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 2024 Approaching Walden Program. Dates: July 14-19

Deadline to apply: March 1, 2024

Applications received after the deadline will be considered for the 2025 summer program. 

If you applied after the March *2023* deadline, your application will be considered for the 2024 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.

Graduate Credit and Professional Development Points:

  • 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.  Three graduate credits equates to 67.5 PDPs per the MA DESE PDP requirements. 
  • Participants who are not taking the course for Fitchburg State graduate credit will be able to receive, from The Walden Woods Project, a Certificate of Completion for 42 CEU contact hours. If participants elect to receive the certificate, they are 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. Certificates of Completion may be submitted to the Department of Education in your state for Professional Development credits. 

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

Praise from recent Approaching Walden participants:

“It rejuvenated my teaching and it was wonderful to spend time with like minded colleagues. The sessions gave me wonderful ideas to take back to my classroom. I have been on MANY professional development seminars and this is one of the few (counting on one hand) where I was sad to leave. I thought about it (still thinking) for days afterward.”

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

“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.”

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

“In addition to helping me better understand and appreciate Thoreau – the author, philosopher and man – the program helped me to see ways in which I can give my middle school students an introduction to Thoreau via my Place-Based Education initiative.”

“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 love and care that [The WWP] put into this program is evident. Thank you so much for the nurturing and the support. I feel so very lucky to have been a part of this. It was truly transformative.”

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

“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…”

“It absolutely recharged and refreshed me personally and professionally. I have concrete ideas about how to teach Thoreau better and I feel more personally committed to living life more deliberately.”