute participants will be limited to 30. The schedule for the week will include the following:

Harkness Conversations: A formal introduction to Harkness pedagogy will frame our time together and inform our approach to group conversations throughout the week. You will leave with a fundamental understanding of Harkness methodology and significant practice time. You will also have access to Exeter Harkness resources and the chance for follow-up conversations if you would like to learn more.

Keynote Address: Drew Lanham will give this year’s Keynote Address on Monday evening and will lead a workshop on Tuesday morning.

Explorations: ELI Explorations are designed to help you connect with the local area, to place you in your students’ shoes as learners, and to model the sorts of field trips possible in your own courses. You will be able to CHOOSE from a handful of local field trips. Past trips have included explorations to: a local biodynamic farm; Rye Beach; campus Sustainability Tour; Packer’s Falls; team building at a high ropes course.

Cross Pollinations: Taking Gary Paul Nabhan’s idea of “cross pollination” as our cue, we will devote a portion of each day to collaborating together on individual course or curriculum projects. This time will afford you the flexibility to engage individually with conference leaders, to leverage the diverse expertise of other Institute attendees, and to engage with your colleagues in the creative joys of course building and planning.

Presentations and Workshops: You will have the opportunity to CHOOSE from an array of workshops facilitated by members of the ELI leadership team. Past sessions have included:

Clare Walker Leslie’s, Drawing for Observation

Scott Russell Sanders, Taking Care of Home: Sustainability on a Finite Planet

John Elder and Scott Russell Sanders’, Teaching Frost in Place

Siobhan Senier’s, Environmental Literary Stewardship Online

Stephen Siperstein’s, Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities; Envisioning Eco-Futures: Teaching Cli-Fi and the Environmental Humanities; AND Playing with Climate Change

Patrick Thomas’ introduction to environmental publishing

Robin Wall Kimmerer’s, The Honorable Harvest AND Reading the Landscape

Rochelle Johnson’s, Making your Place your Pedagogy; Thoreau’s Place in Environmental Literature; AND Thoreau for the Anthropocene

Annie Merrill’s, Environmental Justice AND Natural History

Mindi Messmer’s Water Quality in seacoast New Hampshire, in Introduction to Environmental Justice

Laird Christensen’s, Placemaking

Race, Class, Toxicity, and Slow Violence: Environmental Justice Today

Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder’s, Multi-Genre Nature Writing

Linda Hogan’s, Writing in the Field

Take-home Texts: We will assemble for you a collection of books written by members of ELI’s leadership team or provided by our sponsors. Examples include, Mark Long’s, Teaching North American Environmental Literature and Stephen Siperstein’s, Teaching Climate Change in the Humanities.

Informal Social Gatherings: Perhaps ELI’s greatest boon, you will participate in both ELI and conference-wide social gatherings that will provide significant networking and community-building opportunities.

Our Sponsors

ELI is fortunate to have the support of ASLE (The Association of Literature and the Environment), ORION Magazine, Milkweed Editions, The Hopper, and Allagash Brewing Company. In addition to the standard items covered in the registration fee (see General Information), ELI participants will enjoy the following items to enhance their immersion in the environmental humanities:

Two-Year ASLE Membership that includes:

  • Access to the online ASLE Member Community, where you can join existing discussion groups, establish new groups, begin or respond to topical threads, or search for member interests and expertise using the ASLE Member Directory
  • Four digital issues per year of ISLE (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment) Journal
  • Quarterly E-newsletters highlighting the latest articles at our website
  • Conference, grant, and publication award opportunities
  • Discount on titles from Ashland Creek Press

One-year membership to ORION magazine that includes:

  • ORION Magazine
  • Texts from ORION’s Nature Literacy Series

Copy of The Hopper magazine

Selected texts from Milkweed Editions

Previous selections have included Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, Gary Paul Nabhan’s Cross-Pollinations, Amy Leach’s Things That Are; Drew Lanham’s The Home Place.

Institute Takeaways

  • A sense of community with a group of like-minded teachers
  • An introduction to Harkness pedagogy and its potential contributions to your course
  • Access to ELI resources developed during the week and during past Institutes
  • Exposure to off-campus field trips that model the work you might do with your students
  • Opportunities to refine your course curriculum and to receive feedback from Institute Leaders and attendees
  • Collaboration with leaders in the field: Dr. Drew Lanham, Dr. Renee Lertzman, Dr. Stephen Siperstein
  • Networking conversations with other environmentally-minded teachers and professionals
  • The chance to share your own work and experience in the field
  • Introduction to Exeter’s extensive trail network and environmental-related resources
  • Participation in Harkness discussions of core environmental topics.

Past Sending Schools

Middle Schools

  • Cambridge Montessori School, MA
  • Harpeth Hall, TN
  • Howitt Middle School, NY
  • Saco Middle School, ME
  • Shore Country Day, MA
  • The Westminster Schools, GA

Secondary Schools

  • The Athenian School, Danville, CA
  • Belmont Hill School, Belmont, MA
  • The Branson School, Ross, CA
  • Breck School, MN
  • Burr and Burton Mountain Campus, VT
  • Cate School, CA
  • Chapel Hill Chauncy Hall School, MA
  • Chatham Hall, VA
  • Deerfield Academy, MA
  • Dublin School, NH
  • Emma Willard School, NY
  • Exeter High School, Exeter, NH
  • Friend’s Central School, PA
  • Heronfield Academy, NH
  • Iolani School, Honolulu, HI
  • Loomis Chaffee, CT
  • Millbrook School, Millbrook, NY
  • Miss Hall’s School, MA
  • Morristown Beard School, NJ
  • Morrison R. Waite High School, OH
  • New Mexico School for the Arts, Sante Fe, NM
  • National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), WY
  • Northfield Mount Hermon, Mount Hermon, MA
  • Northwest School, WA
  • OneStone Lab School, ID
  • Oyster River High School, NH
  • The Pennington School, NJ
  • Pingree School, South Hamilton MA
  • Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
  • San Francisco University High School, CA
  • Sky Valley Education Center, WA
  • Southridge School, British Columbia, Canada
  • Spence School, NY
  • St. Anne’s-Belfield School, VA
  • Swiss Semester, Switzerland
  • Tower Hill School, DE
  • Union-Endicott High School, NY
  • University School of Milwaukee, WI
  • Vail Mountain School, Vail, CO
  • Vermont Commons School, South Burlington, VT
  • Webb Schools, CA
  • Worcester Academy, Worcester, MA
  • The York School, Toronto, Canada


  • Colby-Sawyer College, NH
  • Exeter College, UK
  • Graceland University, IA
  • University of Miami, FL
  • Penn State Wilkes-Barre, PA
  • University of Oregon, OR

Past Leadership Teams

Past ELI Keynote Speakers

  • Alison Hawthorne Deming, author                                      (2019)
  • Linda Hogan, author and scholar                                         (2018)
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, SUNY ESF, author and scholar       (2017)
  • Scott Russell Sanders, Author, teacher                               (2016)
  • John Elder, Author, Teacher                                                   (2016)

Past Master Teachers in Residence

  • Mark Long, ELI Co-Leader and Master Teacher in Residence, Keene State College (2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Rochelle Johnson, ELI Master Teacher in Residence, College of Idaho (2017, 2019)
  • Clare Walker Leslie, ELI Master Artist and Workshop Leader (2016, 2017)
  • Laird Christensen, ELI Master Teacher in Residence, Green Mountain College (2018)
  • Annie Merrill, ELI Master Teacher in Residence, Davidson College (2018)

Other Past Workshop Leaders

  • Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder, Writer
  • Sophie Robinson, Filmmaker/Climate Activist
  • Jennifer Pharr Davis, Author, Adventurer
  • Patrick Thomas, Managing Director, Milkweed Editions
  • Stephen Siperstein, Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Jason BreMiller, Phillips Exeter Academy

Contact Us

Lauren Rosen, Conference Manager

Jason BreMiller, Director

Mailing Address
Phillips Exeter Academy
20 Main Street
Exeter, NH 03833

The most intellectually and personally fulfilling professional development experience I've ever had … ELI gave me theoretical grounding and practical methods for updating my curriculum, and the sense of community to do so with energy and hope."
ELI Participant, Atlanta, GA