[permaculture] Seeding Permaculture at Colleges & Universities

Keith Morris earthsurfing at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 20 12:04:25 EDT 2008


Hi Ethan,

    I agree that permaculture in colleges (and schools in general) is one of our best leverage points.  I dream of the day when every public school has a forest garden and (more) university breeding programs are focused on ecologically appropriate polycultures; when attached greenhouses comprise living classrooms, offering heat to the building, better nutrition to the cafeterias...  ahh, that's just the beginning!

    Anyway, in answer to your questions I've had some interesting experiences teaching permaculture at Sterling College, the University of Vermont, the Yestermorrow Design Build School, the University of New Hampshire, UMASS, Johnson State College, Cambridge Elementary School, Waldorf Schools, and elsewhere.

    Obviously, it seems best if initial interest is coming from the students- sounds like you've already got that!

    But, in terms of developing a long term relationship- faculty and other staff are essential (or joining them, if possible!).  We are presently developing a permaculture concentration program- which is being led by student's designing their own majors, but it has taken a few years of courses in order for some more traditional faculty to realize there is more than sufficient depth in this field of study.  (UVM has had a legacy long before my time of students doing their own PC theses, etc. beginning, I believe, with Bill Murphy (of 'Greener Pastures') and influenced also by John Todd.)  David Holmgren and Dave Jacke's works are also helping permaculture break into the realm of 'acceptance' in more conventional academia.

    But, most importantly it seems to me: DO IT!  I really think teaching has far exceeded implementation, and that's something we need to address as a movement.  (I realize you personally have been part of a good deal of implementation- I'm speaking generally).  But in terms of schools, in particular.  

    The Edible Forest Garden at Sterling leaves much to be desired, but it lies between the dorms and the cafeteria...  not some far off field you have to drive to.  People actually engage with it, study in it, walk through it, live in it: daily.  The student led design even included 'make-out' spots!  The cafeteria actually serves and preserves its products (and the products of their working organic diversified farm)...

    While no longer in physical existence, the Institute for Social Ecology had this going on maybe better (or at least sooner) than anywhere in the NE (as well as graduating or staffing folks like Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier, H.C. Flores, Tom Stearns, Grace Gershuny, Brian Tokar, Jonathan Bates, Chaia Heller, myself, etc., etc.).  What worked there, and what didn't, are both ripe for further exploration.

    It seems to me like it might be best to choose one school with the most potential and interested students to actually design and plant permaculture gardens- where they live- if not actually engaging them in the design and siting of future dorms, other buildings, campus farms, whatever...

    If there is an existing student organization willing and able to do this- why create another?  If not, then maybe one should be started.  However, most students are only there for 4-5 years so having some staff (and especially grounds crews) involved in the project helps with continuity.  (As well as always bringing new freshmen on board, etc.)

    As far as connecting local farms, designers, etc. Mark Krawczyk has been developing a great model workshop series that is bringing together an incredible array and vast diversity of local skills, projects, designers, etc. for Burlington, VT.  Its not technically affiliated with any of the schools, but holds many workshops in their spaces and draws a great deal of participants from the various student bodies of that town- in addition to non-student community members, of course.  http://burlingtonpermaculture.googlepages.com/

Well, I hope something in this rambling helps...

Best of luck- keep me informed!

Keith

Keith Morris
Prospect Rock Permaculture
(802) 734 1129
earthsurfing at yahoo.com
PO Box 426, Jeffersonville, VT 05464





Howdy All -

I'm a permaculture designer + teacher working mostly in northeastern
 North
America, and I'd like to ask for some advice on a number of upcoming
teaching events.

I'm going give talks at several colleges & universities around the
 northeast
(things are popping up here!), mostly through invitations by student
environmental + activist groups. Collaborating with existing
 educational
infrastructure seems to be a potentially strong leverage point for
widespread sharing of pc principles + practices, and so I am looking
 for
ways to really encourage permaculture activity on/connected to these
campuses my learning events.

Of course every situation is different and careful
 social/political/cultural
Site A&A is ideal in each case. But, based on your actual
 experiences,
 what
can I do to encourage pc ideas/programs/projects to take root at these
universities? Should I...
-- Ask students start their own little pc groups, or integrate pc into
 their
existing groups' focus?
-- Put in effort to get faculty, administration, and staff to the
 teaching
event?
-- Work to secure continued teaching + demonstration events on site?
-- Find co-sponsorship and connection to academic departments?
-- How can I make connections to local pc designers, farmers, and
 projects,
most effectively?

What else?!? I welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

In peace growing quickly
Ethan
       
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