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Permaculture for kids

 
Posts: 114
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I've been asked to give a talk on permaculture to a group of adults who run weekly organic gardening courses for kids 7-11 years old. What should I tell them?
What, in your opinion, is the "plus" in permaculture to a person well versed in organic gardening and observation of natural processes?
Any resources you found helpful?
 
pollinator
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The benefits of companion planting, focusing on scent distraction for pest control, and on the hosting of beneficial predatory insects, is an obvious plus to anyone who's had to deal with garden pests en masse.

I think the brewing and application of aerated compost extracts and fungal slurries, right alongside ensuring some kind of dry or living mulch (no bare soil, no weeds and no wind and sun dessication), is one of the most impactful, ground-breaking things any already competent gardener can add to their strategy. It unlocks fertility and decreases the need for weeding and watering.

-CK
 
pollinator
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Well I'm thinking in kid terms and thinking of my kids when I do it.

What my kids like the most about permaculture:

grazing on various things while out wandering around.

seeing wildlife a lot of people will not see.

finding bugs and learning about them.

nothing my kids like better than a hole and a pile of dirt.

We do have discussions about sustainability and the impact commercial farming has on the environment. My kids benefit greatly from the fact that we are actually surrounded by commercial wheat fields so they can see what I'm talking about.
 
pollinator
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Well, you said they are familiar with observing natural processes. So I would use that as a common language or maxim and build from there.

Nature covers soil.
Nature has succession.
Nature has diversity.
Nature creates habitats and finds a balance.

The human element is to cooperate with nature and restore / help accelerate beneficial natural processes.

Natural processes

Soil building (keyline)
Water retention (beavers)
Composting (fungal)
Mob grazing (predators)
Weeds as mulch (chop n drop)
Weeds as food (foraging for nutrient density)
Succession (food forest/fire/repeat)

So, giving them a holistic permie narrative that is easy to pass along might be most useful outcome.
 
pollinator
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Turn it into a story with mythical creatures being bacteria, nematode, worm, mychoriza, nitrogen.

Who eats who, who captures who. How plants exchange nutrients. How seeds travel in bird's stomach etc. etc.

Go wild with the metaphors but staying true to scientific facts.

I once explained bees to my kids using a conveyor story and you won't believe, the knowledge still stuck in their brains.
 
Susan Wakeman
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I will probably have to answer the question - how is permaculture different from organic gardening that favours natural habitats?
The (adult) audience is familiar with:
Companion planting
soil horizons, mulching
compost
beneficial insects
herbal teas, comfrey etc
observation

What is it in permaculture that is important to you and how would you explain it to kids?


Some games I like to play:
- the spider web game Who eats Who - each player is a garden inhabitant and you toss a ball of yarn to somebody you eat/that eats you
- Home, food, baby: for each critter have the kids think about: Where is its home, what does it eat, where do its babies grow up?
Or turn the game round, which critter would like to live here? Eat this? ...

 
Chris Kott
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The question you specify is difficult to answer, Susan, as permaculture encompasses many different techniques that generally favour natural habitats or patterns (biomimicry). It is not a specific method of food production, but rather a whole-system design philosophy.

As they are familiar with the techniques you've mentioned above, I would suggest touching briefly on a number of those as "tools in the permaculture toolshed," in a way that shows how a little permacultural planning connects those individual issues or techniques to illustrate an example of systemic resilience (a number of different tools work in different ways to make one situation better), as how mulch and compost extracts and fungal slurries work together to harbour all the life that makes for healthy soil, to reduce dessication and the need for watering, how living mulch plants can be added to enhance the work of the (probably wood chip or straw) mulch, how mulch and shade do away with most need for weeding, how the increased workability of the soil due to the presence of mulch-devouring decomposers and other soil life make it effortless to pull any weeds lucky enough to have survived to that point.

Some like the explanation that permaculture is a way of thinking such that you are setting things up to run pretty much permanently on their own by mimicking how nature does it. Nature doesn't truck in a shit tonne of last years' leaf drop, but she will drop leaves on the ground every year, which mulch the ground and shade the soil, and eventually become that soil.

The first permacultural lesson I ever taught my youngest brother (almost twenty years younger than me) was that of the Three Sisters. He was watching me work in the garden as I was babysitting, and he was interested, so I told him why I was planting those three together, and how they all work to make each other better. It took so hard that, on a guided conservatory walk we went on for his birthday, he remembered the three sisters, what they were, and how they were important to each other. The guide was frankly speechless, and my family stood around with their jaws on the ground as my baby brother babbled happily about what his big brother had taught him.

And I hadn't even realised what I had done.

So if you can include growing plants that children will recognise, but perhaps not until you're harvesting in front of their eyes, that might capture their attention in ways you won't quite believe.

-CK
 
Susan Wakeman
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I'm currently thinking of introducing them to the design concepts and tools (zoning, Input-Output, which technique is appropriate?), and get them thinking about their work flows with their group of kids; the problem is the solution; encouraging more perennial plantings esp. berries; thinking through the implications of their understanding of soil, plants and critters - how can we function in a way that interferes as little as possible with natural processes.
 
J Davis
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Susan Wakeman wrote:I'm currently thinking of introducing them to the design concepts and tools (zoning, Input-Output, which technique is appropriate?), and get them thinking about their work flows with their group of kids; the problem is the solution; encouraging more perennial plantings esp. berries; thinking through the implications of their understanding of soil, plants and critters - how can we function in a way that interferes as little as possible with natural processes.



Sounds like a good plan. Water flow might be a worthy addition. Shaping the land to slow it down, spread it out, sink it in, is worthwhile disruption. Swales, ponds, terraces, hugel mounds, keyline, etc
 
They gave me pumpkin ice cream. It was not pumpkin pie ice cream. Wiping my tongue on this tiny ad:
Permaculture Technology Jamboree: June 29th-July 10th, 2020, Wheaton Labs
https://permies.com/wiki/permaculture-tech-2020
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