Non-Degree / Dates: 16-20 July

One of the central objectives of education is to foster the formation of systematic thinking. But systematic thought processes and a comprehensive approach is difficult in a conventional education system, where different disciplines are considered to be separate, with no overarching element to connect them all. Fortunately, experience proves that ecology can be one such unifying element.

In this summer course, we will discuss some general ecological principles that will help you to better understand how learning takes place. Using both concrete and metaphorical methods, we will examine how the following concepts relate to learning:

• Ecological levels and organizations
• Ecological factors
• Positive and negative feedback mechanisms in population dynamics
• Complex systems and cycles
• Evolution
• Adaptation
• Relationships between species
• Ecotones and ecosystems
• Environment

The structure of the course is based on the belief that learning is a biological and evolutionary process. Learning is biological in that it is an opportunity to survive, while it is also evolutionary in that it is defined by testing, failing, refining, and trying again. If the environment changes, (re)learning is required. Novel educational approaches will be used to keep things interesting, including tablet computers and bicycles.

In fostering the development of a systematic, comprehensive worldview, an understanding of basic ecological principles is vital. Based on this, we will try to create a learning experience that is a pleasure for the head, heart, and hands.

Why this course?

  • By the end of this course, you will better understand how learning takes place; you will learn to learn.

  • You will experience learning with various new-age and old-school tools, including tablet computers and bicycles.

  • You will be immersed in the ecology of learning.


Mihkel Kangur (PhD in Ecology) — Mihkel is a senior researcher at Tallinn University’s Institute of Ecology. He focuses on the field of palaeoecology and has been the coauthor of several research publications about vegetation history and human influences on the environment. During the last five years, Mihkel has specifically focused on education for sustainable development. As associated professor at Tallinn University, he is responsible for the natural sciences and sustainable development curricula at The School of Health and Natural Sciences. For this, he has co-developed a special course about pedagogical ecology for future teachers. Mihkel Kangur has successfully completed the Ecovillaga Design Education program certified by the Gaia Education Foundation.

Liisa Puusepp (PhD in Ecology) — Liisa is a researcher at Tallinn University’s Institute of Ecology with a background in palaeoecology. She defended her PhD thesis in 2011, which dealt with describing the development of lakes during the last 10,000 years using diatom analysis. Liisa participates in projects, provides lectures, and supervises students on the topics of (palaeo)ecology, ecosystem services, sustainable development education, as well as global education. Additionally, she is a youth teacher at Sagadi Nature School and Nature Academy (an after-school program for children). Liisa Puusepp has successfully completed the Ecovillaga Design Education program certified by the Gaia Education Foundation.


Monday, 10:00-14:00: Introduction to ecology. What is learning, what is ecology, and how are they related? Ecological levels and organizations, ecological factors, positive and negative feedback mechanisms in population dynamics.

Tuesday, 10:00-14:00: Ecology theory: complex systems and cycles, evolution, adaptation, relationships between species, ecotones and ecosystems, umwelt.

Wednesday, 10:00-14:00: Pedagogical Ecology theory.

Thursday, 10:00-14:00: Field trip by bikes to Paljassaare reserve. Physical experiences of learning and ecology.

Friday, 10:00-14:00: Reflections and presentations (final assessment).


This course is suitable for students, specialists, or those interested in education for sustainable development.

Credit points

Upon full participation and completion of course work students will be awarded 3 ECTS points and a diploma of completion.

Course fee

Early-Bird Course Fee (until March 31, 2018)245€
Regular Course Fee (after March 31, 2018)295€

NB! Accommodation and meals are not included in the price.


General Contact (Registration, accommodation, cultural programme, etc):

Information about the course content: Dash Stanford –