School kids and permaculture - Gettings kids interested in a limited sp

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Fin, Jul 22, 2003.

  1. Fin

    Fin Guest

    Hi everyone,

    I have been given a challenge by the director of our outdoor education/farm centre (for a Brisbane high school) to begin a small permaculture garden at the facility with the students. The farm is located near Crows Nest in Qld. Unfortunatly I know very little about the practice of permaculture although I love organic gardening, so I really need some advice! I have looked though some of the books available but they don't really apply to this situation.

    The main aim is to introduce the students (approx 15yrs old)to the basic concepts of permaculture and organic gardening using practical experience. At the moment my designated garden area is approx 5x10m. Apparently about 10 years ago it was a perm garden so the area contains several (5) native trees incl. bottlebrush, silky oak, melaluca. Attached to the garden is a chook pen containing approx 30 chooks that are currently pecking out the invaded couch grass.We also have an abundant availability of compost and fertilizer from the chooks, cattle and horses.
    The students are mostly from the Brisbane suburbs but some boarders are from properties. I really would like to show them the joys of growing your own vegetables/herbs/flowers in a limited space to they can apply it at home. Whilst they are digging and picking the veges etc I want to talk to them about the theory of organic gardening and the application of permacuture to design a semi sustainable way of living in a suburban situation.

    Next to the this area is the main centre's garden . A regimented, over fertilised and pesticide using area about 5 x the size. So I want a stark comparison to this by providing a well designed but overgrowing, all year producing organic garden that provides some unsual veges (ideas from Diggers), edible flowers and herbs to contrast the 'normal' view of a garden.

    After looking at the books I was thinking of a small tyre pond, a snail shaped herb garden and a narrow (1.5m) snake style garden meandering through the rest for easy picking.

    Apologies for the large letter but I really need help from people, not books at this stage. I want the next generation to learn to farm their backyards an rely less on the supermarket and permaculture seems the best way to teach it. Also it would be fantastic to meet and chat to anyone who lives around Crowns Nest/Toowoomba region about permacuture gardening and their ideas about teaching younger people (and myself)! ???

    Please help

    Regards

    Fin ???
     
  2. d_donahoo

    d_donahoo Junior Member

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    cheers fin.

    wow - great project! i'll chip in, in a rather generalist way...

    1. if i was you i'd get david holmgren's new book "Permaculture Principles and Pathways to Sustainability"...available at https://www.holmgren.com.au. This book gives you the broad perspective of permaculture...it isn't just about gardening, and i think if you are going to take on the responsibility of teaching secondary students permaculture you owe it to them to talk about the 'systems design' approach and that in their daily lives they can practice permaculture principles by 'distributing the surplus' or 'observing and interacting'. This will be the best way to teach them to produce food for themselves - it also mean explaining the current methods of consumption and how unsustainable they are...i know it probably doesn't fit the project - but you almost need a whole week discussing this stuff before a finger hits the soil....

    2. so...look less to books for an exact way of teaching 'permaculture gardening' and teach organic gardening within a permaculture framework. To do this you'll need to get your head around the principles - i have no doubt you can teach the composting, the companion planting, seed saving and all those organic techniques that permaculture and organic gardening share - but you need to highlight what is different about permaculture.

    Permaculture is about using little energy - and capturing and storing it where possible. It is about designing a garden that flows. That puts the compost near the chook pen - so they get warm from it. That plants trees for shade and fruit with the knowledge in 10 years they will be cut down for wood and to return the nutrients from the roots to the soil.

    More and more I see permaculture as a lifestyle - because your life is just another system - interacting with a whole range of other systems....

    there is a lot of work to do.

    in a perfect world. i think you should.
    1. do a Permaculture Design Course (soon to be taught at Certificate and Diploma level at TAFE)
    2. contact Permaculture International (https://www.permacultureinternational.org) about what you are doing
    3. find a mentor to help guide you
    4. go for it

    i realise the improbability of this - so this forum is an excellent place to kick start it all.

    cheers
     
  3. Fin

    Fin Guest

    Hi Dan,

    They are great suggestions. In the perfect world I would have time to do the course but I'm ploughing through a PhD, and far away from all the exciting gardening stuff at Crystal waters, Lismore, and in Victoria.

    We do have a TAFE in Toowoomba and I don't think permaculture is there yet but I'll keep an eye out for it. You're right in suggesting that I should teach organic gardening with a permaculture framework and I think that's what I'll do. Unfortuately the odds are a little stacked against me considering I'm also learning as we go. I only have the kids for 4 hours a week so really I need to get cracking and produce something tangible for them to see and understand and eat! What also makes it hard is that 'I'm not expected to produce anything' (from the manager) and the first suggestion was to 'roundup the lot and good luck'. There's not a great of people expecting success so as you can imagine I'm desperate to prove them wrong.

    Thanks again, I'll look up that book you suggested.

    Regards

    Fin
     
  4. d_donahoo

    d_donahoo Junior Member

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    hey fin.

    yeah. i gathered that the situation would be somewhat limiting - as you have described!

    i think if there is the possibility to at least get the young students involved in the planning and design that'll be good for fostering ownership of the garden - who knows throw a few principles their way and they may begin to think more permaculturally than anyone and start having their own great ideas - actually, no doubt this will happen.

    i'd get them to build a chook tractor - that would make for a fun day and i'd still encourage to read books - they foster great ideas - what have you read? can you get an old bath tub - they are great for growing water plants.

    i'd recommend Linda Woodrow's 'Permaculture Home Garden' - especially considering your location.
     
  5. Fin

    Fin Guest

    Hi Dan,

    What's a chook tractor? It sounds very interesting.

    I have had a brief read of Bill Mollisons introductory book and Rosmary Morrows earth users guide. They gave me an initial idea. I also have Ester Deans gardening book which I think is fabulous because its easy to follow, though not quite full on permaculture stuff. I do want to start a pond. I have a large tractor tyre I'm thinking of using. There are no baths available unfortunately. I did see the book you mention in a catalogue. Its it specific to my region?

    I began work on the garden yesterday. No kids yet though. I'm putting a 1m bed all around the edge to keep the couch grass out and have lined it with thick cardboard. The soil is loamy sand exc. drainage. I covered the bed with lucerne, then a mix of decomposed horse manure and straw and then straight straw. I have to build the soil up sort of no dig principles. I'm going to cover it with compost just before I'm ready to plant. I'd like to plant my green mulch in there as well as some edible flowers and some companion veges. I was given a suggestion from a cotton farmer (of all people) that if you plant lucerne or chickpeas near brassicas the heliothis don't attack as much so you can plant them in spriing etc. Worth trying.

    Thanks for your help.

    Fin. :D
     
  6. busta

    busta Junior Member

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    hi Fin,
    I'm currently teaching the Introduction to Permaculture to a bunch of year 8 students here in Perth. I got funding through the Water Corporation due to the fact that the course is based on drought tollerant principles for our region. We have put it through the Society and Environment caricular framework so it fits in with what they are learning. However I have also tought Permaculture at another school through the science caricullum. Teaching young people who may not be all that interested is a challenge, so if you decide to hire a permaculture lecturer make sure that they have a good understanding of young people and try to make the project as hands on as possible. I found also that showing some of the global gardener video by Bill Mollison is also handy to give them an idea of Permacultures global following. 1 more point, make sure you put measures in place to minimise the incidents of vandalism ie. tie trees to pickets make chook coops inpenitrable, make your nursery lockable. I've learnt from my mistakes.

    peace
    busta :O
     
  7. d_donahoo

    d_donahoo Junior Member

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    hey fin.

    how good is the 1m bed? couch can burrow! insidious stuff. i had it infiltrate a raised garden bed and take over in 6 months - from the bottom up!

    i'd recommend planting some think edging clumpy stuff like bamboo or lemongrass to help keep it out as well - as an extra pre caution - then you can have lemongrass tea - or very handy bean poles as well! (and that tip is from the Linda Woodrow book...yep - it is suitable for your location and while it is $35, a worthwhile investment)

    the 'chook tractor' is a time old permaculture concept as far as i can tell. it can be as complex or simple as you like. but the basic principle is enclose the chooks where you want to plant a garden, feed them and leave them there for 1-3 months and they do all the scratching and turning over of the soil for you - fertilise it with their poo and eat all the weeds (including couch grass) - for basically nothing (and you get eggs!)

    linda woodrow has these amazing dome ones she incorpotares into a mandala system. other people have them on wheels. I now just get four stakes and a roll of chicken wire and shape that around the raised bed and throw three or four chooks in each morning and let them go home at night. i'd get your student researching and building as soon as possible!

    hope you are finding a whole heap of organic matter for your raised beds!

    enjoy.

    dan
     
  8. Mont

    Mont Junior Member

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    G'day Fin. I hope you don't get a stiff neck from looking up at the steep learning curve in front of you but you've got an exciting project and I really wish you well. I think Dan Donahoo's idea of building a chook tractor is a good one. Not only will it be fun and give the students something concrete to look at after a couple of days' work, but it's a great illustration of the permaculture principle of saving energy by thinking smarter. In this case, getting chooks to fertilise your ground for you by doing the scratching that comes naturally to them. There's a photo on this site of a chook tractor we made last year during On-Ground training at Diversity Farm. (See Photo Gallery then Diversity Farm Vegetable Gardens, it's photo no. 20). We followed the instructions in the Linda Woodrow book Dan mentioned. It's worth getting. She also has a useful, detailed section about plant barriers to keep out invasive grass (Green Gatecrashers) where she recommends things like lemongrass, comfrey (a multitalented plant), etc.
    Lastly, I know it's a bit of a distance but the Sunshine Coast is a bit of a permaculture hotspot - if you ever get over there you might find people who can teach you more.
    Best of luck from a fellow new permaculturist.

    Mont
    Sydney
     
  9. Guest

    Hi Fin,

    It may be worth getting in touch with Carolyn Nutall. She has written a great book called "A Children's Food Forrest" that was based on a primary school permaculture garden that she developed in South Queensland.
    You need to order the book through her, it costs $20 but has great ideas of further integrating PC into the curriculum and also developing projects surrounding the garden.

    Her email address is

    [email protected]

    Cheers

    Alexis
     
  10. Guest

    Hi Fin,
    I have been teaching Permaculture in High School for about 8 months now and have had a few pitfalls but overall it's great. Trying to fit it into the curriculum is quite easy if you are teaching either science or technology. I am currently writing a semesterised program for my school introducing permaculture with a science basis. We've even made a chook tractor, and finally have some chooks. If you need any help give me an email
    [email protected]

    Regards
    Nat
     

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