Unconventional by Nature

Hawthorne Valley Association

Our passion for education kindles a profound connection with the natural world, fostering deep understanding, and cultivating compassion for the beauty that surrounds us.

Picture the joy of toddlers exploring the wonders of a stream during Parent-Child classes, or the intellectual rigor of scientists leading groundbreaking research at our Farmscape Ecology Program. Each offers a distinct tapestry of opportunities for learners of all ages to pause, observe, and immerse themselves in the fascinating realms of plants, animals, and minerals that weave the web of lived experience.

three kindergarten students looking into a bucket collecting sap on a tree in the winter
farm camp students gathered around a calf laying in hay in the milking barn petting the calf
a student sitting on the beach, the ocean in front of him, as he looks down at the picture he's painting
two older students writing on notebooks on their knees as they kneel on the wet ground

Experiential learning is the cornerstone of Waldorf education. Witness the magic of our Early Childhood Program at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School, where children are encouraged to follow their innate sense of wonder in forming meaningful relationships with the natural world. Whether exploring the farm and forest during “adventure walks” or felting plant-dyed wool, the children are at one with the nature of their place.

As students ascend through the grades, their academic journey transforms into a deepening understanding of the agricultural and natural world. Imagine our seniors on a week-long Zoology trip to Hermit Island, ME, delving into the intricacies of tidal pools and marshlands through observation, scientific method, and artistic expression, forging a profound connection with, and lasting understanding of, the diversity and fragility of life on earth.

The Alkion Center for Adult Education is a compass for exploration. Those pursuing Waldorf Teacher Education and personal renewal find their north star through coursework and artistic practices that spark curiosity, commitment, and an abiding love for the vocation of teaching.

In 2003, the Center for Social Research (CSR) emerged (then called The Center for Social and Environmental Responsibility) as a beacon for social transformation rooted in individual and cultural freedom, democratic equality, and social responsibility. Under Gary Lamb’s leadership, CSR dives deep into questions spanning local economics, school choice, and, most recently, the ethical use of technology.

Gary Lamb holding up his book "On the Wings of Words"
distant shot of a group touring the farm with Claudia of farmscape as they weave through tall grass with trees behind them
photo by Adam T. Deen for Partners for Climate Action

Back in 2003, Hawthorne Valley became the home of the Farmscape Ecology Program (FEP), under the leadership of Conrad Vispo, PhD., and Claudia Knab-Vispo, PhD., aimed at elevating original research and outreach at the crossroads of nature and resilient agriculture. FEP is a narrative unfolding across Hawthorne Valley Farm, the Farm Hub, and beyond, revealing the dynamic interplay between people and ecology throughout history. Beyond enlightening farmers on the role of beneficial insects and hedgerows, FEP extends myriad invitations to the public to experience and appreciate the beautiful landscape of Columbia County.

Through ecology walks, private land consultations, public presentations, and more, Farmscape throws open the gates for both the public and land stewards to join us in cultivating compassion and understanding for the land and its inhabitants—both human and nonhuman. Come, be part of this extraordinary journey of exploration and connection with the world around us!