A little taste of PDC week 3 (part 1)
Outdoor class on pests and diseases (I think). An attempt to get out of the Aloha Lodge for the final remaining lectures. The challenge: how do you create an effective learning environment for 40+ people with limited time for 3 weeks on a homestead? How effective is the "lecture" format for teaching permaculture (Pc) to this generation of people? I remember the Bullocks talking about Bill Mollison's course they took in the Bay area, and how it was pretty much Bill non-stop talking, drinking tea, and smoking in a hot room in the summer.
Useful and medicinal plant walk with guest teacher Rhonda from La Campesina Project on the island. She is an energetic character full of enthusiasm and knowledge of edibles and medicinals. Look at all those studious permies!
Medicine making with freshly harvested plants.......delightful.
A display of books on herbal goodness and freshly made salves for everyone to take home and apply. Yes folks, we apply our permaculture!
This is an education-interest breakout session organized and facilitated by course participants. We started with a systems-thinking activity where everyone chooses 2 people they will try to stay equidistant to while observing how we (the system) all move as time progresses. Very interesting activity with an opportunity to get our bodies moving with our minds. We then experimented with Open Space meeting format to discuss how Pc principles can be applied to education. Other concurrent sessions included, bee-keeping and measuring the landscape.
Although finding time is challenging, I think it is invaluable to allow for course-participants to have a space to explore certain topics of interest. For one, some topics are not covered in the schedule, and two, we are all experts on some topic. We just need a safe space to practice sharing our expertise with others. Allowing "students" to teach also creates an opportunity to break the traditional student-teacher relationship. After all, we are all teachers and students.
Here is another example of course-participants with expertise leading a session. Natural builders Chris and Sid talked about natural building, codes and regulations, and a short introduction to Mud Girls (natural building collective of women for the People). Their website is http://www.mudgirls.ca/ And as a fan and previous owner of dreads, I must say dread-headed natural builders keep Pc funky fresh.
On the topic of cool creative organizations with women's empowerment as a key focus, there is another organization that I have been deeply impressed by. The Beehive Collective. I think in one of their presentations I heard that they started out as a women's mosaic collective. Now they do extensively well-researched socio-political-cultural commentaries through the use of intricate graphic posters and education workshops. They are mind-blowing! Anyways, hopefully I'll write more about them in the future but check their website out http://www.beehivecollective.org/english/front.htm (especially the mosaics and the graphics), after you enjoy the beautiful slide-show of the Mud Girls. And if you live near Vancouver Island, then you might be interested in the Mud Girls' child, mother, and male friendly affordable natural building workshops.
One of my favorite activities, the Village Building Exercise. How would you design your plot of land? This is a fun activity to apply Pc on a 3-D medium. Small groups are allocated with plots defined by the strings, and all natural conditions true to Orcas island apply to the model. Like orientation, wind, sun, etc.
Sid trying to organize the frenzy of developers for some communal designing of the island. I remember Tom from El Centro Verde in Costa Rica saying something like at heart permies are basically developers. Maybe he said Bill Mollison said that. Anyways, its interesting to see some industriously designing and transforming their land while others attempt to approach this more on a island-wide community project. Its a good lesson for real life. Do we all need our own independent power generators,
Developers hard at work.
At the end of the session each group explained their design and the considerations that lead them through the transformation. Many groups worked collaboratively with their neighbors, and a few removed the strings delineating the boundaries. We had an incident where James started a mining operation on a piece of land with no Pc developers. He was voted off the island, but returned to build a temple for all to come and worship an esoteric Deity. Perhaps a silly incident but in reality you might have miners buy land next to you or interesting neighbors (cults, hippies, pot growers, mafia, meth house, gun enthusiasts, etc). How do you design these elements in? How do you engage with these people? So many variables.
I just realized that the activity is called VILLAGE building exercise. Duh! That is really key, and requires some thought into what constitutes a village and how to organize it. Special thanks to all those who tried to organize the island. We need a lot more community-builders in the world.