Permaculture Teaching Matters

version en castellano

The parts in black are more about teaching, in green it’s more about Permaculture

This intense week long course was about teaching permaculture – different strategies to engage groups of adults and teenagers, sharing knowledge about learners needs, a host of ideas for games and dynamics, reflections on the structure and flow of a course. Here are some of the highlights for me, and top quotes from our insanely knowledgeable course facilitator Rosemary Morrow.


  1. Teacher ethics – “OFFER – clear accurate verifiable information. LANGUAGE – succint and respectful INTERACT with learners as aware trustworthy and knowledgeable” Rosemary Morrow. Rowe’s ethics are a great example, and as teachers, the activity of clarifying our own ethics is fundamental. I’m a HUGE fan of the word verifiable here’s a quote: “Westerners are increasingly opinionated but are less verifiable
  2. Because permaculture is everything, and everything is connected, we as teachers are aware of the interlinked elements of our Learning Ecosystem – Learning space, learners, teachers, teaching methods, tools.
  3. “We are all at different places on the journey”  Remember this in your class code – no assumptions or judgements we just go learning.
  4. To check understanding give learners a real chance to ask by using questions you can’t just say yes to: “What’s not clear?” “Is anything unclear?”
  5. “Is anyone else doing anything else like Permaculture? In 30 years, no one has come up with anything better, we’ve just made improvements to the original ideas. Permaculture is unique”
  6. Don’t mistake traditional for what’s good to repair the Earth
  7. Have a look at a free online course “Designed Resilience to Disaster”
  8. The future might be… fungus (Radical Mycology) and small scale protein sources that can be grown in cities – aquaponics, mushrooms. The present is.. speeding up the diffusion of permaculture ideas and moving from indiviual to community, from sustainability to resilience.
  9. Apparently 60% of Barcelona is illegal… I might have to get the verifiable source for that one Rowe…
  10. “In older societies people who shared and were generous were revered, nowadays people who accumulate wealth and don’t share are the revered ones”
  11. The third permaculture ethic – “Fair Share” really means “Return surplus to need”. A great way of understanding it! and having just done a fascinating, system shattering Money and Society MOOC, I am acutely aware that this is the OPPOSITE of what we do with money – which is arguably societies biggest problem.
  12. How do I check if my permaculture principle is a principle? Ask myself, is it globally applicable? Principles are Global Directives.


  1. Great adult educators from our past – Socrates, Ivan Illich wrote a book “Deschooling society” which I need to read, Paulo Friere wrote “Pedagogy of the Opressed”, and from the present – John Dewey, Parker Palmer and Vandana Shiva, a great activist see the Seed Freedom movement. I should also look up John Holt “How children fail”. I just found a very interesting article from another teacher at Schumacher College, UK (where Vandana Shiva teaches) about how to teach by Jonathan Dawson
  2. More educators from our past – Jesus. I’d never thought of him as an educator, maybe that’s because I’m a maths teacher and he was teaching forgiveness and care of people. (People Care is one of the three ethics at the base of the whole of Permaculture). And Ghandi, the most amazing example of teaching by example – “Be the change you want to see in the world”
  3. “We are all teachers and learners” I’m very excited by the idea that information is shared and consolidated as a network model, similar to patterns we see in nature, designed for sharing and growing. We think learning happens “top down” but actually it is from interconnections between many different people. (Systems thinkin!) I feel that all teachers should be looking to bring this style of learning into their classrooms. In recent years I have spent a lot of time doing carefully planned group work in classes with 14-16 yr olds and I couldn’t agree more that by talking to each other they take their learning forward much more effectively than the “formal education” model.
  4. “Can you manage your situation?” A quick way to check that someone is ok, without getting the whole class involved in “helping” to take them to the bathroom, offer them herbal remedies etc.
  5. I thought the summary of Learners inherent qualities was excellent. Learners: bring knowledge and ideas; when they feel safe they like to be challenged; prefer to cooperate; learn better when involved; are often not confident; like to be treated as individuals (eg. not “you were all talking”)
  6. Advice on using videos as a learning tool – 1) tell the story of what you’re going to watch 2) give students a task to do while watching eg a question to think about – “How did the people cope with the problem?” 3) watch the video 15 mins max 4) debrief and answer the task questions.
  7. “In Havana, Cuba, a city of 2.2 million people, they went from importing 80% of their food to producing 80% of their food in about 2 years”  


  1. Teacher qualities – R . E . K . S  (Respect, Enthusiasm, Knowledge, Safe learning space) An important element of Respect is to acknowledge everyone – making eye contact with each one of your students, and talking to each one.
  2. “Students are not well able to rate their learning” The idea of “rate your teacher” is controversial and led us to a discussion about whether you should like your teacher.
  3. When a discussion such as “Should you like your teacher?” gets popular and you can see that time is being taken up perhaps you could use the following reason to cut it short “This is a self-reflecting exercise so we’ll leave it there – we could carry on all day”
  4. Power and Authority – A teacher is aiming for Natural Authority which is granted by the students as they see that you know your subject very well, that you take responsibility for what happens in the classroom, that your behaviour is an example; you keep your own issues out of the classroom and avoid talking about yourself unless it’s completely relevant.
  5. Behaviours identified which reveal a liking for power:   1) using sarcasm (jokes and having a sense of humour are important – but the joke must include everyone and not do any harm) 2) encouraging favourites 3) keeping students when session is finished 4) teacher talking about themselves or building up their own reputation about their accomplishments.
  6. Universal Human Needs – these are identified needs for any person, do you agree with the list? Physical well being, Meaning, Play, Connection, Honesty, Autonomy.
  7. NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION We did a session on this and I think it is crucial for ALL teachers to grasp the basics in order to avoid conflicts in and out of their classrooms. I think most successful teachers have it from experience, but here is a quick summary. 1) Relax, listen, be conscious of your body language make sure it is open (eg hands behind back). 2) Address your feeling and your need. Choose one of the basic emotions : Anger, fear, disgust, joy, sadness, surprise, refer to a specific situation and clarify the outcome that you would like. The example of calling the car mechanic : When the car broke down 200km into a 300km journey I felt angry because the car had just been fixed And I want the car to be fixed with no further charge.
  8. Read about NVC – Marshall Rosenberg
  9. Touch – It is acceptable to touch anyone from any culture between elbow and shoulder (where police make arrests!)
  10. “Criticism never improved anyone”
  11. Language that works : Tell your students when they are right. Don’t finish their sentence, but do give them clues and hints. Give degrees of approval to stay genuine “That’s the way we’re thinking” “Maybe – how would anyone else do it?”
  12. Appraisal not criticism! Is that even possible? Well yes, if you accept that criticism isn’t going to help you just say what you see and make no judgement. “I notice you were standing in front of the board during the presentation. I notice your answers were short. I saw you moving around a lot. I heard you use inappropriate language.” I’m just making stuff up, but the idea is you stick to observations.
  13. Great closing activity from Aline! Students throw the ball to each other, they ask a question about the lesson content, and the named person they throw the ball to answers the question, then asks the next one.
  14. “We don’t want people to do less bad we want them to do good”


  1. Teaching tools: cards, post-its, balls, a permaculture teaching game called Garden Flow is supposed to be good. For the web of life game you can give people cards with “social” on one side and “ecological” on the other side (eg. owl / public library)
  2. Cognitive Protection toles cartoon
  3. Monitoring – In pairs talk about what you’ve learnt, then feedback to the class with an answer to a question “Give one word about how much you learnt” “Give one sentence summarising what you learnt today”
  4. Rhythm of a class – energy levels rise, then level off, then drop. Give a time for reflection during a moment of lower energy. Look out for drops!
  5. “If you have a job interview, you are much more likely to get the job when the interview is after lunch, than when the interview is before lunch”


  1. “To prepare a topic for the first time you need about 6 hours preparation for a 1 hour class”
  2. “Imagination is for finding solutions, not for designing”
  3. Monitoring and revision activity (1hr)- With the person or people next to you, go through your notes and talk about the course. As a teacher you can go around and listen/see notes.
  4. Appraisal of group work (about personal/social experience not content) “What was your experience of the group process” Ask each person in the group in turn
  5. Permaculture is not just for hippies, the UNDP use it, and several members of parliament representing “Green” parties around the world have done PDC courses!

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