Teaching Permaculture Creatively!

Let me start by saying, if you ever have a chance to take a class with Dave Jacke, DO IT. I believe he’s doing an Edible Forest Gardening circuit in Ohio this summer.

I took “Teaching Permaculture Creatively” from him and a team of four other wonderful teachers at the end of March. In this course, he attempted to address the question “How can we permaculture the teaching of permaculture?” It turns out that question can be answered in many different ways, and I am still enjoying unpacking all the layers of the course. Simply applying the design methodology, of site assessment and analysis, design and feedback? Check, and productive in and of itself. Identifying the natural patterns in the human day and year, and structuring courses to mimic that pattern of activity and reflection at every scale, from within an exercise to within the day’s exercises to within the entire structure of the course? Check- and super helpful. Following the info-dump portion of each exercise with a feedback or discussion or reflection portion itself goes a huge way towards counteracting the fear of lecture on both sides of the desk – students get better retention as they have a chance to approach the material in ways suited to multiple learning styles, and the instructors can relax a bit as the basic structure of the course itself supports the students’ learning and they don’t have to be on stage the entire time.

One of the course themes I most appreciated was the observation that most social movements’ failures can be traced directly to the dysfunctions of the people in them. Saying this in a less drastic way, consider that if you have a block about a certain area, then everything you teach will consciously or unconsciously reflect this block.

For example, I am not good with community. I know it’s important, but I have no clue how to achieve it. I am very good at learning things from books, but this topic can only be mastered through application, and it is for some reason quite hard for me. (Perhaps I can blame it on the lack of practice as a child?) Therefore my classes tend to be made up of the easy stuff, like mushroom cultivation, vermicomposting and edible landscaping – all things that can be done at home – implying that the things you can do at home are enough, are more important than the things you need other people to cooperate with. While it IS important to build your own skills, a nation of homesteads each with their own grain mill, their own root cellar, their own canning equipment and their own entertainment is inherently less efficient and therefore less sustainable than a community that has banded together to make sure there is A grain mill, A root cellar, A schoolroom, and A well-equipped community kitchen available to community members. Plus there’s more congenial conversation.

This observation implies that it would be useful and equally valid to apply permaculture to our inner landscapes. Do an assessment and analysis with your self as the site, identifying your needs, yields, characteristics, behaviors, predators and allies – design where you want to be – implement that design, and take frequent feedback as you move through implementation and maintenance.

This way of looking at things appeals greatly to my cognitive side. Thinking of personal growth as a process that has a logical flow, that can be designed and consciously embarked upon, is enormously attractive.

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