Walden project featured in magazine

The Walden Project was featured in the March 2007 issue of Edutopia Magazine. The monthly educational magazine is published by the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), which serves to celebrate and encourage innovation in schools. Founded in 1991 as a nonprofit operating foundation to celebrate and encourage innovation in schools, the GLEF serves to document, disseminate information, and advocate for exemplary programs in K-12 public schools to help practices spread nationwide. The Walden Project is a public alternative education program supported by the Willowell Foundation. Approximately 20-25 students attend the program yearly, which is located on a 230-acre parcel of land in Monkton and is operated through the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union. As noted in the Edutopia article, The Walden Project is not a traditional school program; it is a community of students and teachers who use the former farmland for what founder Matt Schlein calls a "great, living template for education." They spend three days a week outdoors on the land, even through the winter. Schlein, who has taught English, drama, and psychology at Vergennes Union High School (VUHS) for the past six years, founded the project in 2000 with a vision of authentic, student-directed learning based in nature. The point of the program, states Schlein, is to step outside the chaos of everyday expectations to "think deeply about where I am right now and what's essential," searching nature and oneself for inspiration. Despite Walden's unconventional approach and the apparent lack of structure visitors may experience, student performance on the SAT matches that of their peers at VUHS. An impressive 80 to 90 percent of Walden graduates go on to attend college, compared to just over half of the traditional VUHS program graduates. VUHS principal Ed Webbley is one of Walden's biggest supporters. Through its inquiry-based approach, he says, Walden satisfies state content standards in greater depth than a conventional classroom could. The program also far surpasses the high school on teaching the state's "vital results" standards for personal growth, he adds. "Instead of reading sixteen chapters in a science textbook," one student says, "we do science."

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