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Course Information

Instructor Info:Tatiana Schreiber
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Friday
01:00 PM - 04:00 PM Cole Science Center 3-OPEN

This course focuses on the theory and practice of agroecology as an approach to addressing both social and ecological health and well-being in farming systems. Students will become familiar with the ecological conditions that support or undermine the health of agro-ecosystems and the effects of different agricultural methods on the maintenance of biodiversity in farm fields and the surrounding landscape. We will also consider the social conditions that support or undermine the well-being of both human and natural systems, and social movements that attempt to promote alternative approaches. An important dimension of the course is collaborative research and practice in applied agroecology via individual and team projects. Students will have the opportunity to consider a range of methods and trends such as organic agriculture, permaculture, eco-agriculture and others within the broader framework of agroecology. The course will culminate with team presentations of model agro-ecological systems. There will be some experiments that will be carried out in the greenhouse and/or on the farm, and several field trips to local farms.

Course Objectives:

Objectives:  The readings, class discussions, films, guest lectures/field trips and presentations students will engage with over the course of the semester are designed to help build an array of skills and understandings related to the theory, practice, and social change movements encompassed by the idea of agroecology.  Students can expect to gain an appreciation of the overarching themes of the course which concern four thematic areas as follows:

 1. Ecological Principles and Biodiversity: Review of basic ecological concepts with a focus on biodiversity conservation. (Primary focus Weeks 1 – 5)

*Concepts of Sustainability, Resilience, Ecological Integrity and Ecological Health

*Soil Health, Plant Health, Human Health

 2. The agroecology of food systems across culture/geographies:  (primary focus weeks 6 – 10)

*Industrial Agriculture- Green Revolution, Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering

*Alternative Agricultural Models in Diverse Ecosystems:

*Indonesia - Rice/Fish Culture and Polyculture Ponds

*Mesoamerica - Agroecosystems in the Humid Tropics

*Semi-Arid - Southwest U.S. or Kenya

*U.S. – Prairie Permaculture

*Other examples which students will present.


3. Social Dimensions of Agroecosystems (focus of weeks 11 – 14

 *Economic Systems and Agricultural Systems - what is the relationship?

*Valuing Local Knowledge

*Whole System Planning at different scales (household, landscape, farm, community, bioregion, world)

*Planning Healthy Agroecosystems - environmental health, human health, cultural health

*Movements for social change – food justice, food sovereignty, the right to farm

 4. Agroecology in Practice - Designing an Agroecological Project (focus of weeks 11 – 14)

 *Students will work in teams to put what they have learned into practice by designing small-scale models for agroecological systems. These will be presented to the class and possibly the wider college community at the end of the semester. Alternatively, some students may choose to begin a farm-scale experiment (or other research project) that may continue after the end of the semester. These will need to be chosen in consultation with me and the farm team  - you will present work in progress at end of semester.

 *Designs for potential application at Hampshire are encouraged!

 Cumulative Skills: Independent Work, Multiple Cultural Perspectives, Writing and Research

 *Through active reading, research, oral presentations, team projects and written assignments students will develop their abilities to think critically about both the social and scientific contexts of farming systems. To that end, the course requires students to critically evaluate sources of information; practice reading and interpreting peer-reviewed and scientific literature; engage in some form of collaborative or participatory research including experimental design; develop creative strategies for presenting complex ideas; and reflect consciously on their own learning processes. 



Evaluation Criteria:

 Your evaluation will be based on your work on each project in the following proportions:

 1. Class participation – 25% (includes all short assignments and contributions to class wiki)

2. Book Review – 10%

3.  Alternative Agricultural System Report – 25% (Proposal/Bib 5, report 10, presentation 10)

4. Collaborative Experiment (all members of team graded equally) – 20%

5. Team Project (all members of team graded equally) – 20%

 To receive an evaluation in this course, all assignments must be completed by the last day of class. If you have not completed all the work at that point, we can discuss the possibility of an your taking an incomplete in the course. This will only be possible if you have completed 75% of the course work by the last day of class; even in that case we will still need to negotiate whether or not an incomplete will be possible.



Additional Info:

Requirements: Students in this class are expected to participate actively in class discussion, reading, reflective thinking, and writing. Much of our learning will take place through shared learning activities such as presentations and team teaching. My role is to guide you in this process, challenging you to think deeply and ask new questions, and encouraging you in your own interests as these develop. Time will be allotted each week for large and small group discussion, project planning, and lab work and/or farm visits. Students are expected to spend at least six to eight hours a week of preparation and work outside of class time. This time includes reading, research, writing and presentation planning.

Attendance is required and expected for every class, since much of the learning that will take place in this class will emerge from class discussion and activities. That said, situations may come up which make attendance impossible; up to two absences may be excused if you contact me in advance (or, in an emergency, as soon as possible after the fact).  More than two excused absences will reflect negatively in your evaluation. More than four absences will require discussion with me to determine whether and how you can receive an evaluation for the course. More than six absences for any reason will result in no evaluation.  The only exception to these policies are absences due to extreme weather. (See weather challenges below).  Again, advance notification is required if at all possible. Absence from class will not lessen your responsibility for timely completion of course requirements. If you must miss a class, it is appropriate to meet with another student to discuss what you missed, and to do any missed readings or assignments.  Keep in mind, however, that in a discussion-based class, it is not possible to make up for participation in discussion through reviewing someone else’s notes. You will gain much more from this class through your presence and active engagement. Preparation for each class involves doing the assigned reading, taking notes, and preparing questions that reflect knowledge of the material and contribute to an intellectually challenging discussion. Consistently arriving late or unprepared will constitute absence from class.

Email: Communication concerning the course will take place via your Hampshire email account.  Make sure you read your Hampshire email regularly!  You can always have your Hampshire email forwarded to another account. I try to respond to email from students as promptly.  However, it’s possible that I will be away from my email from time to time. If you do not hear back from me within 24 hours, please re-send your email.

Classroom Policies: In addition to the attendance, preparation, and communication requirements noted above, we will together develop the guidelines we are to follow so as to have the most productive learning experience. My own initial guidelines to ensure a respectful and safe classroom atmosphere are as follows:

*arrive on time; consistent late arrival will constitute absence from the class and will  be noted on your evaluation. If you do arrive late, please enter quietly so as not to disrupt our discussion;

*maintain a quiet classroom so that all speakers can be heard: if you are restless and need to get up and move around, please do so quietly and don’t disrupt discussion;

*students may eat or drink during class time as long as you do so quietly and unobtrusively: bringing snacks to share is welcome;

*cell phones must not be used in class, and must be turned off;

 *note-taking on laptops or device is acceptable, as is looking up something on-line to facilitate class discussion. However, any use of laptops, cell phones, or other electronic devices for purposes unrelated to the class is not acceptable and will constitute an absence.

Weather Cancellations: If the college is closed, class is cancelled. In addition, because I live 65 miles away in Vermont, and weather may be different there, if driving conditions are unsafe I may cancel the class. Please be sure to check your email and Moodle if weather is questionable! Because this class meets only once a week, a missed class is significant. I have built into the schedule one make- up class in case we need to cancel one class. If any other classes need to be cancelled we will conduct some class activities on Moodle.