Echo Earth Care

Project 5: Permaculture Events

Since first discovering Permaculture in 2011 I have changed my life in so many ways - hopefully all for the better! I truly believe that Permaculture can be a life-changing experience for anybody, and that it offers real-life solutions to many of the problems facing society today. I therefore think it is important to try to reach out to people and share this knowledge as much as possible.

It is one of my long term goals to be able to become a Permaculture teacher and to teach the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). The PDC can be taught in many different ways and designing and implementing a PDC involves a wide range of skills and experience. and one way to work towards this goal has been to gain experience organising and teaching at different types of Permaculture related events, as well as observing different experienced Permaculture teachers in action.

This design therefore sees me designing and implementing a series of different types of events, presentations and workshops aimed at bringing people together to practice Permaculture principles (e.g. North Queensferry Walled Garden), educating people in Permaculture topics (through teaching at Permaculture courses and hosting workshops at the Scottish Permaculture Gathering) and spreading the word of Permaculture at relevant events, such as the Scottish Smallholders and Growers Festival.

The brief

My aims in this design are to

  • gain experience designing and implementing a range of events and workshops, the nature of which could be expected to be found in a Permaculture training course.
  • to observe and learn from different Permaculture teachers

Survey - what makes a good Permaculture course & teacher?

I have had the pleasure of attending training and presentations given by some of the most inspirational Permaculture teachers in Scotland and learned different strengths from each of them.

  • Ed Tyler -Ed was the first Permaculture teacher I ever encountered when I did an introduction weekend at Kilmartin. I especially appreciated the level of physical movement and interactive nature of some of the exercises, e.g. the input/output web and looking for examples of Permaculture Principles in the Forest.
  • James Chapman -I completed my PDC with James and really enjoyed the amount of fun and music that he brought to the course through the learning games and songs, and how his teaching style really facilitated incredible participation and contribution from the participants. I have since shadowed James and taught some of the sessions on his PDCs and am always very impressed with his very calm and accepting manner of dealing with participants, especially those who most people find challenging. I really enjoyed many of the practical sessions that James included in the PDC and really feel that these are an essential and inspiring aspect of the course.
  • Graham Bell - Having visited Grahams garden and observed him at Permaculture Gatherings, and also non Permaculture events I have a huge respect for his knowledge and experience. I also can relate more to his style of presentations with PowerPoint as this is where my own experience lies, and it is clear that there is a place for this style of session within the PDC along with the more fun and interactive sessions.
  • Nenya Milne and Jenny Smith - I have been co-teaching with Nenya and Jenny over the last few years at some of James PDC sessions and really appreciate their organisational and logistical skills in setting up the PDC, and also enjoy watching them talk with ease and a lot of knowledge in their areas of expertise.
  • Bring and share lunches - OK, not a teacher but one of my favourite aspects of Permaculture events! Having been involved in courses with and without the Bring and Share lunch, I really feel that those with this lunch session really bring the group together so much more, as everyone learns about new food types and it really generates great conversations. The courses where food was available to buy just did not seem to have the same camaraderie and group spirit.

Needs and expectations mapping

From my experience of Permaculture events and courses I created a mind map of what I saw as the key needs and expectations for the kind of Permaculture event that I would aspire to deliver.

A mind map exploring how to teach and organise Permaculture events

Analysis

From my work as a Human Factors Specialist I already had a lot of experience in designing and delivering training courses in the work place, and as a food ambassador for Nourish I have organised and hosted events on their behalf. I therefore knew that I could meet many of the needs above but wanted to my experience and skill set vs needs and expectations map to identify the areas where I thought that I would benefit most from gaining more experience. These areas were:

  • Designing sessions that are focused more on participant involvement
  • Designing and running practical workshops
  • Collaborating with other organisations and teachers
  • Developing more subject matter expertise and first hand experience of Permaculture topics to then be able to design and confidently teach on Permaculture courses

Design

In the last 5 years I have sought out opportunities where I would be able to develop experience in the areas identified above.

North Queensferry Walled Garden Family Day

NQ Walled Garden

The North Queensferry Transition Initiative (NQTI) set up a community garden where they practice Permaculture gardening techniques, amongst other things. The garden was going well, but was in need of new members to maintain momentum. I arranged a family day, in collaboration with Common Good Food, to share the garden with the wider community and to encourage more members of the community to become involved. This project allowed me to gain experience in collaborating with non Permaculture organisations, arrange practical workshops and was very much focused on socialisation and participant interaction, whilst also highlighting applied Permaculture methods in the garden.

Read more about the family day

Permaculture Gathering Workshops

Every year Permaculture Scotland hosts an annual Gathering, for sharing of ideas, designs, skills, music and friendship.

In 2016 I hosted two workshops and helped with general organisational and catering tasks. The knitting workshop helped me practise designing practical workshops, whilst the Brexit World Cafe was focused on participant contribution and managing potentially challenging participants due to the emotionally charged nature of the topic.

Read more about these workshops

Teaching Permaculture at PDC courses

I have been very lucky to be invited to gain teaching experience by working with an inspiring teacher, James Chapman. James has a very open and interactive teaching style, where the participants all contribute as much as the teachers. Each time I've helped with James' courses I've come home having learned at least as much as I've taught. By designing and delivering sessions on Permaculture Gardening and Real Wealth I have gained more first hand experience of Permaculture topics and more experience in delivering training on Permaculture courses.

Read more information on my teaching sessions

Reflection

I have really enjoyed all of the activities that form part of this design and they have reinforced my love of teaching (adults!) and my desire to do more teaching in the future. I have consciously decided that I would not necessarily set up my own PDC as I really enjoy working with other teachers and feel that a variety of teachers brings an extra dimension to the course. I appreciate that my strengths lie in delivering structured presentations on topics I'm familiar with, along with organisations skills, and that these skills are greatly enhanced by collaborating with more creative and fun based people to deliver a balanced, interactive and inspirational event.

When I first started on this journey I was still working full time in a professional environment and my expectations of training courses was of slick presentations, exams and not much creativity. My initial impression of Permaculture was of disorganisation and a lack of professionalism - who are these crazy bunch of hippies??? I have since learned that there are so many different learning and teaching styles and that different styles suit different people. Valuing diversity truly is the key to success and one of the great things about the Permaculture movement is that there is space for all teachers and all styles of teaching. My style may be a tad structured and PowerPoint centric, but when blended with a creative and fun team, such as the Non-Stuff Industries team, contributes to an overall great course.