Energy fundamentals and community projects

In the fall of 2014, an energy class traveled to Samsø Island, a carbon-negative island in Denmark.

Effectively advocating for renewable energy and implementing local projects require a range of knowledge and skills. Our interdisciplinary curriculum makes it possible to gain a powerful combination of skills that are often spread out across different majors at a typical college or university. Opportunities to work on local energy projects are available to all, not just advanced engineering students.

Students intalling a solar array at COA's Beech Hill Farm.Students intalling a solar array at COA's Beech Hill Farm.The introductory class The Physics and Mathematics of Sustainable Energy, team-taught by an engineer and a physicist, gives students a broad foundation in various aspects of renewable energy and energy conservation. Students may then go on to take more advanced, project-based classes to plan and carry out energy ventures such as installing an array of solar cells on campus or a wind turbine on Beech Hill Farm. We use our campus and farms as laboratories in which students and faculty research and implement renewable energy conservation.

Climate change politics and action

COA students are frequent participants in meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At these meetings, students engage with the process of the negotiations and collaborate with youth activists from around the globe. Back at COA, classes like Global Environmental Politics, Climate Justice, and Environmental Law and Policy give students a solid grounding in the theory and practice of international environmental politics. The student-led group Earth in Brackets meets regularly on campus and sends representatives to UNFCCC meetings, as well as blogging about climate change politics, sustainable development, and environmental justice. Between the energy and dedication of the students, and the support from faculty who are active on the forefront of UNFCCC politics, Earth in Brackets has emerged as a leader in the youth climate justice movement.


Students learn the science behind our changing climate in courses such as Climate and Weather, Seminar in Climate Change, and Environmental Chemistry. Geology courses like Geology of Mt. Desert Island or Geology and Humanity introduce studies of the earth’s climate and its change over multiple time scales.


  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><strong>Reminder</strong>: ‘Areas of Study’ aren’t the only way to think about courses.  Browse and explore <a href="">here</a>.</p></div>
  • <div class="lw_blurbs_body"><p><strong>Reminder</strong>: Areas of Study at COA aren’t majors or formal concentrations. All COA students design their own <a href="/academics/human-ecology-degree/">major in human ecology</a> and are free to chart their own path. Your major is defined by you, not us.</p></div>