Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.   

Dr Frank Cantelmo —  an Associate Professor in the Biological Sciences Department and an environmental expert for  the Vatican’s Observer at the United Nations  — writes:

One book that continues to influence and inspire me every single day is Listening to Nature: How to Deepen Your Awareness of Nature, by Joseph Cornell, with photographs by John Hendrickson.  This book is truly inspirational.  I often use it to set the stage and get the students in a more relaxed place so they can more easily assimilate the lecture material.  I have often taken my students on field trips, and it amazes me that so few actually “listen to nature.”  Like most of our society, they are so caught up with their own conversations that they do not take the time to sit quietly and absorb nature. 

Cornell’s book is arranged as a series of inspirational quotes by various poets, Native Americans, religious leaders and naturalists.  The quotes are generally followed by either an explanation or an activity so the quotation can be more readily understood and incorporated into one’s daily activities. 

The class seems to really appreciate the more relaxed, less stressful way that the ecological and environmental studies material can be initially introduced.  Students are so often caught up in “what do I have to do for a grade” that they miss the beauty and elegance of a more holistic approach to the ecological subject material.  Part of it is a challenge that falls directly in the students’ and professors’ academic laps.  They have to work together as a team in order to continue to make the educational experience rich and rewarding.