We believe in learning by doing. All of our programs share in common a hands-on experiential approach that encourages students to just plunge in and get dirty. Sustainability, after all, does not result from one single master stroke of wisdom, but rather from an ongoing attitude that sees problem-solving as a delightful adventure, messing up as an opportunity, and interconnection as part of freedom. To this end, we encourage students to put their attention on the immediate application of their values. We, for instance, might ask students to come up with a defendable and measurable definition of sustainability and then live it for a day. The next day, we'll debrief, ask for a completely different kind of definition of sustainability and do it again...and again, until the abstract ideas begin to mean something on the ground, and those on-the-ground experiences and feelings begin to be put into words and ideas. Then we'll ask students to take their best definition and live it for a week, first as a group and then as individuals. Over the same time period, students will be working beside inspiring role models, while getting to know their definitions and how they apply them. They will also witness, participate in and build on the process of other students. The end goal is not only a toolkit of possibility and alignment of idea and action, mind and body, individual and community, but also a deepening of the practice of creating alignment, because next week the world may change, and we'll need to do it again.
Yes, in the process of such practices, students will be learning about things like making goat cheese and biodiesel, ecodesign and soil restoration, financial systems and waste management. They may even find a trade and begin an apprenticeship, but really at the core of what students will be learning and practicing at HDC are the skills of conscious choosing, the skills of figuring out what matters to them and then gracefully putting what matters front and center in their lives. We emphasize strong communication skills, for example, because until one can have a quality dialogue in times of stress and complexity and change, wise choices will be hard to find. We also emphasize familiarity and comfort with the steps of choosing: the ability to observe and notice one's inside and outside worlds; the ability to imagine possibility; the ability to choose clearly and with commitment; the ability to follow through, work hard, persevere and enjoy the process, all while staying true to the plan and while continuing to notice one's inside and outside worlds so as to begin the cycle of choosing again.
In the end, students will have moved towards mastery of the skills to find and carry out sustainable solutions and sustainable ways of being. They will have applied their values to their housing, finances, food, transportation, relationships, health, thinking patterns, livelihoods, and backyards. They will also have a portfolio full of sustainability-related experiences and successes. Longer=term students will have learned a trade and/or started a business. They will understand the systems of the community and the land, and will have found a way to contribute. They will have created a lifestyle that aligns with their values; found the simplicity on the far side of complexity; and have the skills to do it again and again in the communities of their choosing.