For nearly two decades The Walden Project has provided high school and gap year students in Vermont with a unique educational experience. Sterling College alumnus Andy Webster (‘06) is now bringing The Walden Project to the Finger Lakes Region of New York State where he will be a teacher and director.
The Walden Project is a one-year program where students explore the three fundamental questions that guided Henry David Thoreau during his sojourn to Walden Pond: What is my relationship to myself? What is my relationship to my culture? What is my relationship to the natural world?
This program provides high school juniors, seniors, and gap year students the opportunity for an interdisciplinary education in an outdoor setting where they develop their own personal philosophy and individual approach to learning. With a high emphasis on academic independence and freedom. NPR went so far as to feature The Walden Project as one of the most innovative schools in the country. I dare say it sounds a little bit like Sterling College?
Andy (‘06) had his own Walden Pond moment when he graduated High School. He was tired of the educational system “that assumes everyone learns best in an environment of factory-like efficiency, where teachers are expected to present ‘The Knowledge’ to their classes, and students are expected to passively and unquestioningly absorb ‘The Knowledge’.” After graduating, he bought a backpack and a tent and started hiking the Appalachian Trail. As Andy notes he “knew nothing about camping or hiking but deep down had a feeling that I was going to be okay.” The experience proved to be transformative and it gave him the confidence to attempt even more adventures. Over the next few years, he traveled, worked on farms, and met interesting people that inspired him to want to learn even more, and eventually it led to Sterling College.
When Andy entered Sterling College, he was no longer sitting in class waiting for the bell to ring. He was “on fire, passionate to learn and grow as a person.” In the fall of 2005 in his senior year at Sterling College he met Matt Schlein, The Walden Project Director.
Now, as the director of the Walden Project of New York, Andy can actively teach and develop a unique educational curriculum that he found lacking all those years ago in high school.
We’re proud to have you as an alumnus Andy! Your passion as an educator inspires us.