The Walden Project’s Thoreauvian Pedagogy

A few years ago I interviewed Matthew Schlein, founder and director of the Willowell Foundation about the Walden Project, an alternative education program for high school students based on the writings of Henry David Thoreau.

Obviously I was interested in talking with Matt about his work because of our shared interest in Thoreau. But I also find it inspiring to see educators finding innovative ways to reach students.

What the experimental pedagogy of the Walden Project does is give students who are interested in the environment, literature, history, and just being outdoors a chance to study the things that they care about outside of a traditional classroom.

Personally, I think an overemphasis on STEM subjects and overuse of standardized testing is a misguided approach to secondary education. If we want to ensure a functioning democracy, if we want to promote civic values, if we want the next generation of Americans to learn how to think critically, then more must be done to give more autonomy back to teachers.

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