Permaculture, Earth Education and Learning about Nature

Permaculture1Permaculture as a design system has within it in an understanding of ecological principles. In considering how we would design an effective, inclusive and sustainable learning community at Hunter, we considered how humans might gain an understanding of ecological principles from an early age.

How do children move from a sensory understanding of the Earth’s natural world to a more conceptual understanding of natural cycles, energy flow and our interconnectedness? How do we ensure that our children have the best possible start to understanding the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’ of our Permaculture ways in a way that transcends the limitations of school?

Hunter School’s Permaculture learning experience includes the following characteristics:
It increases understanding of basic ecological principles by making the ‘abstract’ more ‘concrete’ through kinesthetic activities. Kinesthetic learning, also known as tactile learning, is a style in which learning takes place by the student carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or watching a demonstration. It happens outside in a place where natural processes can be easily observed. It emphasizes that we are part of the natural world. It engages the emotions, senses, intuition and intellect. It includes time for contemplation, community and creativity

Permaculture2The 12 principles of permaculture as defined by David Holmgren are wonderful lessons that are incorporated into our Hunter School curriculum. David Holmgren is an Australian environmental designer, ecological educator and writer. He is best known as one of the co-originators of the permaculture concept with Bill Mollison.

  1. Observe and interact - By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy - By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield - Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback - We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services - Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste - By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details - By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate - By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions - Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity - Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal - The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change - We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

Permaculture3Transforming learning through a Permaculture methodology means promoting Permaculture as a means of understanding, establishing and maintaining sustainable systems around the food garden.  This involves giving practical consideration to the whole physical, social natural and economic environment within which the Permaculture Garden exists.

Potential entrepreneurial opportunities such as market gardening are also identified where possible, to support the financial sustainability of the school garden.  All activities within Hunter’s Permaculture curriculum have learning outcomes and are linked to the social sciences (geography), mathematics, arts and culture, natural sciences, life orientation and literacy skills.