permaculture design CERTIFICATE course

Are you ready to be an Earth Healer?

In our new 15 week online permaculture design certificate course Permaculture Design Course, we will explore an internationally-recognized Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) curriculum with a grounding in spirit and a focus on organizing and activism.

Learn how it is possible to design human systems that mimic natural systems, using a minimum of energy and resources and creating real abundance and social justice. We will cover principles and practices for how to read the landscape, how to heal soil and cleanse water, design integrated systems, harvest water, drought-proof land, build soil, sequester carbon, make compost, compost tea, and biochar, and how to bio-remediate toxins. Explore the solutions to climate change, and the strategies and organizing tools that can put them in place.

Earth Activist Training is unique in weaving social permaculture aspects throughout our course*: learn how to organize our human communities and groups, how to resolve conflicts, make decisions, work together effectively, and sustain our spirits. We are currently exploring how to successfully move the social permaculture components online.

*Traditionally our in person trainings are taught interactively, not just through classroom presentation, lecture and discussion, but through games, songs, ceremony, and a variety of practical, hands-on, outdoor projects.

Read more EAT’s founder & executive director, Starhawk,

her co-teacher Charles Williams as well as other community leaders.

Who is this training for?

We firmly believe that everyone can benefit from learning the tools and insights of permaculture to apply toward the broad goal of earth regeneration. Permaculture has solutions not just for landscapes and agricultural systems, but also for social design, public policy and survival strategies for these challenging times.

Our students include

    • Young people looking for a career oriented around sustainability
    • People in mid-life looking for a new direction for existing or new work
    • Retirees wanting new fields to explore
    • Established professionals wanting to broaden and deepen their knowledge of sustainable alternatives
    • People involved with intentional communities, co-housing and eco-villages, or those who want to start or join one
    • Gardeners, farmers, ranchers, and land stewards of all kinds
    • Green business entrepreneurs who want to have a broader understanding of the possibilities
    • Teachers, environmental educators, and youth workers
    • Anyone involved in gardening, especially school gardens and community gardens
    • Architects and landscape designers
    • Artists, musicians, poets, writers and dancers, and anyone who collaborates creatively
    • Community organizers and activists from many movements, including environmental justice, food justice, global justice, anti-oppression, human rights workers, and others
    • Dreamers, visionaries, and more…

Topic and Projects Covered

Hands-on projects vary with weather and needs, but may include mapping, water harvesting structures, graywater or roof catchment, compost, compost teas, sheet mulch, plant propagation, planting trees and shrubs, seed-starting, introductions to natural building concepts (including cob, straw-clay or plastering) and a collaborative design project. Our projects can be tailored to students of varied levels of physical ability and diverse ages and previous experience.

We welcome and enjoy participants of any age (though please email us to discuss attendance by those under age 16). There is no need to have previous experience with permaculture or horticulture, and we can accommodate a broad range of physical abilities or limitations.

Please contact our support team at if you have specific needs you’d like to discuss.

Permaculture ethics, history and principles

We touch on all the topics below, some in more depth than others, given the limitations of a two-week course. The overarching theme we teach in the course is not any specific subject, but rather how they all fit together into systems that can meet our human needs while regenerating the environment around us. At the end of the course, we will spend time providing resources and direction for taking your permaculture studies further and deeper.


  • Observation
  • Reading the landscape
  • Site analysis
  • Zones and Sectors
  • Mapping
  • Design tools and processes
  • Collaborative design projects
  • Broadacre permaculture
  • Urban permaculture
  • Permaculture for gatherings, mobilizations and disaster situations


  • Creating healthy water cycles in living systems
  • Water harvesting
  • Swales, ponds and earthworks
  • Keyline systems
  • Erosion control
  • Rain catchment for roofs
  • Greywater and blackwater systems


  • Soil structure
  • Soil biology
  • Soil building
  • Compost
  • Sheet mulch
  • Compost teas and ferments
  • Mushrooms
  • Bioremediation and mycoremediation
  • Biochar


  • Plant needs
  • Plant guilds and polycultures
  • Cover crops
  • Agroforestry
  • Food forests
  • Plant propagation
  • Tree care: pruning and planting, choosing varieties
  • Sustainable forestry


  • Animals in our systems
  • Raising and feeding “microherds”—healthy soil microbial communities
  • Beneficial insects
  • Bees
  • Worms
  • Humane treatment of animals
  • Poultry
  • Livestock for the homestead
  • Holistic management grazing systems
  • The role of predators
  • Wildlife habitat
  • Alternatives for vegans


  • Climate change and strategies for adaption and mitigation
  • Microclimates
  • Windbreaks
  • Drylands
  • Tropics
  • Wetlands
  • Cold climates


  • Alternative and renewable energy: evaluating and designing systems
  • Active and passive solar
  • Wind
  • Microhydro
  • Alternative fuels and biogas

Natural Building:

  • Insulation and thermal mass
  • Sustainable forest products
  • Cob, straw-bale, light-straw-clay
  • Plasters

Social permaculture:

  • Personal regeneration and self-care
  • Site design to support social aims
  • Urban redesign
  • Group dynamics
  • Communication tools
  • Governance structures for collaborative groups
  • Ecovillages and community design
  • Meeting processes
  • Meeting facilitation
  • Alternative economics

Organizing and activism:

  • Strategic organizing
  • Pro-active and prefigurative movements
  • Campaign planning and organizing
  • Power mapping
  • Organizing in diverse communities


  • Connecting to the spirit in nature
  • Creating ritual and ceremony
  • Grounding and centering
  • Sensing and shifting energy
  • Drumming, dancing, singing and meditation
  • Daily rituals

We are offering our next online course in January


This was a schedule for one of our January 2020 in-person session.

*Starhawk & Charles Williams have transferred this curriculum into a 15 Module online format.*

Course Topics Covered
  • Permaculture principles and ethics
  • Making a spiritual connection with the elements: real air, fire, water, and earth—the equivalent of a “Magic 101” class with Starhawk
  • Nature awareness techniques (such as owl-vision, fox-walking, plant allies, & the language of birds)
  • Humans’ role as Nature-in-Action
  • Pattern thinking in design, strategy, and movement-building
  • Diversity in ecosystems and in political movements
  • Planning for big changes: global warming and peak oil
  • Indefinitely renewable agriculture, urban food growing, garden design, planting for wildlife, and food forests
  • Urban permaculture and strategies for cities
  • How to think like a watershed: collect, conserve, clean, and reuse water
  • Bioremediation: healing soil and water with beneficial bacteria, compost teas, fungi, and plants
  • Soil and forest ecology; ecology as economics, economics as ecology
  • Erosion control and soil conservation
  • “Impermaculture”: temporary systems for encampments, gatherings, and emergency response
  • Renewable energy and efficient design
  • Media strategies
  • Natural building introduction and cob practice
  • Creative access to land and financing
  • Consensus process, facilitation, and conflict resolution
  • Movement building: basics of political organizing, strategy, and direct action
  • Weaving magic and ritual into action
  • How to stay grounded and centered in tough situations
  • Breaking the spell of fear, rage, grief, and frustration
  • How to renew personal energy, avoid burnout, and find hope for our world
Daily rhythm

7:30-8:30     Breakfast
9:00-9:30     Morning Circle
9:30-12:00   Morning Class Session
12:30-1:30   Lunch
1:30-2:00     Break time
2:00-5:30     Afternoon Session
6:00-7:00     Dinner
7:30-10:00   Evening session

Schedule Notes:

Affinity groups of 6-7 members each will do hands-on projects together, and also kitchen chores together every few days.

Outdoor hands-on sessions may be shifted in response to weather. Hands-on sessions usually have multiple stations; students (in affinity groups) work a while at one station, then try another.

During the second week, all students work in small teams on Design Projects, applying class information to practical planning; projects will be presented to full class on last full day.

Evening sessions will begin with a short game or other activity as participants gather, and end with song or circle closing.

Day 1

Registration, getting settled.

Orientation, welcome, introductions, and affinity group formation

Day 2: Air (air represents “beginnings, mind, theory”)

Opening Ritual: observing the elements, casting circle
Principles of permaculture; Patterns

Guest Teacher Jon Young of Wilderness Awareness School– nature observation

Slide show & lecture: Permaculture overview

Day 3: Air

Morning Circle (focus on air)
Zone & sector analysis; Site analysis; Design methodology

Political strategy–Applying permaculture principles: Site, Zone, and Sector analysis
Strategy charette process

Guest teacher Luke Anderson: Biotech and Genetic Engineering

Day 4: Water

Night Class

Morning Circle (focus on water)
Pattern and function; Water harvesting; Dryland strategies; Roofwater harvesting

Hands-on: swales, ponds and water systems

Water trance, Full Moon ritual


Day 5: Water

Morning Circle (focus on water)
Bioremediation, greywater, water purification

Guest teacher Adam Wolpert: Facilitation and group process/structure;
Community land trust; Alternative currencies, ecological economics

Guest teacher Brock Dolman: “Watershed/Waterspread”

Day 6: Earth

Morning Circle (focus on earth)
Soil Building; Composting/vermiculture; Video: “Life in the Soil”

Hands-on: Worm bins, composting, sheet mulching, garden bed prep, cover cropping

7:30 pm: tropical permaculture
9:30 pm: Showing of the Marija Gimbutas video with filmmakers Starhawk and Donna Read

Day 7: Day Off

Sleep late and rest; hike; or private adventure.
Meals served as usual

Day 8: Earth

Morning Circle (focus on earth)
Plants & trees; Forests, agroforestry, windbreaks

Introduce Student Design Project Teams
Hands-on: Planting, pruning, propagating

Talk: Permaculture in action in the world

Day 9: Fire

Morning Circle (focus on fire, energy)
Symbolic and strategic communication
Spells, action and campaign planning
Media strategy and basic methods

Hands-on — Planting a food forest

Urban Permaculture: discussion and slide show

Day 10: Fire

Morning (focus on fire, energy)
Animal guilds; Aquaculture
More on group facilitation

Guest teacher Dave Henson: Corporate Globalization

Nonviolent Direct Action and political strategy

Day 11: Fire

Morning Circle (focus on center)
Passive solar design; Renewable energy
Appropriate technology

Design Time for group projects

optional Student Offerings

Day 12:

Morning Circle (focus on center)
Design Time

Hands-on: Natural building projects: build cob bench; natural plasters

Natural Building Slideshow

Day 13:

Morning Circle
Catch-up time, question time, as needed

Hands-on–Guest teacher Mia Rose: growing mushrooms as bioremediation
Group Design Time

Guest teacher James Stark: “Cultivating Human Communities as though They Were Gardens”

Day 14:

Morning Circle
Design Project presentations

Design Project presentations

Variety show and Celebration!

Day 15:

Morning Circle
Where to from here? Taking it into the world
Closing ritual

Lunch, clean-up, and good-byes

“Amazing, life-altering experience. We all grow and learn so much during this short time. The safe, supportive environment really facilitates people opening up, feeling empowered, and coming into their true potential. We each find our place and voice here, and are able to carry a piece of that back with us into our work… it’s as much about the inspiration, the community, and empowerment as it is about the information.”
– Brenda Whitney, Aurora, Illinois


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