Permaculture Education Beyond The Garden & Farm
How schools can be the bridge for Permaculture
There are many roads
Everyone needs food. Everyone needs shelter. Everyone needs to be sustainable and regenerative in the climates in which they live, but does that mean that everyone has to be a permaculture farmer or a permaculture teacher? This is often the fear that comes from many outsiders looking in on Permaculture. It looks like we all come out of a PDC looking like Geoff Lawton complete with a hat and a goatee trailing food forests in our wake. The reality is that we will still need many of the industries responsible for a lot of damage to the environment though we all can agree that every industry needs to adapt to survive and be regenerative. This is where schools come in.
Every school should be an innovation incubator using permaculture design thinking to guide projects and learning. If every student was guided by the 3 ethics, there would be little misunderstanding in conflicts: “Which ethic were you needing to focus on?” If projects and stories were all ethical, we wouldn’t have concerns about what children were learning in school; it would be understood that it was beneficial to themselves, the community and the environment. Students raised in an atmosphere that utilizes permaculture won’t be able to prevent themselves from synthesizing, reapplying & critiquing for the better the information they are given. We will enrich and refine permaculture as those students go out and apply permaculture thinking to everyday life outside the garden and the farm.
Designing a Better School
Schools need to be sustainable; they currently are not designed that way. Currently schools rely upon grants, government assistance & donations which leave them at the mercy of the economy, chance and political whims of those in
power. If schools were independently strong financially and provided more than a possibility of employment and marketable skills, we’d be in a different position entirely. The question is: How do we do that?
Curriculum needs to be rewritten with ethics in mind while classroom practice largely needs to be improvised by experts. Government standards based upon abstractions of logic and grammar containing no connection or relevancy to students’ real lives need to end as with their corollary, standardized assessments. Student-choice needs to fill in the gap with authentic assessments (live presentations demonstrating learning) couched in project-based learning. It is scalable to homeschooling in a rural setting 1 on 1 to a large urban classroom as well, but this is just the structure pedagogically. Fiscally it will have to change a lot.
Every school should have a farm, an orchard, an aquaponics fishery, cattle, a woodshop, a metalshop, an alternative energy shop, & anything else the local market can support that kids can learn from, and they should sell meat, produce, dairy, eggs, furniture, seeds, seedlings, trees, and anything else they can. School CSAs would be part of the tuition. Teachers would also be craftsmen, businessmen, orchardists, etc. Their work pay can be lowered by allowing them use of the school’s facilities or percentages on sales of what you create and sell will return to the school – each school would figure this out on a case by case basis. The school doesn’t even have to have one location. It can be dispersed across people’s land and be used around the needs of the school. Teachers can live on students’ parents’ lands, rotate around, etc. like they used to – maybe they can live in a district Tiny Home? If we provide for teachers food and lodging, they can save their earnings for buying their own land and starting their own families. Later they can continue teaching, open a school or do any number of things once they are also independent on their own stretch of land. The key part of this school design is that all members are able to sustain themselves or contribute to the school. In an urban setting it could be a digital library that has a state of the art 3D printer lab where they provide a service or product that people pay for. It would depend on the demand and the community.
If we erase the overhead costs of the physical school, expensive salaries & costly resources or offset them, we can change the entire face of education. It is this beast that has saddled a generation of schools with debt. The only way to free these schools is to make them generators not consumers of wealth. They need to see the problem as the solution. If they were teaching permaculture, these things would all eventually become obvious.
The Permaculture Student 1
When I realized my search for permaculture curriculum for my son was in vain, I realized that I could be the one to fill it (MA in education & worked for years writing all my curriculum from scratch). I began writing The Permaculture Student summer ’14 after getting my certification through Geoff Lawton’s online permaculture design course. I’ve been working with Geoff Lawton, Danial Lawton, Elaine Ingham, Rosemary Morrow, students of multiple ages and cultures, home school and public school parents, and teachers to make sure it is exactly correct, so we can translate it into any language & send it anywhere in the world with confidence (I have several translations on the way already!) The plan is to get Permaculture in schools and homes everywhere with a document that everyone can endorse.
Imagine if students worked on their permaculture projects for school on their homesites, transforming their homes & saving their parents money. Imagine the steady, gradual change we will see as they become young adults.
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“When I look at this book I cannot help but fantasize about this book getting in front of millions of kids. What fruit will we see in the generations to come due to these beautiful seeds being planted so early?”- Paul Wheaton, Permies.com
“Matt Powers has focused his permaculture energy and enthusiasm on a critical audience, the children of the world, with the permaculture message that there are positive solutions to the world’s problems and we can all engage in a meaningful life with an abundant future. This crucial commendable work which has been developed exceptionally well should be whole-heartedly supported.”- Geoff Lawton, GeoffLawton.com
“The Permaculture Student – what wonderful thoughts come to mind of children learning and reading about permaculture at a young age. Their young minds as sponges to absorb the knowledge get excited about gardening, growing their own food and about complex environmental issues that are embarrassingly simple to fix. It is an exciting thought that future children could carry the design thinking of permaculture from school through into their adult lives with this book. This book is detailed enough for a good base start on the subject of permaculture yet still simple enough to read for a younger audience. Now all we need to do is to get every school to start using it.”- Daniel Lawton, permaculturetools.com
“Matt Powers’ book draws heavily on Bill Mollisons’Manual and as such, the curriculum is reliable and comprehensive. It stands in many ways as a text book of applied science for environmental repair. Teachers can use it to learn permaculture, and smart students will read it avidly. There is room for teachers to add specialised local knowledge. As an equal partner with an environmental, or natural, science curriculum it provides understanding of human impacts, positive and negative, on Earth. It takes students on a journey of earth repair which is a meaningful mission for the young generation who need this knowledge, these skills, and hope.”- Rosemary ‘Rowe’Morrow, Earth User’s Guide To Teaching Permaculture
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