Approaching Walden FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Approaching Walden

Where does the seminar take place?  The seminar is held at the Walden Woods Project’s Thoreau Institute located in Lincoln, MA (just up the hill from Walden Pond), and includes field trips to Walden Pond, historic Concord and surrounding sites.

Who is eligible for the program?  While our program tends to attract mostly high school educators, we welcome educators at all levels who feel this program could enhance their teaching. Each year, in addition to English teachers, we welcome teachers of history, science and other subject areas.

What does the seminar offer?

Seminar features include:

  • presentations and discussions on Thoreau, environmental ethics, Transcendentalism and social reform;
  • field trips, led by experts, to Walden Pond, Walden Woods and historic Concord;
  • daily time for reflection and journaling while immersed in Thoreau’s landscape; and
  • workshops on natural history and journaling, which offer examples of practical exercises that can be used with students.

How will participants spend their time during the seminar?

Each day is filled with a variety of activities.  Here is a sampling:

  • Each morning begins with discussion of that day’s readings/theme, led by our Curator of Collections and resident Thoreau scholar, Jeffrey S. Cramer.
  • Following the opening discussion, each day includes at least one off-site excursion as well as workshops such as “Teaching Thoreau,” “The Outdoor Classroom,” “Sense of Place,” and “Thoreau and Our Environmental Ethic.”
  • In response to consistent participant feedback, we have built-in two “Free Time” blocks, during which participants can visit local sites that aren’t included in the program, reflect, write or otherwise explore.
  • Participants are also welcome to explore the Walden Woods before and after the daily program.

What makes this seminar unique?

We have over 20 years of experience working with teachers on place-based interdisciplinary education. We engage some of the region’s most renowned scholars, professors and environmentalists as presenters. Participants experience the power of Thoreau’s legacy as they are immersed in the land and literature of Concord and Lincoln, MA.

I will receive little or no financial support from my school or employer. Am I eligible for a travel stipend?

Yes. We are offering teachers stipends again this year. The amount of the stipend depends on where you live:

  • $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.

How do I request the stipend? When do I receive it?

Participants will receive the travel stipends at the conclusion of the seminar, after completing a simple Travel Stipend Request Form. We do ask that participants who are reimbursed for the experience by a school, district or other source of funds do not apply to receive the stipend.  The stipend will come in the form of a check.  [If the check is lost or expires, a $29 cancellation fee will be deducted from the total when the check is re-issued.]

Are teachers from the same school allowed to apply?

Yes. Teachers from the same school may and are encouraged to apply. If we receive a high number of applications in a year, we may limit the number of teachers from each school who can participate that year, however.

If we are applying as a group, should we submit one application per person or one for the whole group?

If applying as a group, please submit one application per person. For the personal statement, you can submit one statement that all group members approve, a unique statement for each applicant (if you go this route, please have each applicant acknowledge in the statement that he or she is part of the team), OR a combination with a joint statement followed by a brief personal statement for each person.

When will I be notified of acceptance?

We will begin review of applications for Approaching Walden 2020 on March 16. Those who apply by March 15 will receive preferred consideration and will hear about their application status by the end of March. Those who submit on or after March 16 can expect to hear from us within two weeks of submitting their application about space availability. When spaces are filled for the year, we will continue to accept applications for the 2020 waitlist and for the 2021 program, dates to be determined.

Is there a fee for the seminar?

Yes. There is a $50 fee for the seminar. If accepted to the program, you will be asked to submit your fee in order to reserve your space.

If I am accepted and pay the fee and then have to withdraw, will my $50 fee be returned?

Yes. Your check will be returned to you if you withdraw prior to receiving the course materials (usually sent to participants in mid-May).  You will also be given the opportunity to move the fee forward to reserve a space in the following year’s program.

I will need lodging.  How and when do I make those arrangements?

Once you are accepted into the seminar, we will send you information about housing options in the area. Participants will be responsible for covering the cost of their accommodations during the seminar. However, the Walden Woods Project reserves a block of rooms at a local inn at a reduced rate.

May I defray some of the cost by sharing a room?

Yes.  We assist participants in the process of finding ways to share both lodging and transportation arrangements.

What additional expenses are there to consider?

You will need to cover transportation costs, such as a car rental or airfare, some meals and snacks.  The Thoreau Institute has a large kitchen, and, in the past, many participants found it a wonderful place to enjoy an informal dinner with other teachers, after buying and cooking their own food. The Walden Woods Project provides a light lunch on the first day (Sunday), dinner on the last night of the program and coffee and light breakfast snacks are available each morning.

Can I receive graduate credit for the seminar?

Yes. We are pleased to offer graduate-level credit for this course, through Fitchburg State University. The charge is $295, which we collect upon arrival (payable to Fitchburg State University). The 3-credit course requirements include attending all six days of the seminar and completing daily reading assignments. You will also be responsible for completing a curriculum unit (five lessons) following the workshop.  When you are accepted into the program and confirm your participation, more information about the graduate credits, including an extensive syllabus, will be provided.

Can I receive Professional Development Points?

Yes. Through the EDCO Collaborative we offer teachers an opportunity to earn certificates of participation, redeemable for 45 PDPs. You will need to attend all six days of the seminar, complete daily reading assignments and complete a curriculum unit (three lessons) following the workshop.

Can you tell me more about the final assignment that is required to earn graduate credit and professional development points (PDPs)?

View the 2016 curriculum unit assignment here. Please visit the online curriculum collection to see samples of units that teachers have created in past years.

Will I be sent reading materials prior to the seminar?

Yes. We will send you a packet with readings and other course materials in mid-late May.

Do excursions take place rain or shine?

Yes, field trips will take place rain or shine. If it is determined unsafe to be outdoors, we will do our best to reschedule a planned excursion. Flexibility is appreciated! Participants are highly encouraged to pack comfortable shoes, layered clothing and rain gear.

Do participants come from outside New England?

Yes!  Since 2014, participants have come from 30 of the United States, as well as Canada and Nigeria! Geographic diversity is something we strive for each year as we consider applications because we know how much educators learn from and connect over stories of teaching in different contexts.

Will I have time for sightseeing?

While the six days of the workshop are mostly full of scheduled, facilitated activities that are intended for the all-group participation, there are a couple of “free time” slots built into the schedule, and you can use that time to see local sites, relax or spend some “down” time with other participants. Most evenings are also open after 5:00, but many of the local sites are not open in the evening. As we have heard that participants often feel they really need the “free time” periods to rest and process the experience, if you are coming from out of town, we encourage you to plan a day or two to visit sites in the area before or after the seminar, if at all possible.

If I have additional questions, who should I contact?

If you have questions that weren’t answered here, please contact Whitney Retallic, Director of Education with the contact form or at 781-259-4721. She will be glad to help you!