Sample Syllabus

SYLLABUS (sample)

for the

ON-LINE Alaska Cold Climate Permaculture Course


Cindee Karns, M.Ed. January 12-June 12

Instructor A-synchronous but daily



Although we might attempt to live sustainably in Alaska, we really don’t know how to do it.  Permaculture (a contraction of permanent and culture) is, at its core, a decision-making tool that permeates all parts of life.  In this course we will ask questions like:  How do we want to be/live as a sustainable member of the ecosystem on this planet, specifically in Alaska? How did our Alaskan forefathers/mothers understand permanent culture?  


During this course, we will each design a permanent culture on a piece of property, which will be regenerative and will follow the ethics: care of the earth, care of people and share the excess. Each week there will be a hands-on project to complete.



  • Participants will observe and apply permaculture principles as they work on designing their own systems, their section of land, their own home, as well as the groups they belong to. (Participants will receive an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate when the course work is 100% successfully completed.)




  • Through lectures, videos, readings and hands-on work, students will explore sustainable permaculture practices in their community by evaluating systems of water collection and reuse, soil building, planting, harvesting, seed-saving, natural fertilizing, appropriate technology, natural building, and most importantly, healthy community design, so that each student can design his/her own permaculture property here in Alaska.



January 6

  • Introduction to online learning/blog site development, etc

January 13

  • Identify the property you will design

January 20

  • Intro to Design:   build an A Frame, learn to measure and post to a base map

January 27

  • Research:   soil, current plants on the site, historical info.

February 3

  • Understanding nature’s patterns

February 10

  • The importance of water in a system

February 17

  • Design a forest garden for your property

February 24

  • Adding plants/guilds/lasagna gardening to the system

March 3

  • Adding animals to a system: build a worm farm

March 10

  • Soils

March 17

  • Microorganisms, Make compost tea

March 24

  • Natural Building and Heating in Alaska

March 31

  • Other systems:   economic, family, education

April 7

  • Whole System’s Design

April 14

  • Draw—Mapping

April 21

  • Design Process

April 28

  • Design Process

June 3

  • Design Process

June 10

  • Write Report/ Record your presentation.



  • Students must live in Alaska and work with a client who has property to design. 

NOTES:  post notes from the lecture/readings to Google Docs

  1. BLOG:  Post your weekly tasks/assignments with photos on your own blog
  2. VIDEO: Be able to watch and post video to the Internet.
    • ON-GOING COLLABORATION:  Make comments and converse with classmates on the Class Blog a min. of 3 times a week.  Make learning happen through connections, insights and thoughtful patterning


ATTITUDES: The Participants will

  1. Understand the need for change in our Alaskan lifestyle
  2. Understand that nature is our model for sustainable living
  3. Look to indigenous cultures for guidance
  4. Understand the importance of conservation
  5. Live the permaculture principles and ethics

PROCESSES: The Participants will

  1. Use the process of dialog to interact with each other on-line on the class blog
  2. Write about and photograph their permaculture endeavors on their own blog
  3. Cultivate their thoughts and ideas and then share their knowledge.

UNDERSTANDINGS or SKILLS: The Participants will

  1. Reflect on the state of the world and their own biome, and how that information relates to the permaculture ethics and principles.
  2. Understand the principles of design and how to observe, research, and measure information.
  3. Draw a base map
  4. Measure Slope
  5. Identify plants: dynamic accumulators and nitrogen fixers
  6. Build plant guilds
  7. Design a food forest
  8. Interview the property owner
  9. Find natural patterns and use them to your advantage in design
  10. Understand/design water flow and reuse
  11. Build a small Aquaponics system
  12. Research various animals and understand the importance on integrating them into your design
  13. Build a compost bin/worm farm
  14. Plan a lasagna garden: source your ingredients
  15. Make compost tea
  16. Understand soils, test your soil
  17. Learn all about and choose at least natural building or natural heating for their proposed property design
  18. Build a small rocket stove (a pocket rocket)
  19. Evaluate natural systems in terms of education, families, economics and other invisible structures
  20. Final: Design your dream permaculture property
  21. Learn XMind, Mother Earth News gardening, and Google sketchup
  22. Write a lengthy report describing your design
  23. Present your design to the class/to the clients (unless it’s you)

COURSE METHODS OF EVALUATION: Include specific due dates

  • If you are taking the course, but don’t want a Permaculture Design Certificate, there are no due dates or requirements. We hope that you will participate in the community.
  • If you want to earn a Permaculture Design Certificate, you will be expected to follow the same guidelines as those who are taking the course for credit.


  • Weekly—–1 page reflection about what you learned from the materials
    • –Pictures w/comments about your “hands-on” assignment
  • Dialog
    • –4 or 5 comments per week on your cohorts’ reflection pieces
    • –3 or 4 comments per week on your cohorts’ assignments


Each assignment or project will be evaluated using a 3-point scoring guide posted with each assignment. Grades are awarded on the following basis:
(Assignment is not completed: 0 points)

Not acceptable: 50

Acceptable: 75

Target: 100
To earn an Acceptable or Target grade, all of the criteria in the scoring guide for that assignment must be met. Your grade will, therefore, be based on the element with the lowest score. For example, an otherwise Target-level project with poor spelling, usage, or grammatical errors would earn a Not Acceptable score.


The standard grading scale will be applied in the following manner:


90-100: A

80-89: B

70-79: C

60-69: D

Below 60: F


Averages are rounded up at .5.
When you submit an assignment, you have essentially begun a conversation with me and with your classmates. That conversation ends when you are satisfied with our evaluation of your assignment. I will review and comment on each assignment and you are free to revise and resubmit as often as needed. However, revisions must be undertaken within two weeks of the date of the original evaluation or the initial grade will remain. Assignments that are not submitted within two weeks of the due date will receive a zero.




Email Cindee with any questions you might have: