Many moons ago (actually only one moon ago) saw me go solo as a permaculture teacher as part of the Brighton Permaculture Trust training scheme. After doing two observations of the ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ course, we were asked to choose one section of it that we would like to teach and prepare that. I chose to teach Permaculture principles because I wanted to bring more of a focus to non-land-based design in Permaculture, and that seemed like a good place to do it.
I chose to teach Holmgren’s principles which are subtly different to Mollison’s principles which are usually taught on the course. [If I were to do this lesson again, I would try to develop some learning resources which made the comparison between the two sets of principles easy to see, so it wouldn’t have to be taught twice]. I had spent quite a long time before the lesson researching and compiling ‘real life’ examples of the principles in action. For each principle I used a land-based example and a non-land-based example.
My lesson plan went as follows:
I introduced the principles by explaining that they were a set of design ‘rules’ which had been learned from nature and which could be applied in any natural setting, as well as being useful for non-land-based design. I then introduced the first two principles, giving the students a land-based example and a non-land-based example and then asking them to come up with some of their own. After this short intro, I then put the students into pairs and handed out some resource cards which had the principle on one side, and the examples on the other. The students had to read this card and then come up with an example of their own.
The obligatory PMI (plus, minus, interesting) analysis…
Pluses: I thought that on the whole the lesson went well. The students were engaged and came up with lots of really great examples, lots more than I expected them to come up with. Using non-land-based examples seemed to go down pretty well and broadened students understanding if what permaculture can be. I kept to time (hurrah!) and my instructions were largely good. I used a stopwatch on my computer desktop so that students could see how long they had left for the task and when it went off it brought the students attention back to the front of the class without me having to do anything.
Minuses: I sounded nervous at the beginning (I wasn’t nervous until Hedvig asked me repeatedly whether I was feeling nervous) and I also slightly fluffed the instructions for the main task – I gave out the resources before I had explained what people should do. When the students came to present their principle to the group, they didn’t always introduce their principle clearly and on a couple of occasions I had to repeat it. Next time I would put the name of the principle on the screen behind the students together with the pictures that I used to illustrate my examples (but not the written examples themselves) as I realised that only one group would get to see the pictures on the card clearly – the group that were working on it. I also used a couple of words like guild and didn’t explain them.
Interesting: My ‘recap’ was to get the students to put their cards out of sight and try and remember as many principles as possible. I was going to do this as a whole group, but then I realised they would have just read out the principle they had been working on, so I kept them in pairs for this activity.
So to change for next time… I would adapt my resources to include a comparison of Holmgren’s Principles and Mollison’s principles. Whether this would be too complicated, I don’t know! I would use slides which had the name of the principle and the pictures of the examples on them so that all of the students could see what was on the card, but not be distracted by lots of writing which can be read out.
Roll on the next permie-teaching challenge!