Cumming Nature Center > Walden Project

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve answered our most commonly asked questions below but if you still can’t find an answer, reach out to us! We’d love to chat: awebster@rmsc.org

learning

What is The Walden Project?

The Walden Project is a year-long educational experience for high school and gap year students inspired by the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau. It is located at Cumming Nature Center in Naples, NY. We offer students ages 14-19 an opportunity to earn college credit in an outdoor setting with an emphasis on academic independence and freedom.

Do students actually learn anything if there aren’t grades or tests?

For nearly two decades, students at The Walden Project in Vermont have been 30-50% more likely to go to college than their peers from the same high school. Each student’s experience is unique, but a vast majority say that Walden helped them learn how to learn, how to write, and how to think critically. Students also said that Walden helped them develop a deeper awareness of the natural world and engaged them in current events.

I am going to apply for a needs-based scholarship. When do I find out how much financial assistance I will receive?

The deadline for needs-based scholarships is July 1st, 2023. Anonymized financial aid applications are reviewed by a financial aid committee and awards are determined and announced within 2-3 weeks of the July 1st deadline.

Will you be able to accommodate my child’s IEP?

Yes. In addition to the official IEP that some students may bring to The Walden Project, ALL students are encouraged to reflect on their own learning preferences and obstacles to develop their own individualized plan for each project they work on throughout the year.

Will my school accept credits from The Walden Project?

Most local high schools consider a year at The Walden Project to be academically equivalent to a year in public school. If a student is planning to return to a public school after completing The Walden Project, guidance counselors and school administrators should be consulted to make sure that credits will transfer. 

The Walden Project is a part of Finger Lakes Community College’s (FLCC) Gemini program, which enables eligible students to earn college credit while completing high school courses. Walden students enrolled in the Gemini program will have access to FLCC resources, including access to the dining hall, bookstore, and library. Upon successful completion of the Walden program, dual-enrolled students will receive a transcript from FLCC with up to ten credits from the following courses*: 

  • Introduction to Adventure Learning (HPE 136, 1 Credit)
  • Service Learning (SSC 205, 3 Credits)
  • Unique Ecological Communities (CON 215, 3 Credits)
  • College Study Strategies (GST 116, 3 Credits)

Students may use earned credits toward an FLCC degree or they can be transferred to another college or university. 

*Earned credits may vary depending on the student’s performance in each subject area. 

What happens if the weather gets really, really bad? Do you come inside?

If there is a safety concern related to weather — if it is dangerously cold or if there is lightning — the group will seek shelter. Additionally, The Walden Project recognizes that each person has a different level of experience and comfort in nature. We encourage students to push their own limits and challenge themselves, but also encourage them to trust their instincts about when to stop.

Can I enroll part-time?

We do not have an option for a part-time enrollment in terms of tuition. However, we are willing to work with families on a case by case basis with regard to attendance. If, for example, the student is the caretaker for a child or other family member and needs a flexible schedule, The Walden Project will work with that student to accommodate their special circumstances.

Can students attend more than one year of The Walden Project?​

Yes, it is possible. If the student plans to graduate from a public or private high school, the student should consult his or her guidance counselors to ensure that participation in The Walden Project does not complicate the student’s pathway to graduation. Additionally many aspects of the curriculum change from year to year so that students who participate for multiple years will have different experiences each time.

How will The Walden Project make adjustments to keep students safe from COVID-19?

The Walden Project will comply with New York State recommendations for social distancing and school cancellations related to COVID19. As an outdoor school, we feel that the open air environment will help minimize the spread of the disease, but we consult with the health department as needed to ensure that reasonable precautions are taken to keep everyone safe.

How do I volunteer or partner with Walden?

Thank you for your interest in getting involved with Walden! We partner with individuals and organizations to lead workshops, field trips, offer service learning placements, and more. Please reach out to Andy Webster at awebster@rmsc.org to learn more.