(Updated January 2014) To do things differently, it helps to connect with new people and contexts. Universities and design schools seldom make that easy. Our xskool and City Eco Lab encounters aspire to meet this need – but there are many other experimental schools and courses out there. This handout contains the most interesting ones we’ve found so far.  It includes [with their permission] the findings of a scoping study for Schumacher College in England. No quality judgment is implied by inclusion in (or omission from) this list. If we have made any mistakes – or you would like to suggest an addition – please email: john (at) doorsofperception dot com


Boulder Outdoor Survival School
The oldest and largest traditional living skills / survival school in the world. Courses range from 3-28 days in length and take place in the spectacular landscape of Southern Utah.

The Mycelium School (US-based, mostly online)
A mostly virtual program combines self-designed and community supported learning as Mycelium travelers’ spend 12 weeks focusing their attention on a core question or initiative. Visiting tutors include Charles Eisetnstein, Carol Sanford, David McConville.

Walk Out Walk On (global)
Walk Outs are people who bravely choose to leave behind a world of unsolvable problems, scarce resources, limiting beliefs and destructive individualism. They walk on to ideas, beliefs and practices that enable them to give birth to new systems that serve community. An emerging movement of pioneers is self-organizing to create healthy and resilient communities.

Long Green House, Maine
Moving beyond sustainability as a mere business slogan, LongGreenHouse weaves together indigenous culture, permaculture, and digital culture. Together we are developing a Living/Learning model for thriving cultures in this bioregion based on the intersection of evolutionary wisdom, natural patterns, and social networking.

The Teaching Drum Outdoor School, Wisconsin
Tucked under tall pines and nestled in sheltering firs, the Teaching Drum Outdoor School lies in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, adjacent to the Headwaters Wilderness. Home to the Wilderness Guide and Wild Moon Immersion Programs

Solid Ground Farm, Ohio
“Designed by homesteaders and DIY-ers for homesteaders and DIY-ers” – workshops for the new back-to-the-land/sustainability enthusiast. Students learn from local permaculture practitioners, regional experts, example site visits, and hands-on projects.

Pisgah Forest Institute (North Carolina,)
Environmental instruction for educators, including workshops for teachers and home school educators. Located at Brevard College.

Wisdom University (San Francisco)
Study of and training in the wisdom spirituality of the major world traditions. Of prime importance in our development of our curriculum is connecting sacred subjects with sacred sites.

Sable Institute of Environmental Studies (MI, WA, FL, India)
Sustainable community-building, environmental education and restoration – for school children and adults, Regional conferences and retreats, and outreach services in the Great Lakes Forest of northern Michigan, Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, in South Florida , and South India.

Environmental Learning Institute (Tucson)
Leadership programmes for intermediate and secondary educators to enhance understanding of enquiry-based learning and global environmental change while studying a threatened North American eco-system. Based in Tucson, AZ, USA.

Center for Environmental Education (Wisconsin)
Assists in the development, implementation and evaluation of environmental education programs focusing on elementary and secondary school teachers throughout Wisconsin.

California, Center for Eccoliteracy, Berkeley
Says cofounder Fritjof Capra: ‘We do not need to invent sustainable human communities. We can learn from societies that have lived sustainably for centuries. We can also model communities after nature’s ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms’.

California, John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies
Located within the Cal Poly Pomona University campus, the Center promotes the integration of people and natural processes with systems vital for community living, including food, water, energy, the built environment, and waste processes.

Idaho, Bioregional Planning and Community Design
A multi disciplinary course giving bioregional planning a community level approach.

Washington State, Washington Center Bioregion Project, Puget Sound
Bioregions are, literally, “life places” characterized by the interrelated natural and social systems upon which we rely for our well-being.  This bioregion is home to 4.2 million people as well as a rich diversity of marine and terrestrial life. Situating learning in our bioregion means connecting students with the immediacy and significance of what is happening here, linking classroom theory to local places, people, and practices.

Vermont, Yestermorrow Design/Build School
Over 150 hands-on courses per year in design, construction, woodworking, and architectural craft and a variety of courses concentrating in sustainable design. 1-day to 2-week hands-on courses are taught by top architects, builders, and craftspeople from across the country. For people of all ages and experience levels, from novice to professional.

California, Dominican College, Green MBA
Students learn how to: 1) apply practical skills; 2) make better decisions using rigorous critical thinking methods; 3) communicate and lead effectively; 4) collaborate with others in designing and implementing successful initiatives; 5) face challenges inherent in turbulent issues; and 6) master methods and tools to analyze systemic factors.

Washington State, Bainbridge Island, Bainbridge Graduate Institute
Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI) offers both an MBA in Sustainable Business and Certificates in Sustainable Business. Graduates will be well equipped to successfully lead a large corporation, small business or non-profit organization toward sustainability as a core strategy, or launch their own sustainable entrepreneurial ventures. The short meets at IslandWood one weekend a month.

New Mexico, Santa Fe, Ecoversity
A non-profit educational center which explores and demonstrates concepts of sustainable living, ecological design, and responsibility for the wise stewardship of the Earth. Ecoversity focuses on practices and solutions designed to regenerate the Earth and revitalize the human spirit.

Colorado, Boulder, Naropa University
Classical Greece and Classical India hosted two of the most revered traditions of education the world has known. This phenomenon is recaptured today at Naropa University, a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education.

Ohio, Oberlin College
The Environmental Studies Program provides an interdisciplinary approach to the study of human interactions with the environment.  These perspectives prepare students for graduate work and careers in the environmental sciences, law, public health, public policy, or public administration.

California, San Francisco, Presidio School of Management
As one of the first business schools to focus on sustainability, Presidio is now a leader in a mainstream movement embraced by some of the world’s top companies. Sustainable management is integral to every course in our groundbreaking MBA and Executive programs. Students are placed in leading companies and non-profits to work on real-world solutions.

Washington State, Seattle, Seattle University, Organization Systems Renewal
This two-year, cohort-based program provides the opportunity to achieve excellence as a designer and leader of change within an organization or community. Skill development and application sessions help translate theory into practical action.

Maryland, Shutesbury, Sirius Community
On 90 acres of land in western Massachusetts, which was once sacred grounds for local Native American tribes. Sirius is a “human-scale” community where students  quickly feel at home and actively participate. Courses offered: Spiritual Living Apprenticeship – Sustainable Living Modules – Organic Gardening Internships – Attunement to Nature Demos – Sacred Purpose Counseling – Off-grid Energy Instruction – Permaculture Certification

Wyoming, Jackson, Teton Science School
Connecting people, nature, place and education since its founding in 1967. Its 900-acre Jackson Campus has brought the inception of the Givens-Black Teacher Learning Center, the expansion of Journeys School and the increased residential capacity for educational programs.

New York, Ghent, The Nature Institute
The Nature Institute develops new qualitative and holistic approaches to seeing and understanding nature and technology. Through research, publications, and educational programs it works to create a new paradigm that embraces nature’s wisdom in shaping a sustainable and healthy future.

Vermont, Hartland, The Sustainability Institute
Donella (Dana) Meadows, founder of the Sustainability Institute and lead author of Limits to Growth and Beyond the Limits, was a pioneer in the application of system dynamics to critical issues of human survival — poverty, growth in population and consumption, ecological degradation. The Institute focuses on understanding the root causes of unsustainable behavior in complex systems to help restructure systems and shift mindsets that will help move human society toward sustainability.

Arizona, Prescott, Prescott College
Sustainable Community Development Program graduates lead meaningful lives in diverse fields:  as sustainability educators and program leaders in the nonprofit sector; as advisors in the private sector; in public lands agencies; and through international sustainable agriculture projects.

Arizona, Prescott, Ecosa Institute 
16-week certificate programs offer, through field trips, lectures, guest speakers and real world projects, an integrated understanding of sustainable design- from architecture to permaculture, product design to urban and community planning. Client-based, real world design projects serve to bring the threads of sustainability together into practical solutions.

New York, Columbia University, Earth Institute
With 850 scientists, postdoctoral fellows and students working in and across more than 20 Columbia University research centers, The Earth Institute is helping to advance nine interconnected global issues: climate and society, water, energy, poverty, ecosystems, public health, food and nutrition, hazards and urbanization.

Colorado, Colorado College
The Colorado College Environmental Program offers two integrated majors in Environmental Science and Policy, disciplinary tracks in Environmental Chemistry and Physics, and a thematic minor.

Tennessee, Nashville, GlobalShift University
A new global university educates and trains a new generation of positive change agents who will work in existing and newly created public and private institutions towards the solution of the world’s most vexing and universal problems.

California, Oakland, Holy Names University
A fully-accredited Master of Arts in Culture & Spirituality blending religion, art, science and justice into an all-embracing, global cosmology. Unique for its focus on spirituality within the academic realm.

New York, Ghent, The Nature Institute
The Nature Institute develops new qualitative and holistic approaches to seeing and understanding nature and technology. Through research, publications, and educational programs it creates a new paradigm that embraces nature’s wisdom in shaping a sustainable and healthy future.

Bahamas, Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Island School
An holistic approach to island ecosystems, philosophy of collaboration and relationship building, and intrinsic bond between primary research and education, helps to create models of effective resource management and sustainable development. These model systems help to enhance conservation initiatives and economic prosperity at local, regional, and global scales.

Washington State, Seattle, Antioch University, Center for Creative Change
A dynamic and innovative graduate center that prepares students to become effective leaders by learning how to facilitate positive and sustainable change in organizations, communities and the environment. Creates social change by actively engaging with a real-world organization or community.

Chicago, Archeworks
An alternative design school: students work in multidisciplinary teams with nonprofit partners to create design solutions for social and environmental concerns. Archeworks is located in the heart of River North, Chicago’s cultural arts district.

Northern California, Permaculture Institute
If commercial agriculture (with its bulldozers, mono-crops, fences, pesticides, and herbicides) is rape of the Earth, and if standard organic gardening is consensual sex with the Earth, then permaculture is ecstatic tantric union with the Earth.


Outward Bound Canada: Urban Adventure Programs
Programs at the Brick Works weave the educational values of Outward Bound into the fabric of the community through cutting-edge experiential education programs and partnerships”

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University
Its Environment, Sustainability and Society (ESS) program encourages students to pursue the academic discipline of their choice–anything from theatre to biology to business–and combine it with a major in Environment, Sustainability and Society.

Vancouver, University of British Columbia 
Pledged to make sustainability the foundation for campus operations, research, and teaching. Faculty, staff, and students factor ecological, social, and economic consequences into all of their personal and professional decisions.

Toronto, University of Toronto, Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment 
Collaborative programs are offered together with departments, such as geography, chemistry, earth sciences, psychology, philosophy, anthropology and others. Distance education and certificate programs also provide opportunities for professional development, as do regular workshops in areas such as Environmental Finance and the Natural City.

York University, Sustainable Enterprise Academy 
Educates the educators. The Education Leaders’ Seminar equips senior education officials to lead the integration of sustainability as a core value in all aspects of formal education including policy, curriculum, teaching, learning, professional development, and the sustainable management of human, physical and financial resources. 

Toronto, Institute Without Boundaries
Sees the designer as a problem solver with the ability to effect positive change for humanity. A place where students, teachers, industry and community experts come together not only as creators and designers, but also as ambassadors of hope.

British Columbia, Cortes Island, Hollyhock Leadership Institute
Programs, retreats and conferences focus on four main themes: Well Being; Wisdom Teachings; Arts & Culture; Business, Leadership & Social Change.More than 2000 people have been trained into skilled, strategic and inspired leaders to lead social movements.

Vancouver Island, EcoNest Intensive
An accelerated learning experience in the philosophy and specialized techniques of EcoNest construction.  This is a very full and challenging 16-17 days of education and hands-on training that changes the way you think about shelter and our impact on the planet.


Costa Rica, Earth University
Entrepreneurship, environmental and social consciousness, ethical values, and scientific and technical knowledge are the four key pillars of a four-year program divided into three 15-week trimesters annually. Graduates earn a licenciatura degree in Agronomy. The campus is located in Guacimo, Limon Province, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica, Cartago, ASODECAH
Agroecological Farm and Environmental School offers a variety of ecological education programs for Costa Rican children, youth, adults, and interested foreign visitors. The Agroecological Farm dedicates itself to the alternative use of resources.

Brazil, Pirenópolis, Goias, Ecocentro IPEC/Ecoversidade
The community exists on 25 hectares (60 acres) of land and is located in Pirenópolis in the state of Goias, central Brazil.  Ecoversidade offers the following programs:  Applied Permaculture for a Sustainable Future; Water Management; Bioconstruindo – Natural Building; Living Routes – Ecological Design; Sustainable Schools; Ecovillage Design; Renewable Energies Design; Permaculture on the Table. Think of IPEC as a living/working permaculture construction site.

Parana, Universidade Federal do Paraná (NDS/UFPR)
Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability

Mexico, Tepoztlan, Morelos,  Huehuecoyotl Eco-village
Located in the volcano belt of central Mexico, Huehuecoyotl was founded in 1982 by a diverse international group of nomadic artists and musicians, political activists and ecologists who had spent 10 years traveling all over the world.  The community is dedicated to the modeling and research of lifestyles based on ecology, the arts, true democracy and the practice of holistic health methods, which address the well being of individuals and communities in a sustainable ecological balance.