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SPECIAL TOPICS: Natural Building and Carnival Architectonics

Green Background with image of Wa Samaki Ecosystems and text detailing the call for submissions

Wa Samaki Ecosystems, Trinidad and Tobago
SPECIAL TOPICS: Natural Building and Carnival Architectonics 

 *Photo Credit: Victoria Ho &  Michael Lee Poy

Course Code:  0.5 cr GDES- S3002 Special Topics 

This land-based program invites students to a 15-day workshop in Freeport Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago) to Wa Samaki Ecosystems, a 35-acre permaculture-designed and operated farm. Students are guided through the core ethics of the program: Care for the earth, people and community. These ethics provide a framework for the principles that foster a regenerative relationship between land and people and are instrumental in designing and developing sustainable human settlements and institutions.   

Course Description:  

In this land-based and experiential learning course, with Professor Michael Lee Poy, students will investigate the Wa Samaki site and apply permaculture design principles through a variety of project-based exercises. Students will learn about the theory of permaculture and the evolution of site-specific design practices from Traditional Ecological Knowledge, as well as natural building techniques by assisting to build a functional cob house structure. Course topics will include mapping/leveling, companion planting, foraging, landscaping, soil remediation, energy cycling, climate change, ecosystems, biogeography, wildlife restoration, water conservation, forest/trees, recycling, social systems and economy, etc. The interdisciplinary course will support students to incorporate holistic approaches to sustainability and use hands-on, studio-based practice tools to generate innovative responses to site-specific challenges. Students will also consider how Carnival arts can be a teaching tool in sustainability and express practices of resistance to unsustainable social, economic, material systems. Moko Jumbie and Blue Devils masquerade practices will be investigated and designed to be featured in the Toronto Caribbean Carnival 2023. 
Learning Outcomes/ Skills Developed:  
By the end of the course, students will be able to:  

  • Understand and apply basic permaculture design strategies for water, soil, garden, and community systems.  

  • Understand the theory of permaculture site design process.   

  • Identify relevant, locally abundant, non-toxic materials for natural building construction in any climate or region.  

  • Link sustainability concepts to small-scale shelter construction projects.  

  • Understand the basics of Caribbean Carnival arts and the links to sustainability concepts.  

A final individual and/or group project will fulfil 0.5 credit course work.  

Travel Experience:  

Students must be available to travel July 2nd, 2023 - July 18th, 2023 


Students in their second year or above from all faculties are eligible to apply. Experience in construction (physical labor in a tropical environment) and hands on making capabilities will be favoured. Funding for travel and accommodation is available based on certain criteria, please see below*. Due to the remote location of Wa Samaki Ecosystems, accommodations are limited to shared rooms only.  If you have any questions about the physical accessibility of the permaculture site or accommodations, please contact the International Projects & Collaborations Office:    

Wa Samaki Ecosystems, created in 1997, offers a working example of a Permaculture operation producing cut flowers for the local market, organic food for our household consumption, wildlife conservation, watershed rehabilitation, Permaculture Design Courses, workshops and volunteer and internship opportunities.   

Check out our previous experience at Wa Samaki HERE 

Submission Deadline:  Sunday March 26th, 2023, by 11:59pm 

How to Apply: 

Apply through this FORM 

As a part of the application process, select students will be contacted to participate in a 15-minute interview with the lead faculty member on Thursday, March 30th.  

OCAD U seeks to reduce barriers to participation and increase the engagement of underrepresented students in international learning opportunities.  *Funding for travel and accommodations are available to targeted domestic undergraduate students through the support of the Government of Canada’s Global Skills Opportunity program. 

Target groups are defined through this program as follows:  

  • Low-income students: either having 1.) been approved for a Canada/Provincial Student Loan, Canada Student Grant or similar non-repayable student financial assistance in your province or territory for your current program of study OR 2.) In the absence of receiving non-repayable student financial assistance, can provide information to demonstrate that they require financial support in order to cover the estimated costs/expenses of this course.  

  • Indigenous students: First Nations, Métis or Inuk (Inuit). This includes urban and unaffiliated Indigenous peoples.  

  • Students with disabilities: For the purposes of this program, disability is defined as a difficulty or impairment due to a long-term condition or health problem and/or experiences a limitation in their daily activities. Students do not need to be registered with OCAD U’s Student Accessibility Services, rather they are only required to only self-identify.   

This funding is to assist with flight and estimated costs for meals and local travel are available to domestic undergraduate students who self-identify as one or more of these groups.  Accommodation will additionally be covered for all those students. Participating students (domestic and international) for whom the costs of travel present a barrier are invited to apply to have the cost of their accommodation covered. Along with your application you will be asked to self-identify in order for us to gauge student funding eligibility. Note, your responses will not affect the evaluation of your application to participate. *Students who have already received GSO funding are not eligible * 

Accepted participants will be supported by the International Programs and Collaboration Office in the application process to receive these funds.  Participants will be required to complete forms and documents prior to departure and post experience. 

Full Funding available to those who qualify!

Estimated Costs/expenses: There is no additional associated participation or application fee, however, all selected students will be registered for this course and will be responsible for the associated OCAD tuition for a 0.5 credit course. 

Estimated Flight cost  

$1030.00 CAD 

Accommodations (Shared rooms) 

$488.00 CAD 

Meals provided while onsite Wa Samaki 

$612.70 CAD  

Local Travel (airport pick up/drop off) 

$41.25 CAD 

Other expenses + workshop resources 

$688.00 CAD 

Total estimated cost:    

$2859.95 CAD 



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