Permaculture Life School - An Ethical Education for a Resilient Future

Matt Powers
Friday, 10th July 2015

Matt powers wants to create a permaculture school so that kids grow up wanting to be stewards of the planet. The school will teach permaculture as well as art, sport, play, exploration and more.

For many, permaculture takes them out of the life they knew and propels them into the unknown. For us it was no different. I took Geoff Lawton’s online permaculture design course and came out determined to create permaculture curriculum for youth which is what The Permaculture Student series grew out of. As I finished the book and handed it off to the illustrators and then formatters, I realized that having the book go out to schools all over the world in over a dozen translations wasn’t good enough and wouldn’t be fast enough to make the size change we needed in time. We need permaculture to be the backbone of our education systems - it can’t just be for adults.

Recently attending a packed screening of Inhabit, an award-winning documentary on permaculture, I was struck by the questions the panel of distinguished permaculturists asked afterwards. Nearly all of the questions I’d asked myself, and found the answer in the creation of a school for kids that taught permaculture. I fought the urge to raise my hand and interrupt. All the problems seem to have one solution: teach permaculture early not later on, teach it to as many people as possible and as much as possible guarantee that our systems will be preserved by the next generation. If we plant food forests everywhere and our children still grow up to cut them down, all our efforts would be wasted; they have to want to carry our legacy forward. We can’t force it upon them either, so I came up with a new permaculture educational model for youth, a habitat for learning where children are not judged or forced. 

A New Kind of School 

For years, my wife and I struggled to figure out what was best for our two boys educationally: we tried traditional schooling, homeschooling and eventually unschooling, but while we distilled elements we liked (or our boys liked) from these methodologies they all lacked cohesiveness. I realized that we couldn’t adopt someone else’s programs, we had to make our own. I realized after creating the first home and public school permaculture textbook and workbook series that I could base an entire school around permaculture. Permaculture Life School is my vision of that school.

We will learn everything from annual and perennial gardening to beekeeping to scything to goal setting to reading the landscape. It will be like a PDC but with more: there’ll be art, exploration, play, field games, field trips to developed ecosystems and events, music, home business, and so much more. School will sometimes be held at student home sites to install gardens, earthworks, graywater systems and more. The school will function to develop and strengthen communities through service learning.

Childhood should be an adventure. We should all have the opportunity to learn how to be ethical, healthy and happy. We should all know how to leave a positive footprint everywhere we go. When permaculture is a language the rising generation is fluent in, the world will be a safer place for as long as the sun shines. Our school seeks to be the flagship for a new mode of education; help us start the journey out strong and share our mission with the world.


Join us in our journey by contributing to our Indiegogo campaign.

We have some fun perks too: a children’s story painted in only fruit and vegetable juices, the Permaculture Student, site consultations, cohosting Permaculture Tonight & more! 

Our IndieGogo:

Our Youtube Video:

Further resources

Outdoor Classrooms - A Handbook for School Gardens

Watch: The edible schoolyard

Eco-retrofitting a schoolyard

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hearthstone |
Tue, 04/08/2015 - 10:30
Ecologically and Socially Sustainable Education: Creating a Sustainable World. Published at (online: ) Author: Mr. Jan Hearthstone Abstract. The purpose of ecologically and socially sustainable education is to teach the skills and to impart knowledge necessary for the establishment and perpetuation of ecologically and socially sustainable society. The first step is to determine what an "ecologically and socially sustainable society" is. This is achieved by reconciling and unifying of all individual ideas that there ever might exist of what should constitute an "ecologically and socially sustainable society" into a unified model--a model acceptable to all because it is based on all knowledge of Earth and societal processes pertinent to the subject, and because everyone can participate in the modeling process. This unification in a model is necessary in order to avoid costly resolving ("costly" in terms of time, energy, resources, and, not infrequently, lives) of differences among those ideas in real life. This ongoing process of "reconciling and unifying of all individual ideas" into a unified model in itself would be the "ecologically and socially sustainable education" to the participants, because this unification process of all the diverse ideas would show what ideas would be more sustainable than others (or not), and why this should be so; in order to design a world that they would like to live in the participants would learn everything necessary for this while participating in the designing process. They would have an active interest in doing so--they would be designing a life for themselves that they would like to have. This, in itself, would constitute the best possible form of a government. Keywords. "ecologically and socially sustainable education", "ecological and social sustainability", sustainable, sustainability, education, "The Path of Least Resistance", "Robert Fritz", "Mahayana philosophy", Mahayana, philosophy Introduction. It could be argued that for humans to live sustainably is the optimal way to exist, a way that would generate the least amount of suffering for humans and many other beings who share this world with them. The principal idea expressed in this paper--the purposeful and conscious designing of our collective sustainable future collaboratively, with the participation of all who have an interest in achieving a satisfactory future--is based on the philosophy of Mahayana (please see bellow and/or /Mahayana_Philosophy_for_Sustainability ) and the practical approach to creating of desired results as it is formulated in The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz (Fritz 1984). At present there are many people who know what they do not want in their lives, but a very few who have formed a definite image of what their ideal life should be. There are much fewer people who would like have their future to be sustainable, and there exist a myriad definitions of "sustainability", many of which are not even compatible with each other. A lot of time, resources, and energy are being wasted on trying to reconcile the differences among those definitions in real time and space. All this waste could be avoided by reconciling these differences in a model, i. e. by deciding the viability of any idea by modeling in virtuality "concrete" applications of any ideas in consideration pertaining to our future. Even people who do not "believe" in sustainability could use the modeling process to see how their ideas of what an ideal world should be like in a model. I contend that by using the modeling process continually, even using input of people who do not "believe" in sustainability, eventually the result would have to, inevitably, be a portrayal of a sustainable world, because no other way other than sustainable could ever be as justifiable, nor any other results could ever be as elegant and parsimonious as sustainable ones. The modeling of the ideal, would never be in any way influenced by any ideologies, creeds, or personalities of the in-putters. Only the realization that we all have to share the Earth together with as little conflict as possible would matter. Only the relevance of ideas to creating of the ideal would matter. The modeling of an ideal future could be used even in small scale situations in conflict resolutions and also in deciding the future of smaller social units. What is "ecologically and socially sustainable education"? Ecologically and socially sustainable education helps to establish and maintain an ecologically and socially sustainable society. It is a part of designing of an ecologically and socially sustainable world. Participants learn what they have to learn about what "ecological and social sustainability" is, while designing their own ideal lives themselves as they go--learning what they need to learn. What is an "ecological and social sustainability"? There are many definitions of what constitutes "sustainability", let alone "ecological and social sustainability". Some are less abstruse than others, but there is not a single one definition of "sustainability" that would satisfy everybody. Therefore, in order to be able to define "ecological and social sustainability", the best definition of the term would be actually showing in a model what an ideal sustainable state of any geopolitical entity ought to be by collectively inputting individual definitions into models and reconciling the differences among them by representing "concrete" portrayals of the optimal sustainable states of those entities. (All the above is further elaborated upon bellow). The need for a model that would show what an "ecologically and socially sustainable" world should look like. The unification of all ideas about what our collective future should be like in a model is necessary in order to avoid costly resolving (costly in terms of time, energy, resources, and--not infrequently--lives) of differences among those ideas in real life. It is necessary to have a good definition of "sustainable" for working purposes. Only by modeling of this definition we can get definitions of "sustainable" that actually would be "visible"--made "visible"--by "concrete" applications of what might be considered "sustainable" in a model. To reconcile all the various definitions of "ecological and social sustainability" (and to unify all ideas about what our collective future should be like generally) I propose that all of these are used to construct a model that would portray what an "ecologically and socially sustainable" (henceforth "sustainable" in this paper, for brevity sake) society, or any social entity of any size--from a local community to the whole Earth encompassing humanity. In such a model it would be possible to "see" what the each definition of "ecological and social sustainability" ("sustainability" from now on, but let us not forget that "sustainability" should be a holistic concept, that demands all of its components to be thoroughly "sustainable" themselves) would look like when translated from the abstract to a "visible" representation of "sustainability", if in virtuality only. In this way each of the definitions' viability could be "seen" and evaluated against all other definitions and against all knowledge that is important in deciding what is "sustainable" and what is not so (e. g.--availability and distribution of resources, form of the society, and such). It is important to stress that this modeling should not be about "problem solving"! According to Robert Fritz in The Path of Least Resistance (Fritz 1984) the process of creating the results that we want to have in our lives cannot depend on "problem solving", because we never, really, run out of problems ever, and even, very unlikely, when we solve all of our problems, we still might not be even close to having what we really want to have, especially, if we don't know what that might be. The modeling has to focus on the results that we do want to have in our common reality. The resultant emerging portrayal of an ideal state of things would not depend on the personalities of people inputting the model--only ideas would compete with each other. The process would not be hampered by the prestige, or the lack thereof, of people inputting the modeling process. Nor could anyone personally profit from taking a part in the process. The "profit" would lie in making it possible for all to design and to strive for the optimal home ever for all involved possibly obtainable with no one excluded from the process of doing so. In essence the shaping of human society on any level, from a local community government to global concerns, driven by the desire to approach the ideal, would supersede, eventually, any form of government in existence currently, because once a justified, unified objective would be identified, the actions to achieve it would always be defensible, and because no one ever would be excluded from the political action. There is a qualitative difference between the way the society would be governed by using the modeling process and the way politics is being conducted currently. Today our future is being shaped by a very small portion of humanity, excluding a huge proportion of people who cannot influence their future significantly. Much discontent thus generated will create problems in the future, problems that will be resolved to the satisfaction of only a few again--the number of problems will be increasing till they will be "solved", for a while, by some major societal catastrophe. In contrast, no one ever could be excluded from modeling the ideal state of the world--all who would care to live in a better world would always be able to improve on the ideal. No one's effort in modeling of the ideal and in contributing to achieving of the ideal would be wasted--actions small and actions big will all flow coherently into the realization of the ideal--both in the model and in reality. Differences that there are among people and cause so much unhappiness in real life could be dealt with, could be resolved in the model preemptively. Sustainable education springs from the need of bridging the current reality with the desired state of affairs. With a visible, collaboratively being created, and generally upon agreed model of what our ideal common reality should actually be, it would always be possible to see what the discrepancy between what is desired and what actually exists currently, in relation to the ideal, is. This discrepancy between the desired goal and what there is in reality (in respects to the desired goal) alone would be the driving force of sustainable education (I am alluding to Fritz's description in The Path of Least Resistance --Fritz 1984--of how "structural tension" between the desired objective and its "current reality" drives the creation of desired results). Sustainable education would always makes sense, because at each point the whichever particular knowledge that is being acquired is clearly "seen" (by comparing the modeled desired reality with the current reality) as being necessary to know in order to achieve that which is desired. The start of the modeling process itself would be the start of sustainable education. Conclusion. Most problems that humanity experiences are human made, and this fact implies a hope--it might well be within human powers to effect the healing of our world. The "old" way of doing things will never do; obviously the "old" way got us to where we are now. We cannot look back trying to find solutions to our present problems, because any "solutions" from the past helped to get us exactly to where we are now. Any solutions based on humanity's experience from the past that have been tried have been proven ineffective, so far; ineffective in trying to deal with issues that really matter--fulfilling the basic life on Earth needs satisfactorily--QED. We have to look, as if, into the future for solutions, more precisely--we have to design our future to our collective satisfaction, and then we can work to make this designed future our reality. It is very important to know what it actually is that we desire to have. Alone the existence of a constantly updated, evolving model of an ideal state of the Earth would greatly improve even our current political process by "seeing" to what degree each political decision would, or would not, help to achieve the ideal state.
Gregory901 |
Tue, 03/04/2018 - 15:57
Hello. Very interesting article and good thoughts, i absolutely agree with the author. Especially about this part “The school will function to develop and strengthen communities through service learning.” This is just brilliant idea cause it's very important in present days. Also there will no necessary to ask for help somewhere like cause different method of education will be and it's fantastic.
Gregory901 |
Tue, 03/04/2018 - 15:59
Hello. Very interesting article and good thoughts, i absolutely agree with the author. Especially about this part “The school will function to develop and strengthen communities through service learning.” This is just brilliant idea cause it's very important in present days. Also there will no necessary to ask for help somewhere like cause different method of education will be and it's fantastic.