Permaculture for Kids

permaculture-for-kidsOften I am asked whether or not anyone has adapted Permaculture teaching for kids. I know there many out there who have thought about this, and there are also people who are doing it right now.

Here in San Francisco, the folks at The Ecology Center of San Francisco have been doing an amazing job of introducing Permaculture, natural building, and lots of other cool things to kids. Check out their website for more info.

If you are looking for a way to engage kids and teach Permaculture, the 12 principles of Permaculture as defined by David Holmgren are wonderful lessons and can be incorporated into nearly any curriculum. Whether you you have a school garden or not, try to imagine these principles integrated into your class. They can either be taught directly or used as tools to teach kids, teaching by example.

  1. Observe and interact – By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and store energy – By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a yield – Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback – We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well.
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services – Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce no waste – By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design from patterns to details – By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate rather than segregate – By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use small and slow solutions – Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and producing more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and value diversity – Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use edges and value the marginal – The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively use and respond to change – We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and then intervening at the right time.

Learn more about the 12 principles on the website, Principles of Permaculture.

Here are a few publications you can look into for additional resources:

  • Permaculture for Children’, Permaculture Activist magazine, Vol.3 #1 Feb. 1987
  • ‘Permaculture Goes to School’ (1997) compiled by Fiona Campbell and Russ Grayson
  • ‘Children Gardening: First Steps Toward a Sustainable¬† Future’ by Robin C. Moore
  • ‘The Principles of Permaculture’ Green Teacher magazine, #78 Spring 2006
  • ‘The Seed Ball Project’ Green Teacher magazine, #75 Winter 2005
  • Kids in Permaculture – Permaculture Activist magazine, #67 Spring 2008
  • Education: Learning to Change the World – Permaculture Activist magazine, #53 Fall 2004
  • ‘Deeper Yet: School & Orphanage Permaculture Project’ – Talking Leaves magazine, Fall 2000
  • All Round (children’s magazine) issue no.12 “All About Plants You Can Eat”

Finally, here are some links to additional resources:

Childrens Peace Guild

Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators

Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature

Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators by David Sobel

Wilderness Youth Project