Living On/Off the Grid - Taos, New Mexico | Webster University

Study Abroad: Taos, New Mexico

Spring Break 2020: Living On/Off the Grid (SCIN 1800)

Program Description
Have you ever thought about living in a house made out of discarded automobile tires? A home that has a tropical garden in the living room and all the normal comforts of living, but powered by solar electricity and with water caught from the sky? Through a series of extensive and unique field trips, this course allows you this experience in beautiful and historic Taos, New Mexico.

Get your hands dirty building off-the-grid homes, while learning from cutting edge contractors.

The tradition of building off-the-grid is strong in Northern New Mexico due to the remote location, use of traditional and natural materials and opportunities to harvest the natural resources of the sun, wind, and rain. The high desert location is very sunny, with extreme temperatures throughout the year, leading it to be a hot bed of experimental housing concepts including photovoltaic power, wind generators, rainwater catchment, and passive solar building methods.

Program Highlights

  • Live off-the-grid in unique, beautiful architecture while learning about on and off-the-grid systems
  • Engage in hands-on learning in Taos, New Mexico – known as the Solar Capital of the World
  • Learn from experts in Architecture, Solar Power, Catchwater, and Construction

Program Location
Taos is a beautiful and historic location known as the Solar Capital of the World. It is home to the Taos Pueblo, a world heritage site considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the world. 

Taos is where the Earthship was invented, and is the world headquarters for Earthship Biotecture and Biotecture Planet Earth, world leaders in the design and construction of off the grid buildings. These homes are works of art, from the soft adobe plaster to creative re-use of bottles and cans into stunning glass walls, to interior planters that grow bananas and other tropical plants in the high desert climate of Northern New Mexico.

Course Dates: 2/04/2020-3/20/2020
Travel Dates: 3/08/2020-3/13/2020

Course #: SCIN 1800: Living On/Off the Grid 
Faculty Leader: Alix Henry and Julia Griffey
Course Description: This hybrid travel course investigates on-grid vs. off-grid living toward complete sustainability. We will examine how on-grid systems within traditional homes supply water, process waste, generate power, and maintain thermal comfort, and compare these to alternative sustainable systems (black water, grey water, solar power, thermal mass, catch water, etc.) in off-grid homes. Students will complete the majority of their course work in Taos, New Mexico over spring break where they will receive instruction, participate in discussions, execute hands-on experiments, and learn alternative building methods in an off-the-grid home independent of public utilities. Throughout the week, students will travel to various sites around Taos to see exemplifications of concepts discussed in class. This course will have lectures, assignments, discussions, and an exam online prior to the travel portion. Upon their return, students will take another exam and complete an assignment based on their travel experience.

With prior approval, this course can fulfill a requirement within the sustainability minor.

3 credit hours. [GCP: PNW, INTC]

Program Flyer
SCIN 1800: Living On/Off the Grid

Program Cost
Program Fee: $1,160
Study Abroad Fee: $175
Application Deposit: $100
What's included: includes 5 nights shared accommodations in Earthships, airport/train station transfer, on-ground transportation in New Mexico, all cultural and educational activities, some meals.
What's not included: tuition, application deposit, transportation to/from Santa Fe, most meals, personal expenses.
Tuition: Full-time undergraduate students: included in the 2019-2020 spring tuition flat fee
Part-time undergraduate students: pay 2019-2020 per credit hour undergraduate rate.

Tentative Itinerary Living On/Off the Grid

Here is a link to learn more about the Living On/Off the Grid program:

Journal article about the 2012 Taos program:

Global Thinking blog post about 2012 Taos program:

Students may be eligible for the following Webster study abroad scholarships:

  • Next Century Leaders Endowed Scholarship Fund
  • Marilynne Bradley Endowed Fund for Undergraduate Study Abroad
  • Dr. Roy Tamashiro Endowed Travel Scholarship

For a complete list of available scholarships along with eligibility and requirements, please reference the Study Abroad scholarship website.

Spring Break Scholarship Deadline- November 15th, 2019

Application Process
Application Deadline: November 15th, 2019

To apply, follow these steps:
1) Ensure you meet the study abroad eligibility requirements
2) Start an application via the Webster online application system
3) The application will ask you to fill out a number of forms, pay the $100 study abroad fee*, write a brief statement of purpose, and submit a passport-sized photo.

*The $100 application deposit is refundable at the end of the program to if ALL of the following conditions are met:
1) Student attends the program
2) Student completes the pre and post-study abroad surveys
3) Student does not have any outstanding program charges.



Alternative Housing in Taos, New Mexico