Ecological Design

Integrating creativity and science to develop sustainable human systems

Outside Staircase and Solar Panels at Crossroads Center,

The aim of Ecological Design is to make the world a better place by combining the natural and built environments in ways that value, sustain, and enhance life. Equal emphasis is placed on the health and function of natural systems, fiscal responsibility, and social justice. A liberal arts approach to the world’s problems provides the most sustainable solutions to our current challenges, such as the unequal distribution of resources among the world’s population, climate chaos, drought, and the driving need for urbanization.  Design must be grounded in place and honor the wisdom of local communities while harnessing creativity from around the globe in order to achieve optimum balance.


The Ecological Design curriculum prepares students to demonstrate knowledge and skills from a wide variety of natural and social sciences integrated with the humanities. Students learn to visualize, develop, and share their ideas through coursework in visual arts and aesthetics, communication, and design. Students explore traditional and alternative energies, research common and experimental building materials, and gain deep understanding of design approaches through the integration of coursework and hands-on projects.

Students progressing through this program spend one full Fall or Spring term (Block and Semester), usually during the Sophomore or Junior year, at the Ecosa Institute. Ecosa is a sponsored program of Prescott College, which offers a “suite” of four integrated, coinciding, term-long courses to Prescott College students, visiting students from other universities, and professionals seeking a Certificate in Regenerative Ecological Design. This intensive term is worth 16 semester credits, and students register for four separate Ecosa classes, though the classes are merged and integrated in practice. The Ecosa Institute is located off campus, in downtown Prescott, and includes studio space, classrooms, office space, and library.

Ecological Design students should demonstrate competence in the following:

Art and aesthetics

Carbon neutrality goals and strategies

Climate Change realities and underlying causes


Ecological concepts

Ecological Design concepts and skills

Environmental values

Human and natural interactions

Landscape topics

Social justice concepts


Required Courses

The interdisciplinary nature of Ecological Design means that some of the requirements for this Competence can be met through a student’s Breadth.  Thus several courses from the Breadth may be cross-listed under the Ecological Design Competence, thereby increasing the number of courses in the Competence beyond the 16 minimum.

(16-course minimum; 8 UD minimum) (LD = Lower Division; UD = Upper Division)

  • Ecological Processes in wilderness and urban systems (select both courses)
  • Ecology, Concepts of (LD)
  • Wilderness Orientation (LD)
  • Social Justice (select at least one course)
  • Ecology of War and Peace (LD/UD)
  • Geography of Social Justice (UD)
  • Globalization, Religion, and Social Change (LD/UD)
  • Human Rights Seminar (LD/UD)

Solutions to Social and Environmental Challenges (select Environmental Economics and one Social Science course)

  • American Government: The Political Game (LD/UD)
  • Anthropology (LD)
  • Environmental Politics (UD)
  • New Economics for Strong Sustainability (UD)

Human-Nature Interactions at Various Scales (select at least one course)

  • Conservation Biology (UD)
  • Explorations of Norway: Nature and Culture (UD)
  • Geographic Information Science, Introduction to (LD)
  • Global Environmental Change (LD/UD)
  • Human Ecology (LD)
  • Park and Wilderness Management (LD/UD)
  • Water in the West (LD)
  • Wetland Ecology and Management (UD)

Personal Values (select at least one course)

  • Environmental Ethics (UD)
  • Land Stewards (LD/UD)
  • Philosophy of the Interpretive Naturalists (LD/UD)

Sustainable Practices (select Introduction to Ecological Design and one Energy course)

  • Ecological Design, Introduction to (LD)
  • Energy and the Environment (LD)
  • Small-scale Energy Solutions and Photovoltaic Systems Design (UD)

Aesthetics, Art, and Communication (select both courses)

  • Form and Pattern in Nature (LD)
  • Foundations of Visual Arts (LD)

Drawing Skills (select one course)

  • Observations of Nature: The Art of Scientific Illustration (LD/UD)

Skills in Communicating Ideas and Developing Team Work (this course is highly recommended)

  • Interpersonal Communication (LD)

Practical Application (select at least one course)

  • Advanced Geographical Information Science (UD)
  • Advanced Permaculture (UD)
  • Basic Permaculture for Drylands (LD)
  • Ecological Thinking: Design Strategies for a Sustainable Future (LD/UD)
  • Environmental Policy, Topics in (UD)
  • Small-scale Agriculture (LD)

Courses Taken During the Ecosa Term (select all four required courses)

  • Aesthetics and Ethics in Design (LD/UD)
  • Design Practicum (LD/UD)
  • Materials and Methods of Sustainable Design (LD/UD)
  • The Urban Dilemma (LD/UD)
  • Senior Project (UD)

Sample Sequence of Courses for Ecological Design Emphasis

Year 1: Introduction to Ecological Design, Concepts of Ecology

Year 2: Courses on the Interaction of Humans with the Natural Environment, courses in Sustainable Practices

Year 3: Environmental Economics and the Ecosa Institute Term

Year 4: Courses on Practical Application, and Senior Project


See All >

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