How can you apply permaculture in the schools? Why would you even want to?

There are so many great learning opportunities in a landscape that has been designed using permaculture. You can turn dirt into living soil, grow food for the cafeteria and share with the food bank. You can observe and interact with ecosystems and learn to see the patterns in nature, the services that different organisms provide.  You can make stuff and engineer systems that leverage those services and help the ecology do its thing better. Once you have a place, you can teach every subject in it. It is a biological learning platform.

The magic is in the design process though. The ethics and the principles of permaculture are a fount of knowledge when applied. Coming together to talk about the ethics of “Care. Care. Share. Aware.” is a great opening  to any conversation about what a Farm to School project can be, for all grades.

Earth Care is the first Care in the rhyme. It means everything that sustainable agriculture means, but it is also drawing a practice of soil work from the cutting edge of soil science. It is accounting for all the ecological services in the ecosystem and committing to do not harm. It is caring for the primary sources of Sun, Water and Soil and weaving them together. It is improving the quality of biology on a piece of land. It is about restoring fertility. It is honoring the abundance of life and interconnection. It is paying attention and realizing that we depend on Earth. It is dropping the “the” and allowing Earth the quality of subject Earth deserves.

People Care is the second care in the rhyme. People care is tending to relationships. It is honoring our ancestors and seven-generations after us. It is knowing who is downwind and downstream. It is taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It is being of service to family and to community. It is having compassion and letting people learn, heal, and grow. Having courtesy to check in and be together, tending to process as well as task.

Fair Share is both the share and aware in the rhyme. Fair share is about knowing our limits and sharing our surpluses. It is about inputs and outputs, access and flows. It is about distribution of a resource and limitations of a system. It is about where the water moves, where the sun shines, and where it doesn’t. It is about finding the leverage points. It is about knowing where the boundaries are and where they are not. It is about building a resilient local food system and growing local economies at the same time. It is about using renewable energy and building community engagement. It is about the capacity of learning and power of sharing a common language and a common goal.

Once a group, not matter the age, has considered these ethics, their project there is new meaning, new possibilities for connections emerge. Harvest is abundant, engagement high and learning every flowing. From there, the design process is like service learning for the ecosystem. It is place-based action learning on a biological platform. It is a learning laboratory and a productive food system that only gets better with time and connects with the curriculum naturally.


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