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press & News

Cumming Nature Center Acquires with The Walden Project-NY

    ROCHESTER, NY, August 19, 2020 – The Rochester Museum & Science Center’s (RMSC) Cumming Nature Center (CNC) has expanded its outdoor education offerings by acquiring The Walden Project – New York. The Walden Project – NY is now integrated into the suite of outdoor Forest School educational opportunities for students offered by the CNC. 

    The Walden Project – NY is a full-time high school and gap-year program inspired by the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau. The program provides an interdisciplinary education in a completely outdoor setting with an emphasis on academic independence and freedom. 

    Andy Webster, teacher and director of The Walden Project – NY, says that the “sense of wonder and excitement” he sees on the faces of young learners exploring nature is part of what motivated him to bring outdoor education opportunities to local youth.

    “I spent 10 years in the classroom doing my best to provide the most meaningful learning experiences I could for my students, but I always felt like there was a limit to the quality of education I could provide confined within the four walls of the classroom and bound by the rigid standards of a test–centered curriculum,” said Webster.

    Based on an educational model started in Vermont also called The Walden Project, Webster brought The Walden Project – NY to Naples in 2018. This is the third year the program has accepted students.

    While The Walden Project – NY was always based at the CNC, this acquisition moves the Walden project into the CNC’s suite of dynamic programming, creating more opportunities to enhance the organizations’ outdoor education offerings. Most significantly, the acquisition will centralize administrative functions to RMSC, which will allow instructors to focus solely on growing, developing, and widening the educational impact of the Walden program.

    “The Nature Center is a hub for so many important programs in our community. Walden students can learn from craftsmen from the Heritage Maker Programs, biologists at the BioBlitz, art exhibits, ski lessons, trail races, school field trips, and so much more,” said Webster. “The kind of rich educational experiences we’re able to offer here just couldn’t happen in a traditional classroom.”

    The CNC has offered innovative, immersive outdoor educational experiences for children ages 0 to 12 for many years through it’s Forest School programs. With the acquisition of the Walden Project – NY, for kids ages 15 to 19, and the CNC’s new Field Studies program for teens ages 12 to 15, the organization now offers these experiences to students of all ages. 

    “Outdoor education connects people to their own communities. It offers a platform to witness an intricate, changing ecosystem and ignite an indestructible sense of wonder for the world around them,” said Nathan Hayes, director of the CNC. “Outdoor education also fosters personal responsibility, resilience, and communication among participants that have real-world applications. Our suite of Forest School programs, now including the Walden Project-NY, are deliberately-designed, and students will become thoughtful, compassionate, and active advocates for a better world.”