Getting the Most from a Permaculture Course

Delvin Solkinson, Annaliese Hordern
Thursday, 22nd December 2016

Delvin Solkinson and Annaliese Hordern and friends went on an unforgettable 'pilgrimage' to learn from some of the world's most reputable teachers.

It was a beautiful blue day in the grassy hills near the border of Wales and the beginning of an unforgettable learning adventure. Our group of bright eyed students and aspiring teachers had set off on what would be a life changing journey into education, a Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage. Our mission is to apply permaculture to learning and create designs for making the ‘highest use’ of advanced courses and teacher trainings so they can best support the practical application of lessons learned during the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. Together we adopted a design process for getting the most out of courses while sharing core learnings freely to those who could not attend. We started by creating media for promoting these courses worldwide, inviting people everywhere to join with us in taking the next step as emerging designers, consultants or teachers. This helped us ‘find the others’ while encouraging higher attendance in the programs.

We arrived with cameras, video recorders, note pads and plenty of inspiration. Our goal was to photo-document the courses while taking exceptional notes, ‘capturing and storing’ the learning so we could review it later and use it to upgrade curriculum in our own programs. Together these notes would be organized into a series of worksheets yielding something we could share freely on the web. Combining the notes with photographs, we made full colour books to further share the knowledge from our experience. The process of organizing the notes into worksheets and books helped us review and deepen our understanding, get more out of the courses, as well as make key information accessible to people around the world.

Interviewing the course facilitators on camera yielded a series of short micro-videos for easy sharing on social networks. These helped promote the teachers and shared more of the wisdom and experiences we had received on the courses. Transcriptions of the interviews gave us material for a series of articles.

At the teacher training in the UK at Applewood with Rosemary Morrow, Looby Macnamara, and Chris Evans, we learned about creative facilitation, dynamic teaching methods, presentation skills and course convening. This has proven practically beneficial for us in everyday circumstances, not just when teaching. Teacher trainings empower people to communicate ideas, speak as responsible citizens, and step into roles of leadership and policy making. Graduates can inspire others to be active participants in their communities, seek ethical livelihoods and co-create sustainable futures.

The advanced courses with Robin Clayfield, Rosemary Morrow and Looby Macnamara at the Sustainability Centre in the UK assisted us to deepen our understandings of permaculture while applying it into our lives and practices. We focussed on design processes and methodologies, giving us specific and specialized knowledge for approaching the world beyond the garden. These courses, like most advanced programs, extended their branches into new frontiers of permaculture into realms still to be explored. 

Our Social Permaculture apprenticeship at a course with Starhawk, Robina McCurdy, Robin Clayfield and Looby Macnamara at the Sustainability Centre set up a learning community exploring the new edge of permaculture as it applies to our lives, relationships and workplaces. It was an important step on connecting gardens, farms and land based design processes with decisions we make everyday. Social Permaculture courses look at the ‘invisible structures’ including the way we govern, feed, protect, entertain and educate ourselves. Creating a resilient and regenerative community is a touchstone in our journey to inspire lasting positive changes in the world into which we are woven. 

Taking a PDC course in Greece with Rosemary Morrow was an amazing way to identify the patterns of permaculture as well as consider how it was being taught. This opportunity enabled us to discover more of the details that we may have missed during our first time through a design course. Taking multiple permaculture design courses, with different teachers of different ages and genders, as well as in different climatological regions, will be an evolution for all serious students of permaculture.

The first PDC is just the beginning of the journey. The empowerment and passion to practice and deepen our knowledge comes from a steady and committed path of expanding our experience and networks, observing and interacting with knowledge in creative ways and making it a fun, rewarding experience. Life long learning brings both humility and confidence, helping us carry permaculture strongly into our own lives, communities and bioregions. 

Here are some suggestions from our learning on the pilgrimage that can uplift beginners and advanced practitioners with the foundational expertise that will give them the edge:

* Document all permaculture trainings and endeavours

* Film, photograph and write notes to create learning and teaching resources

* Integrate yourself into your bioregional community

* Volunteer at places and with people you admire

* Visit other eco-communities and contribute in a meaningful way

* Form a learning guild with others of similar interests and values 

* Apply your education into ethical and credible field research

* Co-facilitate workshops or short courses with others

* Participate in community meetings and local government

* Apprentice and build skills

* Take numerous PDCs from different experienced educators in different climactic zones

* Educate yourself with advanced courses and teacher trainings

* Pursue an internship in areas of passion

* Go for a Diploma in Permaculture

* Become a trainee teacher or teacher’s support

* Delve into social permaculture 

* Create media and build distribution networks

* Develop a brilliant portfolio and résumé.

The life changing experience of doing advanced courses, a teacher training, social permaculture program and a permaculture design certificate course, allowed us to witness many real dramas, conflicts and opportunities to evolve. We matured through this process and feel more strongly than ever before to proceed with grace and humility into this beautiful path. For us, like this article, advanced permaculture studies are a ‘Call to Action’ for people to deepen their practice. We hope that all who read this, regardless of age or experience level, will continue their education beyond taking one permaculture design course, branching out and continue a formal path of study as life long learners. 

Special thanks to Dana Wilson and Kym Chi for their help co-designing the Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage, carrying out interviews and producing media.

Annaliese Hordern has a degree in Environmental Resource Management, a Diploma of Permaculture and has taken over 20 advanced trainings with Permaculture elders. She is passionate about Permaculture education, inspiring her students towards their goals in sustainability and global medicinal plant conservation.

Delvin Solkinson has completed a PDC, Diploma and Masters Degree with Bill Mollison and a Diploma with the Permaculture Institute including taking 16 advanced trainings. Currently he is doing graduate work under the mentorship of Larry Santoyo and Looby Macnamara while creating free open source learning and teaching tools.

Free downloads, videos, podcasts, books, worksheets and learning tools from the Pilgrimage is available on www.gaiacraft.com

For info on courses visit: www.permaculture.co.uk/courses

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