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What can a 12 year old do?

 
M.R.J. Smith
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Location: North Idaho at 975m elevation on steep western slope, 60cm annual precipitation, zone 4
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So I'm a middle school teacher and I corrupt the youth by talking about permaculture on the frequent and they ask me "What can I do?"

All I can really tell them is to learn more about it and to think about the principles and try to use their imagination on how to increase their impact. Most of the time, their parents don't share their ambition and they are quite limited in planting stuff even if they have space.

What are some solid ways a 12 year old kid can get into permacultre? We're in a city and I tell them about how I grow food and whatnot, but I realize 99% of them are never going to do that but they are into it and think permaculture is cool so how can I make sure this enthusiasm doesn't fade.
 
Dillon Nichols
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In my city, there is a volunteer organization that does 'green' stuff, a lot of it just pulling invasive weeds in parks, but also some work in an urban farm and public orchards/food forests. Often children attend; sometimes with parents, but also as school or club groups. They get hands on experience, and 60 hands can pull a lot of weeds, etc...

Some schools have garden/greenhouse spaces where kids can garden. A lot that don't, have space where such a garden could be created, if sufficient will was to be exerted...

I seem to remember reading long ago, about one school which connected kids with elderly gardeners who needed the help. Maybe it was at an allotment garden... can't recall.

Encouraging experiments with growing things from grocery store leftovers(cuttings and seeds) could be a good route; I bet there is a thread on this somewhere here, not seeing it just now...

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Parents like to give children chores to do. Rather than have them ask for help in taking over the home landscape , get them to suggest that all of the children should be given jobs and that they would be interested in looking after all of the greenery outside. Parents like to hand out jobs.
 
Once it is established that this is their job , it will be easy to allow that job to evolve. People like to save money. If the kids can produce food that would otherwise be bought and they can entertain themselves without requiring the parent to drive them anywhere , any parent with a lick of sense will allow them some freedom.
 
David Livingston
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Give them some land only a few sq yards will do get them to grow interesting easy stuff . Pumpkins for instance . Then move on to chickens
Forget therory that will come later . Get them asking questions

David
 
Tobias Ber
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Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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you could have them to work through this thread: http://www.permies.com/t/55092/md/apartment-dweller-world-place

and see what the kids would like to try

i imagine that all wildcrafting-stuff, harvesting and guerrilla-growing would be very much fun for them.

if there s an urban-gardeining project in your region, get the kids involved there
 
Miranda Converse
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Have you asked your school if they can use some part of the school's property to plant stuff? If there isn't any plantable land, see if you can build some raised beds. If you have a really good school, you could even see about getting a couple chickens or even an aquaponics garden. A school project like that is likely to get the attention of the local media so you could use that as a bargaining chip.
I think the easier you make it for the kids to be involved, the more likely a serious interest will take hold. Community projects are great, but if the parents aren't supportive and have to drive them places, they might not be as apt to get involved or continue with it. If it's something they could take part in during their lunch break or after school (if there's a late bus or some other means to get home) they will be more likely to stick with it.
 
Casie Becker
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As much as I love gardening, I suspect there's a lot more opportunity for most twelve year old children to work in other areas.

They can bike to friends houses at near and moderate distances instead of getting a car rides from their parents.

I actually consider healthy diet to be a often unmentioned permaculture technique that has a life long benefit, so this area can include a lot of other things: They can be encouraging their family to buy organic. They can be learning how to prepare simple and healthy meals which they can share with their parents or bring as lunch. Most healthy snacks don't come with unnecessary packaging.

They can look for areas where they can reused items instead of purchasing new. Setting up video game exchanges with friends for instance.

They can practice basic water conservation around the house.

They can be shown nontoxic cleaning methods using items that are already in their kitchens at home.

They can learn local wildlife and learn how it enriches their life.

Introduce them to cast iron and explain about the toxins in Teflon. (It might seem hard to believe, but soon enough these kids will be outfitting their first kitchen)
 
Shawn Harper
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Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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There is a ton of things I can think of. I mean one milkweed plant feeds 5 monarch caterpillars a year so theres one... But honestly think of simple things that help with little effort. I posted about one idea like that a while back Find the lady bugs. My suggestion is keep it short and simple and let the interested parties seek out the extra info and things to do.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Here's a website with stuff all of us can do in some way or other: http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
 
Dan Boone
gardener
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Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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I am an childless rural anarchist, so take this advice with a grain of salt -- it might fatally lack in safety, practicality, or social respectability.

A middle school teach probably can't be advocating guerrilla gardening or seed bombing, but those are nonetheless pastimes that might appeal to earth-concerned 12-year-olds with a sense of adventure. So how about devising a more-socially-acceptable variant? Teach them to grow seedlings (doesn't take much space and even in tight urban spaces many kids will be able to find a few sunny square inches where they can park milk cartons with seedlings in them) and then have them (with proper adult supervision) go patrolling with those seedlings in neighborhoods with unloved yards, offering to put in plants in likely places near the sidewalk. For added safety they could be instructed only to converse with homeowners who are outside and can be hailed from the sidewalk. Once they get permission, they can descend on a patch of sod and make a pretty little deeply-dug 12x24" growies bed with small hand tools. They could even improvise an attractive edging from recycled materials, like maybe those aluminum beverage bottles, colorfully painted and stabbed into the soil neck first.

Of course you would at some point in the education leading up to all of this have to expose them to the notion of guerrilla gardening, even if that education comes with appropriately pious phrases warning against doing any such anti-social thing. Kids these days have Google; the ones who find the idea appealing won't need any further hand-holding.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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M.R.J. Smith wrote:So I'm a middle school teacher and I corrupt the youth by talking about permaculture on the frequent and they ask me "What can I do?"

What are some solid ways a 12 year old kid can get into permacultre? We're in a city and I tell them about how I grow food and whatnot, but I realize 99% of them are never going to do that but they are into it and think permaculture is cool so how can I make sure this enthusiasm doesn't fade.


Does your school have some outdoor spaces that could be turned into growing areas? If it does, go to the principal with the proposal of turning the spaces into class gardens, where the students can learn and practice good horticulture.
Get with some of the local nurseries to see if they will donate some of the items you would need so the students can amend the soil and plant food plants. If the school system is approached from a learning experience view, perhaps they will give a little funding to help with this project or maybe they would incorporate it into all the middle schools as an extra curricular item. If your area has some garden clubs, they too could be approached with this idea and they most likely will help youngsters learn how to garden.

It is all about how well the principal and board are approached, usually if they can see benefit to the students and it isn't going to interfere with curriculum, they should be ok with the proposal since you are teaching practical science to the students.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Many schools here have a demonstration garden where the kids learn to grow things. This often includes sorting lunch scraps which are suitable for composting. And there are a few schools lucky enough to be close to the new Community Food Forests that are springing up. One has hugelkultur beds with fruit trees planted on top. Kids are often seen touring these places with their teachers.

The city also has several publicly owned herb gardens where we are free to harvest. These places have educational value.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I don't have a specific example of this but reading through the thread, it appeared to be mostly about strategies, and not exposing them to anything else. As I see people at the age of 12, a person has a curious and active mind, and what they develop at that phase will affect the rest of their lives. For most individuals, it's the last time in their lives they'll have an open mind, as it is their "job" at this phase of their lives to complete the imprint on their culture. I'd want to get as much of permaculture values into that imprint as possible.

I'd look through the chapter on patterning, and see what is there. I'd try to get them to look at how nature functions, all parts fitting and no energy inputs. Devise a treasure hunt of some sort, where after discussing a concept, they try to find specific examples of that in nature. Or ask them to look at the world around them and see how people do things, ask them to notice where the everyday world is NOT patterned after nature, what inputs are being utilized to make it that way, and try to think of ways that those things might be done better.

Together, examine the classroom and see if there are ways it follows established cultural practices, that could be functionally improved by applying permaculture standards, if things are not stored in the area where they are used, for example. And talk about zones as they apply to the classroom, and the whole school. Possibly invite them to do a permaculture design for a school that improves the flow of the activities done at school. And tell why they arranged things as they did. If there are several groups of students during the day, the students of each period could list their opinions / findings / plans so the others could see that even following the same guidelines, there are multiple ways of arranging things, doing things. That provides another topic for discussion, that there is room for personal bias and preference in all things human. That one appeals to me in our (USA) strongly polarized culture where part of the polarization tends to be about "there is ONLY ONE RIGHT WAY". An ideology that is driving our culture to the depths of ridiculousness.

If there's time, and it fits the administrative style of the school, how about a "design club" that meets after school twice a month, where the kids who are really interested can get together. Possibly they could among them come up with activities they are interested in, maybe one of them knows of a vacant lot nearby, and another has a parent who understands how to gain legal access.

I've seen an exercise where you list elements and functions, and link them with prepositions. You end up with chickens beside garden, trellis over pond, kind of thing. Then you look at it and consider would this work, how could it work would there be benefit, would it make life easier or harder. Through this exercise, great things are discovered, like positioning things, if they are going to be transported, so you don't end up carrying the compost UPHILL to the garden.

Gardening can be made more successful with permaculture practices, but permaculture isn't gardening, just like it isn't an herb spiral in the desert. To me, permaculture is about developing thought and analytical processes, understanding context and fit, and subscribing to the objective of getting as much as possible to happen with the least possible inputs. Grow the food near where it will be consumed, run the water downhill instead of pumping it up. Once the water is in the soil, use it as many ways as you can before it leaves the property.

Anyway, it sounds like a very exciting opportunity for you to touch many, and contribute to "world domination". I hope you have a lot of fun with it! Your students are lucky!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Oh, and I forgot to say, the Slow Food organization participates in getting gardens into schools, or getting kids involved in every phase of food, growing, harvesting, cooking, preserving ,serving etc.

If there is a chapter nearby, they might be a great ally!
 
Donald Kenning
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Permaculture has 3 ethics and 12 principles. Maybe you can start by teaching the students the meaning of those things.

Maybe you could teach them to "observe" something that exists in all of their lives. Something that is considered a "problem".
Then teach them the life lesson that "the problem is the solution". This does not need to be growing food, and you may not need any extra land, money or other resources to accomplish these lessons. Let the principles guide your efforts.
 
Maria Brown
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At our middle school, tiny rural town, the kids build a greenhouse and can take classes focused on growing in it. My husband works for our city parks department and encourages kids to take an interest in the little community garden plots during the summer.

We live in the wilderness, up a dirt road into forest lands, so not terribly handy for town folks, but are trying to think of ideas for incorporating kids and/or whole families into our wild farm. Someday!
 
Diana Duckett
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Have the kids draw up plans for changing the existing landscaping around the school into food production. Be sure to focus on things like matching plants to zones, observing how sunlight and rain affect different areas, and how it would improve the school for all the students. Then let them present their finished project to the principle or school board
 
Susan Wakeman
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Use their clout with their parents to reduce food waste, car miles, energy use... they have more power than they realise!

Yes, teach them the principles and get THEM to tell YOU how they apply in their lives. You may be surprised.

And do keep us posted on what you find out and do. I'd love to learn from those young minds.
 
Saskia Symens
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Matt Powers has written two books called the permaculture student 1 and 2. Book 1 targets primary school audience. 2 would be more for middle school students. Imho worth checking out...
edited: sorry, thought middle school was 14+. For kids of 12 book one would do splendidly...
 
Julie Walter
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I think the best thing for 12 year old children to DO is actually think up things for themselves to do. The biggest struggle for children of that age is wanting to 'fit in.' Add to that the social conditioning of the school system, and children are all too happy to do what we tell them to do. If we can teach them the principles of permaculture, and have them apply them in creative ways...then we're really getting somewhere! Perhaps having some brainstorming sessions...one for each of the principles? What are ways they can apply those in their home life, school life, community life? With a bit of scaffolding around what the principles look like in action, you might be surprised at how many ideas they can come up with themselves! I believe this approach would be really teaching permaculture...creative solutions My question would actually be, what couldn't a 12 year old do?!
 
Pamela Smith
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If in a small community what about thinking up and creating plans to improve the towns flower boxes, a community garden, food forest. If in a larger town or city how about on your own block? get the kids together and design the street with various fruit trees, plants etc. Not just edible but everything. If doing the neighbourhood street is too much then what about a yard. Design your yard, neighbour's yard, or friends. There is a program about neighbourhood growing food. Something you and friends could get started on that could be fun and create for the block. It all starts just form one yard and 1 person or group of people. Adults should be inspired by children creating. Enjoy.
Good for you. Be creative and have fun.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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A permaculture design for a familiar space is a great idea. And it matters NOT whether or not they implement the design. The value is in the thinking about all the variables and all the ways the variables can fit together.

They could also design a dream home/garden/farm/neighborhood, in what ever climate and soil type they choose/dream up. And discuss among themselves pros and cons of various strategies. If they choose tropical humid, they design living spaces to make the climate comfortable, as well as what will grow there. If they choose tropical at high elevations, challenges change... If they get interested in it, they will inspire each other to considering so many variables, they'll learn about climate and site specific housing, climate and site specific plants.

Their brains will explode with new ideas as well as new ways to think and "problem" solve.
 
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