Permaculture Design Principles in Pedagogy

Permaculture is a systems-based approach to problem-solving based on cycles, processes, and principles observed in nature. In a permaculture garden or landscape, planting, sowing, growing, and the design of the landscape are practiced in ways that mimic processes in nature and reflect an understanding of water flow, wind patterns, earth and soil composition, beneficial plants and insects, zones of growth and many other elements.

In the last few years, permaculture principles have been extended from garden and landscapes to the realm of ‘social permaculture’. If we are also natural creatures, then this makes sense. Social permaculture design is a way to recreate nature’s principles in our own lives, interactions, and social groups. As natural beings, we are of and from nature. Our separation from nature and natural processes is in fact,  I believe, both the cause of our poor understanding of and horrific misuse of nature and the cause of many of our own social problems. Reconnecting with nature and with natural processes can help to heal the environment, can heal our social structures, and can heal ourselves. Looby Macnamara’s excellent book, People and Permaculture, is a wonderful introduction to the ways that an understanding of permaculture ethics, principles, and design can be used in our own lives to develop lifestyle design.

As a permaculturist, teacher and curriculum designer, I became interested in the ways permaculture principles can be used within the ‘landscape’ of a classroom, and in developing the larger school curriculum. Part of me heralds the homeschooling or even ‘no schooling’ movements as more valid ways to interact with growing young people, but realistically, many parents in our societies today are going to keep sending their children to school, and not everyone has access or will have access to alternative school systems, which are most often expensive and elite. In that case, we have the responsibility, I believe, to work within the public school system, to bring an understanding of permaculture ethics, principles, and design methodology to schools and to teachers.