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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Devon G Pena
ANTH 488
Seattle Campus


Cross-cultural survey of agroecological research methods, theoretical problems, policy issues, and ethical debates. Local knowledge and ethnoscientific bases of alternative agriculture. Comparative political ecology of agroecosystems with a focus on indicators of social equity and ecological sustainability.

Class description


Field studies school taught in Colorado and New Mexico on agroecology and permaculture as practiced by the acequia farmers of the Rio Grande headwaters bioregion. Experiential (hands-on) learning of agroecology, restoration ecology, and permaculture methods and materials at historic acequia farms. (5 credits).

Student learning goals

Understand the scientific principles of agroecology and permaculture.

Develop the ability to use the methods and concepts of agroecology to analyze all kinds of farming systems.

Experience how to participate in collaborative applied projects as mentored by acequia farm elders.

Develop an appreciation for the intersection of agroecology with conservation biology and environmental history.

Learn basic ethnographic research methods in the field.

Develop a holistic understanding of permaculture and agroecological methods and practices.

General method of instruction

This is a field studies school and will involve travel to and work in the high altitude valleys of Colorado and New Mexico. Class sessions to review and discuss readings will convene in the later afternoons after students work on their group permaculture design projects at the four designated farm sites.

Recommended preparation

(1) Ability to work and hike in the high altitude environment of the Southern Rocky Mountains where our average elevation at the farms in 8,000 feet above sea level.

(2) Low-impact camping skills and equipment (tent, sleeping bag, pad, camping stove, etc.)

(3) Willingness to get your hands in the dirt and ability to work in the sun (bring sun block).

(4) Interest in and ability to write, keep a journal, and work in a group.

Class assignments and grading

(1) Collaborative group permaculture design project. There will be four groups organized to develop their own permaculture design project. Each group will be comprised of four students and their native acequia elder mentor(s). Each group will document the entire process of the design project and prepare a multimedia report integrating video, audio, photography, maps, and a written narrative. Grading is based on a 100-point scale with 50 points for participation in the design and construction; 25 points for the multimedia materials; and 25 points for the written narrative report. The documentary report is due the last day of the summer session.

(2) Presentation of documentary report to the class. Each permaculture design project group will present their reports to the class and, upon our return to Seattle, to the UW campus and larger Puget Sound community. Grading: 25 possible points.

(3) Personal field journal. Each student will keep an ethnographic field journal to record personal observations and experiences throughout the course of the field school. Grading: 25 possible points.

Group project (50%) Group presentation (25%) Personal field journal (25%)

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Devon G Pena
Date: 04/10/2013