top of page

Civic Ecology

"Nature Education" online course

  • Hundreds of participants from over 50 countries have taken this popular course

  • This course offers 20 learning hours

This course may be offered again in the future.




Course Overview

Students in this online course explore the people, places, and practices that restore nature and revitalize neighborhoods. Civic ecology practices – such as community gardening, stream restoration, tree planting, litter cleanups, oyster restoration, and constructing bioswale or memorial gardens — are a means for communities to rebuild and express resilience in places impacted by environmental degradation, poverty, and crime, and after natural disaster and conflict. Civic ecology is the study of the individual, community, and environmental outcomes of these practices, and their roles in governance and ecosystems. Participants in this interdisciplinary course learn about contemporary thinking in social-ecological systems, resilience, and nature and human and community well-being. They also contribute to a local civic ecology practice through the course service learning project.

Learning Outcomes

Throughout this course, you will:

  • Explore the people, places, and practices that restore nature and revitalize neighborhoods, making a difference in ways big and small.

  • Discuss and evaluate contemporary thinking in resilience, social-ecological systems, and the relationship between nature and human/community wellbeing.

  • Build an understanding of how civil ecology enables those with limited resources to defy and cope with daily struggles, including poverty and environmental degradation, and after disaster and conflict.

  • Acquire the knowledge and skill set to enact change in your own community.

  • Complete a civic ecology Service Learning project to turn classroom learning into real-life application.

  • Be part of a global community of like-minded people who share their stewardship practices, ideas, and resources.

This course is ideal for a learner who is intrigued by how we can link social and environmental solutions, or has a desire to delve into an emerging 21st Century, cross-disciplinary subject area. For a complete description of the course, see Syllabus_Civic_Ecology_18.


Many of the readings are from Civic Ecology: Adaptation and Transformation from the Ground Up, by Marianne E Krasny and Keith G Tidball and published by MIT Press. These and all other assigned readings can be accessed for free on the course platform. Feel free to order a copy of the book for yourself but that is not required to complete the course.


  • Marianne Krasny (Chief instructor) — Professor, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University 

  • Keith Tidball (Instructor) — Senior Extension Associate, Department of Natural Resources and Assistant Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension

  • Alex Kudryavtsev (Instructor) — Extension Associate, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University 

  • Yue Li (Instructor) — Postdoc, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University

  • Lee Yoke Lee (Discussion Board Coordinator) — Project coordinator, Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County

  • Braven Yu (Course Assistant) — MS student, Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University



We will conduct weekly webinars based on our new civic ecology book: Grassroots to Global: Broader Impacts of Civic Ecology, edited by Marianne E Krasny. Cornell University Press has generously offered students in our course a 30% discount on this book. Enter the code 09CA on the Cornell University Press website for the book once you enroll for the course. 

Social Media. Post to our Civic Ecology MOOC Facebook Group about your own stewardship activities and civic ecology related news items in your city or country. Learn about civic ecology practices from around the world, engage in discussions of civic ecology ideas, and offer support to your fellow students.

Course Schedule

  • Week 1 — Civic Ecology: What and Why? Civic Ecology Principles

  • Week 2 — Broken Places. Love of Life, Love of Place

  • Week 3 — Learning. Creating Community, Creating Connections

  • Week 4 — Social-Ecological Memories. Ecosystem Services

  • Week 5 — Health and Well-Being. Governance

  • Week 6 — Resilience. Policy

  • Week 7 — Final Projects



To receive Cornell certificate, participants must: (1) respond to ALL weekly discussion board questions, (2) post at least two comments for other participants in each week, and (3) complete the final project — absolutely no later than by the last day of the course. After the last day of the course, assignments absolutely cannot be accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Course email When you email us, please always start the subject of your email with “Civic Ecology MOOC” so that we can find your message.

  2. How to create a community group within this course? Fill in this form: Then please advertise your group among other course participants (e.g., by posting your group’s Facebook group on the course’s Facebook group or WeChat).

  3. Why do you have four types of enrollment for different fees? Nearly all students pay the $50 fee. Some course participants are able to pay more and sponsor a student who is unable to pay. Only students who are not able to take the course because of the fee use the options of  paying a smaller fee or taking the course for free. We are committed to creating equal access to the course materials and to instructor feedback regardless of a student’s ability to pay. 

  4. If I pay $100 to sponsor another student, can I link with the student I sponsor? No, we keep who pays and who doesn’t pay anonymous. However, you will be able to connect with students from many different countries through the course discussion board and social media.

  5. Can I sponsor more than one student? Yes, we would be grateful for your support of other students, especially in developing countries, who otherwise cannot afford paying for this course.

  6. How long is the course? This is a 7-week course, and it requires about 4 hours of work per week. All required learning materials are offered asynchronously. Only optional webinars are synchronous, and they are recorded in case if you prefer to watch at another time.

  7. Can I submit the final project in my native language? We strongly encourage you to submit all assignments in English so that instructors and other students can give you feedback. We also accept and give feedback on assignments submitted in Chinese and Spanish. 

  8. How will I receive course certificates? You will receive your PDF course certificate within one month after the end of the course — providing you fulfilled the course requirements.

  9. What social media are used in this course? We use an optional Facebook group and WeChat group where students and instructors share ideas and resources. Students gain a great deal from exchanging ideas and resources and “meeting” fellow students and instructors on social media. However, participating in social media is not required to earn a certificate. Only course participants can be part of this Facebook group. Do NOT invite your friends or colleagues to this group. You can participate in both the Facebook and WeChat group (WeChat is mostly in Chinese).

  10. Which languages are used in the course? Readings and lectures are in English. We include Chinese, Spanish, and English subtitles for all lectures. We have Chinese TAs who provide additional support for Chinese speakers.

  11. Can I share course materials with my colleagues and friends? You are NOT allowed to share, copy, distribute, or forward any readings from this course. They are only for your own learning. All readings in this course are copyright protected, and nobody is permitted to share them outside this course. Course syllabus cannot be shared. You are welcome to share your learning experiences and course projects with your colleagues and friends.

  12. Can I learn about terminology/vocabulary used in the course? Yes, please refer to this document: Vocabulary.pdf

bottom of page