Fall 2023 Honors 135 Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture Syllabus

HONORS 135- Section 005 Fall 2023

Beyond Sustainability: The Methodology and Practices of Permaculture

Tuesday 2:30 pm to 4:00 pm 210 Tappan Hall

Instructor: Madeline C. Dunn

Email: maddunn@umich.edu

Office hours are by appointment


This class aims to engage you all in the lifestyle surrounding permaculture principles and ethics. Permaculture stands for permanent-agriculture and is a design science that uses patterns found in nature to create zero waste, regenerative systems. We will spend some time analyzing permaculture design within food and social systems. However, I am most interested in you discovering how to use the 12 principles and 3 ethics ( earth care, people care, and fair share ) to enhance your daily lives and inspire the use of holistic and systems thinking in your career and senior thesis planning. Permaculture as a design science can also be used to regenerate happiness and well-being within societies and within our minds. Through the outside of class assignments, you will gain skills in interviewing, utilization of multi-media, and prepare yourselves for the construction of your own Honors Thesis project: a task in which you will all be embarking on during your time here at the University of Michigan and possibly beyond.

Classroom Environment:

Respect yourselves, your classmates, and me by completing the required readings and actively participating in the appropriate amount of outside of class activities. This will inherently enhance both class discussion as well as the quality of the online class blog site which I am using to document the work completed in this section of Honors 135. Class may not always extend through the entire 1.5 hours of time allocated towards this section. This longer class block is intended to give us time to meet in the Nichols Arboretum or Matthaei Botanical Gardens if necessary. If we finish discussion before our time is up, you will be free to leave early.


Attendance is required. If you miss a day of class, you can make it up by completing one extra outside of class activity listed on the list, or coming up with one of your own, and blogging about.

Required Texts:

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren

The Permaculture Activist Magazine- As a class, we have a diverse set of copies of this publication to share throughout the semester. Students will circulate them between each other at the beginning of each class. Remember to take personal notes and keep track of the articles that inspire you as well as articles that you disagree with for our discussion on the last day of class. This inherently teaches sustainable and sharable community development within the classroom environment. See the CTools resources folder labeled Permaculture Activist Magazines for a complete list of our class copies.


This class is counted as pass or fail credit therefore your engagement with the material will be based on blog posts and attentiveness during class. Your engagement with the speakers will be measured based on the quality of questions that you come prepared with to class.

Required outside of class activities:

Below is a list of required outside of class activities you must all complete by the end of the year. Feel free to attend your four required outside of class field trips with a group, a partner, or alone. You are also required to choose two options from the secondary list found on CTools in the resources folder titled Outside of Class Activities, in addition to the four below. Please see CTools for specific instructions/directions on each outside of class activity.

1) Go to the farmers market in Kerrytown and interview at least two stand owners in order to create a photojournalism assignment that you will post to the blog no later than October 1 st 2023.

2) Conduct Holmgrens self-audit no later than October 15 th 2023. We will discuss these in class. There is no need to post your self-audits to the blog and you are not required to send them to me. I want you to be honest with yourself and have the ability to come back and revise this on your own time.

3) Submit an opinion piece on a topic we have covered this semester to a local, regional, national, or even global publication and post it to the blog no later than October 29 th 2023.

4) Keep a waste journal for three days this semester and blog about the experience no later than November 5 th 2023 (all in one post please so remember to take long-hand notes during the exercise). Make sure that at least one day is a weekend and one is a week day. This can include taking photos of the waste, creating an art project with the waste and documenting it, or simply recording the waste and journaling about the experience. You will first want to create a definition of waste. See this example of a semester long waste journal that I kept: http://mywastejournal.wordpress.com/



Everyone is required to personally post to our class blog . Blogging can be done in pairs of two if you wish to embark on a point/counterpoint style piece. Each week, you are required to upload at least one post to the blog. These posts are separate from the brief paragraphs that you are required to post on your outside of class activities. Blog posts can consist of the following: your opinion of a lecture on campus or in Ann Arbor and how it relates to permaculture, commentary on the content our guest speaker (if there was one) of the week shared with the class and how the topic relates to permaculture principles and ethics, or on a theme/pattern you discovered within the print material for this course. There may be weeks where I give you a theme to blog about but overall you have autonomy within your posts and posting style. Blogging can be in the form of a video, photo journalism assignment, written text- poem, rap, short essay, or any other creative format you come up with.

9/10/13 Week 1: Course overview/Get to know each other

Before Class:

Please complete the Planet Blue online ambassador training program: http://sustainability.umich.edu/pba/planet-blue-ambassadors

In Class:

Go over the effectiveness of the Planet Blue Online Ambassador Training and any surprises/concerns you have with it.

Interview each other in preparation for required Ann Arbor Farmers Market photojournalism assignment.

9/17/13 Week 2: Sustainability Education

Before Class:

*Read articles on CTools under the folder labeled 9/17/13 Week 2 Materials

*Read Preface, Introduction and Ethical Principles of Permaculture of Holmgrens Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability.

In Class:

Class will be held at Nichols Arboretum. See CTools announcement Directions to the Nichols Arboretum for directions. We will identify permaculture systems in nature as well as envision how the land looked hundreds of years ago and what it may look like after human existence . Class will start at 2:50 pm (10 minutes late) and end at 3:50 pm to support your travel to and from the Arboretum.

9/24/13 Week 3: Feel, Before You Act

Before Class:

Principle 1: Observe and Interact in Holmgren

Principle 2: Catch and Store Energy in Holmgren

In Class: Plant walk in Nichols Arboretum with Zach Gizicki

10/1/13 Week 4: Intelligent Design

Before Class:

Principle 3: Obtain a Yield in Holmgren

Farmers market photojournalism assignment due

In Class:

Class will be held at the Chiwara Permaculture Research and Design Lab. Class will start at 3:00 pm (20 minutes late) and end at 3:45 pm to support your travel to and from this location. See CTools announcement Directions to Chiwara R&D Lab for directions.

10/8/13 Week 5: A Regenerative You

Before Class:

Principle 4: Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback in Holmgren

Principle 5: Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services in Holmgren

In Class:

Guest Speaker- Bryan Mets speaks about the human carbon cycle .

10/15/13 Week 6: Fall Break

10/22/13 Week 7: Waste not Want Not/Local Food Supporting a Healthy You, Community, and Economy

Before Class:

Principle 6: Produce No Waste in Holmgren

Holmgrens Self-Audit exercise due

Principle 7: Design from Patterns to Details in Holmgren

Principle 8: Integrate Rather than Segregate in Holmgren

In Class:

We will be visiting the Campus Farm at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Please meet in front of the Michigan League at 2:40 pm to catch the green cabs. We will be at the farm for roughly 40 minutes. We will briefly speak with a 4 th grade class from Summers Knoll and tour the Campus Farm learning about bio-mimicry in agriculture systems as well as proper harvesting and consumption of the various plants and herbs on site.

10/29/13 Week 8: Sustainable/Regenerative Land Use

Before Class:

Principle 9: Use Small and Slow Solutions in Holmgren

Principle 10: Use and Value Diversity in Holmgren

Op-ed piece due

In Class:

Guest Speakers- Mark Angelini and Trevor Newman from Roots to Fruits Edible and Ecological Land Landscape Design .

11/5/13 Week 9:

Before Class:

Principle 11: Use Edges and Value the Marginal In Holmgren

Principle 12: Creatively Use and Respond to Change in Holmgren

Waste Journal Assignment Due


This weeks blog post must be an analysis of how the permaculture principles were and were not modeled within the structure of this course. Also, briefly state how you would have structured the course differently if you were teaching it as well as what you would have kept the same.

In Class:

Class will be held at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Please meet in front of the Michigan League at 2:40 pm to catch the green cabs. We will be at the gardens for roughly 40 minutes focusing on the honey bee sanctuary and speaking with UM Campus Farm Manager Parker Anderson.

11/12/13 Week 10: Wrapping Up

Before Class:

Revisit your initial definitions of the word permaculture from the beginning of the semester and come up with a new one based on your new knowledge of the theory and practice.

Please review your self-audit and come to class prepared to discuss what you learned about yourself through this assignment.

In Class:

Discuss what we all learned from the class and each other roundtable style and discuss your favorite Permaculture Activist Magazine articles.