Approaching Walden

Approaching Walden is a six-day professional development seminar for educators and graduate students. The seminar provides teachers with the skills they need to lead their students in a study of their home community. This place-based interdisciplinary workshop uses Henry David Thoreau’s writings and philosophy as a model. Through Thoreau’s example of living deliberately, we can learn how to do so in our own communities and pass it along to the next generation.

We will plan for an in person 2023 Approaching Walden Program. Dates: July 16-21, 2023 

Deadline to apply: March 1, 2023

Applications received after the deadline will be considered for the 2024 summer program. 

If you applied after the March *2022* deadline, your application will be considered for the 2023 program. 

Seminar Highlights
This annual seminar features a daily mix of field trips, readings, discussions and reflection. Participants encounter speakers from different fields with expertise in the areas of natural history, teaching, writing, literary analysis, and the environment. Seminar features include:

  • daily discussions about Thoreau (his life and his writing), Transcendentalism, social reform and natural history, led by experts in their fields;
  • workshops on conservation and the environment, historic land use and nature journaling;
  • sessions on teaching Thoreau, including tools to use in the classroom; and
  • field visits to Walden Pond, as well as other areas of Walden Woods and historic Concord.

Who Participates: High school teachers (from various disciplines) are the majority of participants. We also welcome graduate students of education, elementary and middle school educators and others who educate in non-traditional settings.

Program Fee: $50 (submitted to guarantee your spot once accepted to the program)

Travel Stipends:  Depending on how far from Walden Pond you live, we offer travel stipends:

  • $600 for participants living outside of New England;
  • $300 for participants living in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts (50 miles or more from Walden Pond); or
  • $100 for participants living in Massachusetts, fewer than 50 miles from Walden Pond.

Kati Outdoor classroomGraduate Credit and Professional Development Points:

  • 45 Professional Development Points (through the EDCO Collaborative)—participants seeking to receive PDPs will be required to complete a “sense of place” curriculum unit consisting of at least three lesson plans, due two weeks after the conclusion of the program. *
  • 3 graduate-level credits from Fitchburg State University (for an additional fee of $295)—participants seeking graduate course credit will be required to complete a “sense of place” curriculum unit consisting of five lesson plans, due two weeks after the conclusion of the program.

*EDCO is no longer offering PDPs with outside organizations. We are working on another partnership. 

For more information:  Visit Approaching Walden FAQs or send a message to Sarah Walker, Education Director:

Praise from recent Approaching Walden participants:

“This was the best thing I’ve ever done as a teacher. Nothing else even comes close. This was more than just a work shop; this was a personal experience for growth and understanding.”

“The BEST PD I’ve ever been a part of. Not only did I gain valuable resources for my classroom, but I learned about myself and how I fit into this world. I made lifelong memories and met some amazing people. I can’t wait to bring my new outlook back to my students. Plus, I got to swim in Walden Pond!”

“I had been looking forward to this seminar for months and my expectations were so high that my only concern was that the experience wouldn’t live up to them. Instead, it was surpassed. A truly life-changing experience!”

“This program is essential.”Anna, Laura and Ron outside

“The experience touched my spirit at so many levels…Just such a majestic time, steeped in beauty and meaning.”

“Approaching Walden was a personal journey as well as an opportunity for professional growth. This combination was both refreshing and rewarding. One characteristic which set Approaching Walden apart from other professional development was the level of care and interest demonstrated by the staff. They wanted us to learn and grow as people and educators.”

“It was THE BEST PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT I have ever attended! It had great variety and depth. A wonderful group to learn with. The staff was fantastic!”

“It was, in truth, a life-changing week, and I could never say anything like that about any other PD I have taken.”

“Overall this was one of the best professional development programs I ever attended. It was thoughtful, organized and inspiring.”

“This has been a wonderful seminar that has re-energized me and give me fabulous ideas to take away and hold and share.”

“I liked the depth, length, quality of content and professional experience, and mix of classroom and field studies.”

“The best part of the seminar was the variety of lenses through which to experience place and think about our role in nature and society…”

“I wish all professional development could be this dynamic and meaningful.”

“I came in thinking I was going to learn more about my content area…I did, and I also learned more about myself.”

“Everything really seemed to run like a well-oiled machine. I really have no suggestions for improvement because I got something out of each reading, each talk, each activity.”

“I expected to learn some new teaching strategies and to enjoy myself, personally. However, I left Approaching Walden feeling changed, bettered, both personally and professionally. I not only got those teaching strategies and ideas, but I feel absolutely inspired, and I cannot wait to teach Thoreau’s works again!”