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The Walden Woods Project

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Environment, Historical Organizations, Land Resources Conservation

Mission: The Walden Woods Project was founded in 1990 to protect land of ecological and historic significance surrounding Walden Pond. At that time nearly half of the Walden Woods' 2,680 acres remained unprotected from development. Two large tracts of land (a total of 43 acres) were under immediate threat as developers sought to construct an office park and a large condominium complex in close proximity to Walden Pond. In January 1991, the Walden Woods Project raised enough money to buy the 25-acre Bear Garden Hill site. A few years later, the Project acquired a second parcel, known as Brister?s Hill. In 1998, the Walden Woods Project opened The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods containing over 8,000 volumes and 60,000 items of Thoreau-related materials and launched its two trademark teacher education programs, Approaching Walden and Finding Walden.

Programs: Conservation:the walden woods project preserves and protects walden woods and thoreau country in recognition of their worldwide literary, historical, and environmental significance and their capacity to motivate others to identify, study, and protect the environment and historically significant areas that exist in their own communities. In 2014, the project purchased two houses and appurtenant structures on three acres of land that completes our acquisition of the farm at walden woods. The land and structures will provide increased capacity for our organic farming operation, new meeting and program space, facilities for farm staff, housing for program participants and maintenance facilities for farm operations. Land management:the walden woods project manages conservation restrictions on 61 acres of land, which prevents development of sites not owned in fee. Annual conservation restriction monitoring is done to ensure that the protections prescribed in the conservation restrictions are in effect. Invasive exotic plants are a major threat to the ecological integrity of our land. The project actively manages our properties to reduce the prevalence of invasive plants and to minimize the threat they represent. The project's programs support ongoing collaboration between a wide variety of civic and environmental groups who regularly provide volunteer invasive species management to our organization.

education:the education programs of the walden woods project serve an audience that includes students, educators, and life-long learners from around the globe. Our signature programs include our guided tours for groups visiting walden woods and the pond; the live deliberately essay contest for youth ages 13-21 from around the world; a week-long summer professional development program for teachers, approaching walden, and other professional development workshops throughout the year; vernal pool workshops; skype in the classroom sessions; the stewardship lecture series; and world wide waldens, an on-line community of youth working to conserve places in their own communities. All of our programs are inspired by the writings and philosophies of henry david thoreau and ask people to explore their own sense of place-their connection to their own community and other places in the world-and to develop an environmental ethic. As thoreau himself is a highly interdisciplinary subject, we address the topics of transcendentalism, social reform, writing, natural history and 19-century history in our programs, as well. In the 2014/15 academic year, we hosted over 600 students (plus nearly 100 teachers/coordinators with them) in our guided tours of the walden woods area (including the pond). We also host groups in our library at the thoreau institute at walden woods, which maintains the world's largest collection of thoreau-related documents, books, and artifacts, and serve approximately 1,000 students each year through our skype in the classroom program (for those who are too far away to visit the woods). Our approaching walden summer professional development program brings in 25 educators from across the country each year for an intensive, immersive study in thoreau's words and place. There is a competitive process to attend this program that receives high acclaim each year from its participants, with the 2014 feedback being no exception. Participants have the option of completing additional readings and assignments to receive 3 graduate-level credits for the course through fitchburg state university. Our 2014 stewardship lectures series included the following presentations: "walden's shore: henry david thoreau and nineteenth century science," with author of the book of the same title, robert m. Thorson; "who's watching you? : owls of the world," a presentation for all ages with live owls conducted by mark and marcia wilson of eyes on owls; "the transformation of american community," with mark dunkelman, author of the vanishing neighbor (this event was a festival forum as part of the concord festival of authors).

research and library:the thoreau institute library/archives, is owned and managed by the walden woods project and is located in walden woods. The library houses the most complete research collection by and about henry david thoreau, as well as other collections by american writers, including ralph waldo emerson. Staffed by a full time curator, the library is the premiere resource on a global basis for thoreau research and scholarship. Each year the institute welcomes a steady stream of interns interested in pursuing a career in library science, as well as volunteers with an interest in the history and literature of thoreau's time. Every year brings new people to the thoreau institute library, whether in-person or virtually. In 2014, we hosted visitors from canada, europe and asia. Translators from china, czechoslovakia, and iran have worked with the curator to provide accurate and representative translations. "skype in the classroom" sessions bring our curator into classrooms around the country via skype, reaching more than 1,000 students in 2014. We continue to publish many works electronically and update finding aids to our collections. In 2104 we acquired the kevin macdonnell collection, adding rare and unique items to our library.

Community Stories

69 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Client Served

Rating: 5

I attended The Walden Woods Project's annual Approaching Walden professional development week for teachers. The experience far exceeded my expectations, both personally and professionally! It is clearly evident that this staff is passionate about the work that they do in conservation, education, and scholarship. I would highly recommend this organization to any educator seeking resources on Transcendentalism, Thoreau, the history of the Concord, MA, area, or conservation and natural history in the Walden Woods. I also hope the general public sees them as a valuable resource for what they have to offer for individuals and groups throughout the year. Keep up the good work, WWP!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I took an excellent week-long course with WWP and found the team of people there to be highly dedicated and passionate. The organization has a multi-faceted mission that can inspire people of all ages to be better global citizens.

Client Served

Rating: 5

By far the best professional development I have had in at least 10 years. Staff is knowledgeable, professional, dedicated, and kind. They work to ensure that everyone has an excellent intellectual and useful experience.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I went to several lectures about Thoreau given by Jeff Cramer that were fascinating. As Director of the Lincoln Public Library, I have had opportunities to refer people to the Thoreau Institute to further their research and knowledge of Thoreau. What an incredible resource!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I participated in the Walden Woods Project in the summer of 2012. I can honestly say in my 20 years of teaching, I don't think I have ever had a more rewarding professional development experience . I was the only science teacher present among a group of mostly English teachers with a few history teachers mixed in.

My interest in the Project stems from my role as an Environmental Science teacher and a love of the works of Thoreau and Emerson. I was warmly welcomed by the Thoreau Institute staff and the program, incorporating nature appreciation into teaching through literature, was fantastic. We spent five days doing various group and independent writing exercises, learning the history of Henry David Thoreau, exploring his writings, and visiting historic sites around Walden Pond and Concord.

As a Connecticut resident and child of an English teacher, I grew up learning about and visiting this area, but seeing it from an adult perspective and discussing how I could use it to help my students learn a sense of place was incredibly meaningful. Further, the other teachers that I met, from all over the country, were completely accepting of me and even a little fascinated that a science teacher has students read literature in science class. Above all, I made several friends whom I have stayed in close contact with since.

The Thoreau Institute is a beautiful facility, the library is incredible and the staff is knowledgeable and dedicated to preserving this great American resource. This spring, I was also able to contribute by acting as a reader for the Project's annual essay contest. The fact that the Institute manages to have so many irons in the fire, both educationally, historically and environmentally in their work for preserving that natural area around Walden Pond while maintaining such high standard of performance is most admirable in a non-profit organization. I cannot speak highly enough about the Walden Woods Project and the Thoreau Institute. It will be my pleasure and honor to keep serving as an academic volunteer for as long as they will have me, and I hope to have the opportunity to attend another workshop before ending my teaching career.

Most Sincerely,

Deb Field
Science Educator
South Windsor High School
South Windsor, CT

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Having been a fan of Thoreau's view of the world since I was a teen, I am excited to know that there is a nonprofit taking care of the Walden Woods until I can get there to see it for myself! I am also glad that the Walden Woods Project does outreach to help people of all ages discover both Thoreau's writing and the special place where so much of it took shape. In addition to donating, I volunteered as a Guest Reader for one of the outreach programs, a teen essay contest. It's wonderful to see members of the busy next generation write about taking time to let places like Walden Pond enrich their lives.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In 2001, I was a participant in the annual summer teachers' workshop, Approaching Walden, run by the Walden Woods Project. After immersing myself in the works of Henry David Thoreau, surrounded by the woods he roamed and enriched by the various experts brought in to share their insights and knowledge, I returned to the classroom with exciting new ideas and a curriculum unit I'd developed that reinvented the way I was teaching Walden and Thoreau's other works. My students became engaged and responsive in ways they never had previously. Since my retirement in 2007, I have been on staff at Approaching Walden, sharing my classroom successes with each summer's participants. The energy, support, and inspiration provided by the Walden Woods Project's summer institute for teachers resulted in some of the most rewarding lessons I shared with my students, and I am gratified to see that same enthusiasm in each successive group of AW participants. The Walden Woods Project educational outreach has a profound effect on all those who experience it.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I'm really interested in preserving green space used by so many people living in and visiting the area. I'm also really interested famous local writers that give Concord and surrounding towns such a rich literary history. The Walden Woods Project does so much on both these fronts. I recently volunteered with them for a fundraising event. It was beautifully run, raised a lot of money and awareness, and was a blast! I highly recommend getting to know this organization!

Client Served

Rating: 5

My experience with the Walden Woods Project was as a participant in the Approaching Walden seminar. It far exceeded my expectations. I was totally engaged in the offered seminars and field trips. My learning extended beyond my teaching field, English, into the realm of science! It was all fascinating!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida who LOVES the New England area.
My Master's degree is in English, with a focus on American writers.
When I had the opportunity to spend time in the natural beauty of WALDEN WOODS, to listen to THE scholar on Henry David Thoreau, to collaborate with colleagues from across the United States with a similar aptitude towards this icon, and to walk the trails and pond with a dedicated naturalist, well, it was a no-brainer, and more importantly, a time with the divine! I am SO THANKFUL for this place and the hospitality and preparation of the entire staff to share the message that Henry's message is TIMELESS and RELEVANT to this generation!
Walden Woods is a very special place and I am very thankful to Don Henley for taking the initiative to save this place. It offers a place for introspection by channeling Henry David Thoreau's concern for the intangibles that make life matter! The interpreter was spot on and the proximity of this place to other literary giants who are remembered, with Henry, at Sleepy Hollow is also not to be missed.

Erin90

Client Served

Rating: 4

I had the opportunity to chaperone on a trip to Walden Woods and what a pleasure it was to get out of the hustle and bustle of school and walk in Thoreau's footsteps for a day. The Walden Woods Project interpretative guides walked along with us on the trails and through Thoreau's house answering questions and keeping it interesting for our students.

After visiting Walden, we toured The Great Manse, right down the street. I can't believe this great jewel is so close to my home and I have never visited! Our tour guide at The Great Manse was an incredible storyteller.

I highly recommend these tours to anyone interested in American history and/or literature.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I love bringing students to Walden when my junior English students study Thoreau, Emerson, and Hawthorne. Working with the Walden Woods Project gets better each time. Whitney, who coordinated our recent trip was terrific. Jeff (Thoreau scholar) and Matt (field biologist) showed us different sides of Thoreau in their complementary ways that made the visit meaningful and memorable.
ECraig-Olins

Client Served

Rating: 5

I am so impressed with the Walden Woods Project. I am a teacher at a local high school, and I called to see if I could bring my students to visit Walden and Brister's Hill. Everyone I spoke with was incredibly helpful in making this visit happen. They arranged a carefully planned out day, provided experts to guide us, and even supplied us with a writing prompt based on Thoreau's journals.

My students loved the day, and I did too. It made an exciting way to connect with Emerson and Thoreau. It's wonderful that they make themselves so available to helping teachers bring these authors to life.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I participated in the Walden Woods Project seminar "Approaching Walden" this summer. It provided, hands down, the best professional development I have ever had. I learned from educated members of the staff, and the select participants who joined me on my journey. The program was well thought out, diverse, and thoughtfully executed. I will forever value the time I spent in Thoreau's woods and am grateful for the opportunity.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

This summer I had the great pleasure of attending The Walden Woods Project's 'Approaching Walden' seminar for teachers. The professional development I received was far beyond my expectations. The multi-day event was carefully and thoughtfully developed, with a tremendous amount of learning packed in to each day. The staff was knowledgable and willingly shared their expertise. Experiencing the artifacts curated by the Walden Woods Project, as well as having time to explore the area, was just incredible. Interacting with other educators in this inspiring setting allowed me to deepen my thinking about my own practice. I particularly enjoyed the way the seminar was geared to multiple disciplines; there truly was something for every content area. The work that this team does is invaluable . . . and they do much more than just this outreach to teachers. An amazing organization!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

The Walden Woods Project provides a program for teachers called "Approaching Walden." I cannot speak highly enough about this program. On a daily basis, I implement something that I learned at the seminar in my classroom.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I participated the the Approaching Walden Summer Seminar and this was the best professional development opportunity I have participated in. The speakers were incredibly knowledgeable and the activities were worthwhile. It renewed my interest in Thoreau and gave me lots of things to bring back to my classroom.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Walden Woods Project is a tremendous asset: 1. educationally providing lectures and various activities including summer programs and web-sites for teachers. 2. making available a top-notch library and curator preserving collections of materials by Thoreau and others. 3. Acquiring and preserving land around and in Walden Woods whenever feasible 4. Developing and maintaining a Thoreau Walk at Brister's Hill that is both beautiful and enlightening. 5. Advocating for projects and laws that preserve the environment. And there is certainly more...

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Over the last few years, I have worked with the wonderful staff of the Walden Woods Project on several cutting-edge educational projects, and these experiences have been some of the most fulfilling of my entire career as a teacher. There are countless reasons to both praise and recommend this organization to others, and as many people have already attested to here, these reasons would not be limited to education. However, what is evidently of central concern to all of those who are involved with the WWP, is this institution’s unique ethos of stewardship, education, and conservation.

One would be hard pressed to name any other figure of comparable prestige, whose life and philosophy are so inextricably linked to a particular place, as is Thoreau’s. My students know this intuitively, their work constantly bears this out, and perhaps tellingly, it is those from other countries and cultures who seem to appreciate this special status most fully. They are a constant reminder that we should not take this wonderful legacy and land for granted, and like me, are grateful to those who are working to secure this jewel for future generations of students.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered and have donated my time, energy, and a little money to the Walden Woods Project from shortly after its birth in April 1990! Back in time, before WWP, I found it devastating to have read that Walden Woods and the surrounding area were under the threat of development. I was then equally relieved and ever so thankful when I read The Walden Woods Project was formed to prevent such a calamity of development. I immediately contacted "The Project" to see how I could help be a part of the solution.

The Walden Woods Project is an outstanding non profit. They have a terrific staff of caring, dedicated people and a great core group of volunteers; they truly get things done. I am honored to have had the opportunity to have been a small part of the team.

I am truly grateful to Mr. Don Henley for his insight, thoughtfulness and courage in creating The Walden Woods Project and for all those who have and those who continue to labor tirelessly to secure the integrity of this historically important area.

"The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the influence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me. "
Journal, Dec 30, 1851
Henry David Thoreau