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Sharing Permaculture with Youth

Posts: 8
Location: olympia
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I am working with youth ages 11 - 16 on a Soils & Sustainability program, and will be introducing and incorporating Permaculture elements and components.  We are not able to build or design anything permanent on the site, but will have access to both cultivated and natural landscapes. 

I'll have groups of approx. 15 youngsters for 3 hours each, and intend to have them outdoors, engaged, challenged & inspired.     They are coming from various backgrounds (urban, suburban & rural) and have, generally, minimal levels of ecological literacy.

Do you have ideas or suggestions for demonstrative permaculture activities or projects?   How about favorite resources?  Any and all info, experiences, thoughts, etc. are appreciated!

Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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what a wonderful opportunity to teach the young..i guess one thing i would be stressing is the comparison between the corporate and the permaculture..and the downfalls of the corporate use of land.

that would go a long way to influencing the youth to do better than past sources have
Posts: 31
Location: coastal oregon
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The book "Food Not Lawns" has a great chapter on getting kids involved.  One thing that stood out was a window to a sub-section of soil (a raised bed with a window, essentially).  Kids always like planting.  Making seedballs would be a good start.  You could also check out Paul Stamets idea of "forest in a box" and make those: a cardboard box imprinted with mycelium, filled with a little compost and plant seeds.

I would guess that for kids of that age you'd want to have some very basic talks about elegant cycles of nutrient/air, and then a hands-on part based on that.  They might still be too young to realize that the theory and practice are all the same... I am in my late 30s and still just now getting the hang of that.
Posts: 8
Location: olympia
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Thanks Brenda & Mantid, I'm continuing to build my 'toolbox' and will incorporate both of your excellent suggestions. 

A few activities which seemed to work well are below.  Any reactions, suggestions, experiences, etc. appreciated. 

Photocopy Holmgren's Permaculture Principles onto colored paper, cut into individual pieces and put in a small dish, to be picked up by kids as they gather.  Have each student read silently and consider. 

Each student introduces her/him-self, tells where they live (watershed address?), and reads their principle & associated proverb.  They have an opportunity to talk about what they think the principle means, then discussion opens up for all to consider the meaning of the principle, and examples from life and theory.  The principles are numbered, so you can go numerically, popcorn-style, or ‘round the circle.  (you could incorporate some art by having them sketch out a personal version of the simple, elegant design that accompanies each principle to share when introducing themselves, and post them in a circle on the wall)  I think it helps to write the principles down as they are read and leave them where the students can see them.   

Throughout the rest of the session, especially when in the field, point out & elicit examples of these principles in nature, or relevant observations and musings from community and life.

1. Observe & Interact
2. Catch & Store Energy
3. Obtain a Yield
4. Apply Self-regulation & Accept Feedback
5. Use & Value Renewable Resources and Services
6. Produce No Waste
7. Design From Patterns to Details
8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate
9. Use Small and Slow Solutions
10. Use and Value Diversity
11. Use Edges and Value The Marginal

Introduce ethics ~ earth care, people care, fair share.  Credit Homlgren.

Identify two questions (Examples:  How connected are you to nature? not at all  very;  How concerned are you about environmental issues? not at all  very)

Apply an imaginary x-y grid to landscape, have students align themselves along line of one axis for the first question (imagine a big + on the land, n is very connected to nature, s is not at all, center is neutral; e is very concerned about the environment, w is not at all, again center is neutral).  While maintaining their position on the first axis, introduce the second question and have them move into the appropriate location to designate their position.  Discuss.  Most groups move heavily into one quadrant, often a few outliers.  Discuss value of diversity.

Students may want to re-adjust their position after hearing responses from others. 

You could:   
1) have them re-adjust and then chat about the results
2) present another set of questions to be mapped (student generated?), or
3) have a nice wrap session and move on.

Watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff.  Discuss.

Posts: 4
Location: BC, Canada
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Maybe some good observation/pattern literacy training?

Finding examples of spirals, waves, nesting, tessellation etc. in nature and in constructed landscapes...and perhaps then creating something using one of these types of patterns (I was thinking art a la Andy Goldsworthy, that can be left in place to disintegrate/grow over).
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Posts: 28349
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
hugelkultur trees chicken wofati bee woodworking
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Build something.  Build a hugelkultur bed.  Build a root cellar.  Build a rocket mass heater or a rumford wall for a fire.

Oh!  Seed bombs!  And then go bomb some vacant lots!

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