The RMSC Museum is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Plan your visit to the Museum or check out our Planetarium Show Schedule. Cumming Nature Center is open at normal hours.

"The Walden Project was by far the most supportive, most loving, and extremely educational [communities] in all aspects of life." - Walden Alumni

A year at Walden affords students the freedom to explore what interests them, pursuing complex questions and developing their understanding of self, culture, and the natural world. Students will test their resourcefulness, deepen their knowledge of our interconnected world, and grow in their sense of self.

 

Core Values

Freedom

In today’s educational climate, which emphasizes the importance of standardization, conformity, and technology to increase the mechanization of the schooling process, the voice of Thoreau’s Walden has never been more important. Many students are craving an education that affords them the freedom to explore what really interests them, the freedom to explore aspects of modern culture that are unfair or hypocritical, and the freedom to explore their own personal strength, resourcefulness, and identity.

Personal

At The Walden Project, the lines between life, learning, and work are seamless. Students discuss philosophy around a campfire, grow their own food, engage with local ecology and history, and pursue areas of inquiry through self-directed research projects and service-learning placements. We believe that learning is a very personal experience and our aim is to help students thrive as they delve into the learning that matters most to them.

Connection

At The Walden Project, students develop a strong connection to nature by living with its rhythms and changes. They will get to know every nook and cranny of the Cumming Nature Center as they grow gardens, explore the watershed, and tap maple trees. Students will be outside every day, working on projects in the rain, tracking animals in the snow, and (most importantly) challenging their own resourcefulness to thrive even when nature makes it difficult.

 

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Read: A Day In The Life Of A Walden Student

It snowed last night -- the first real snow of the year! There had been a few light dustings, but this is different. It feels like this is the true beginning of winter. You arrive a little early this morning and the woods feel especially quiet as you stand alone at the edge of the trail. The cabin isn't visible from the road, but you can hear the sound of an ax splitting firewood in the distance. One set of footprints leads toward the cabin, while another set leads toward the garden shed where one of your classmates is probably fetching some dried peppermint for a morning pot of tea. This feels normal to you -- even when it is quiet, it seems something is always happening at Walden. Students, staff, volunteers -- everyone is eager to make contributions to the community.

By ten o'clock, everyone has arrived and is gathered outside the cabin. Someone brought a warm loaf of sourdough bread and people are tearing off chunks as it is passed around the circle. Today begins, as always, with a passage read aloud from Thoreau's Walden. It is followed by a thoughtful discussion of its significance in our modern world. Before coming to The Walden Project, you often felt hesitant to take part in philosophical discussions like this because you felt like you didn't know enough about an issue to be able to have an opinion, but things have changed. This feels like a safe and supportive environment -- a place where it's okay to ask questions, to try on different perspectives, and "talk through" complex issues. Over the past few months you feel as though you are finding your own voice, and that your classmates are learning from you as much as you are learning from them.

When the discussion naturally starts to wind down, the group disperses. Some students are knitting by the fire, some are off completing journal assignments, some are working on individual projects, like your friend scraping a deer hide as part of her research on human evolution, and others are busy cataloging this morning's animal tracks in the Walden natural history almanac. You and a few others are rolling out dough and cutting up vegetables to make a lunch snack: pizza cooked in the cob oven!

Before you came to Walden, you wouldn't have recognized all of this as "school." Even now, some of your friends who are not in the program don't really understand. They ask, "How do you know what you are supposed to learn if there aren't any tests? What do you even do all day?" They imagine a bunch of teenagers lying around eating junk food and playing video games all day. As you look around at your classmates, your whole community humming with purpose and buzzing with excitement, it seems ridiculous to think of anyone feeling bored or lazy here -- there's just way too much amazing stuff happening all around you  to ever feel bored! You've learned to love the freedom here -- you are encouraged to be curious and pursue the things that interest you, and even though it is a lot of work researching, reflecting,  and documenting all of your experiences for your portfolio, you enjoy it because you are learning about things that are meaningful to you.

Someone rings the big iron bell signaling that lunch is ready and students emerge from wherever they were working and gather by the fire again. Lunch is full of laughter and storytelling, and it feels great to eat something warm on a cold day. After lunch, you grab your journal and hike with the rest of the group a couple miles out to the beaver pond. This will be part of a larger project to learn about the history of this place: Cumming Nature Center. Earlier this fall, you were part of an archaeological dig at the Frost Town pioneer settlement on the other side of the park. Today, you are learning about ecological succession and beavers' important role in transforming landscapes.

Some days are different. Some days you spend the afternoon working on a creative writing assignment with guidance from a published author. Some days, you work on your apprenticeship, studying with professional woodworkers, potters, blacksmiths, and other artists. Some days, you go on field trips to learn about other cultures or listen to guest speakers. Other days, you spend half the day working in the garden, growing beans, as Thoreau did. And other days, you spend time in the library working on your portfolio with guidance from your teachers. You know that, even though a lot of work has to go into your portfolio, your teachers are there to support you through the process so that you are creating something of high quality of which you can feel proud.

As the school day winds down, you walk back down the path to the road to the spot where your day began. The ground is still covered in snow, but most of the ice has melted from the tree branches. You know that the winter is just beginning and that it will get colder in the months to come, but you are eager to face these challenges. Like Thoreau, you have come to this school in the woods to have a different sort of education -- one that is not always easy, but certainly rewarding! Deep inside, you feel ready for all of the adventures still to come because, even though your future is full of mystery and surprises, you trust in your own resilience and resourcefulness. That is truly what The Walden Project is all about -- learning about you!

 


 

Components of the Walden Experience

Self Reliance

Self-Reliance

What do we really need? Students explore this essential question by experiencing what it takes to meet their basic needs. Activities in this realm include building fires to stay warm, growing food in the garden, and making things from raw materials.

SoloTime

Solo Time

Students are encouraged to spend time each day alone developing their own personal relationships with nature. During this time, students might visit a “sit spot” where they make observations in a journal, create artwork, or otherwise just be in the woods.

hiking exploring

Hiking & Exploring

Thoreau wrote, “An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” Cumming Nature Center is made up of over 900 acres of forested land with dozens of miles of trails. Throughout the year, students explore the landscape by hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, climbing, and paddling across it.

CampfireDiscussions

Campfire Discussions

Each day begins with a passage from Thoreau and a discussion around the campfire about how it relates to literature, philosophy, current events, history, or science. Through these dialogues, students construct a deeper understanding of themselves and their beliefs.

 

learning

Learning Theory

Every mind is unique -- the way it develops, processes information, solves problems, and communicates with others. Students examine theories on education and motivation, especially as they relate to the concept of self-directed learning. Students reflect on how they personally learn best and what challenges inhibit them from reaching their goals.

community

Community Meeting

The purpose of Community Meeting is to take a pulse on what is happening at The Walden Project each week. Information is exchanged, issues are raised, and achievements are acknowledged. Students explore group dynamics, especially regarding consensus-based decision making and healthy forms of communication.

walden journaling

Journaling

Learning is a process. Students are invited to document their Walden journey in their journals. Students develop the daily practice of recording their thoughts and observations in both words and drawings.

systems thinking

Systems Thinking

Everything is part of a larger system, and all systems can be modeled. Using only a few symbols, students learn how to diagram the complexities of real-world situations to identify patterns and leverage points.

 

IndependentResearch

Independent Research Projects

During each six-week unit, students complete one independent research project on a topic they choose.

ServiceLearningProject

Service Learning Projects

During each six-week unit, students complete one service learning project, where they do meaningful work in their community.

life stories

Life Stories

Each person in the group (including adult staff members) are invited to tell their personal life story to the group. Each week a different person in the group tells their story, starting with the oldest person and working to the youngest person. This experience is designed to help students reflect on the formative experiences in their own life and to develop empathy for their classmates.

writing speaking

Writing & Speaking

Students learn how to communicate effectively in both creative and descriptive writing. Students receive feedback from both teachers and peers on the clarity of their communication.


CNC Walden left

CNC Walden Right