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Delvin Solkinson


  • Joined: 08/02/2011
  • Last Updated: 08/02/2011
  • Location: Elphinstone , British Columbia, Canada
  • Climate Zone: Cool Temperate
  • Gender: Male
  • Web site: www.gaiacraft.com

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Permaculture Masters Degree Vignette

Posted by Delvin Solkinson almost 4 years ago

Here is an illustrated copy of my Masters Degree Thesis in Permaculture Education.


A Thesis
Presented to Bill Mollison
of the Permaculture Institute
To complete the Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Permaculture Education

Delvin Solkinson
September, 2010

(photo : poxin.org)

© 2010 Byron Gelin



This thesis work was written to open dialogues that explore and evolve the role and place of Permaculture in the mainstream and alternative education systems.

A body of research was developed over three years of rigorous work, both in the classroom and in the field. This came from the comprehensive reading of 17 books including many Permaculture Teaching Manuals. Traveling to learn from other permaculture teachers over this period included two week-long teacher trainings. The main design component was developing a full Permaculture Design Course. Teaching experience was gained by organizing and teaching over 100 hours of classes, workshops, presentations, lectures and courses to people of all ages and educational levels. This work varied from one-hour presentations to weekend workshops and included delivering full Permaculture Design Courses. Field research was also done through interviewing permaculture teachers. During this time a permaculture learning site, the Heart Gardens, was expanded in the downtown core of Roberts Creek, BC, Canada. This thesis is grounded in direct experiential learning and focuses around educational experiences that happened in these Heart Gardens.

At the heart of the master’s work was the development of learning and teaching tools to introduce practical curriculum for all levels of education. This media includes signs, a heart map, a kids’ heart map, a plant book, a worksheet book, principles card deck, and mapping tokens. In addition, articles were written and websites developed to open discussions about permaculture education in the media. Development of media, learning and teaching tools and other kinds of curriculum support is suggested as an effective way to help expand the potentials of permaculture.

The conclusions of the thesis are simple and reflect what is already happening in the field of permaculture education. New curriculum and media is being developed to integrate permaculture into all levels of mainstream and alternative education for the benefit of the Earth as a whole, and all the beings who are living together on it.




Delvin Solkinson grew up in a suburb of Vancouver, BC, Canada where he played sports and enjoyed living across from the forest of Mt. Seymour and close to the Pacific Ocean. When sports injuries retired him from the competitive life, Delvin began a gardening business to pay his way through university. Moving to a small village north of the coast from Vancouver, Delvin took his first PDC course and found his calling for right livelihood that would help contribute in a positive way to his human and more-than-human communities. He co-wrote a grant to get funding to run two, one-year long youth programs which included online permaculture certifications, and experience building school and community gardens as well as doing week-long educational campaigns in the local elementary schools of the district. For this he was awarded a Permaculture Diploma. With the support of his family and a gardening job in the very classroom where much of his permaculture research happens, Delvin has undergone an intensive Master’s project including developing and beginning to teach Permaculture Design Certificates.

(photo : poxin.org)


I dedicate this work to the benefit of all beings with the deepest of gratitude to my dear mother without whom none of this would be possible, to Patricia Michael who has been an empowering guide along my path, and to Robin Wheeler whose wisdom and teachings are at the heart of this work.



"Coming to the realization that changes are in the way humans live, and then facing the bold step of acknowledging that we should do something about it, is crucial for our own survival on this planet" (Ross, Mars, The Basics of Permaculture Design, page 3)

It has been an incredible few years of directed work with my Masters project. Patricia Michael is the best sponsor teacher I could have ever hoped to get. Her patience with my process was paramount. She always gave concise, practical and relevant feedback to my seasonal permaculture reports and development of this thesis. Her wisdom and advice have empowered me on my path and will stay with me for a lifetime. I am so grateful that Bill Mollison suggested her for this task at the beginning of this process, as she is an amazing and empowering sponsor teacher and guide along the permaculture path.

I am also deeply grateful to 'Uncle Bill' Mollison for allowing me to embark on this journey into my education that is transitioning me into the life of an active professional permaculture teacher.

Without my mother’s unconditional loving support of my work I would never have gotten this far. Her encouragement of my Masters thesis as well as reading, editing and critiquing all my seasonal masters reports was a huge help. Driving me to the plant sales during early morning hours and giving me a warm place to work in the winters when my gardening work was minimal and resources low, I acknowledge my mother at the heart of this work.

My parents kindly loaned me the money to do this Masters thesis and my intention is to create an abundant teaching practice so I can pay them back for this generosity. I am so deeply grateful for their support of my educational path even though it was different from their own.




8.Practical Introduction
9. Theoretical Introduction
10. Overview of permaculture education today : classes, PDC, diploma and degrees
11. Notes on the permaculture education system
12. Experiential research done to support this thesis

PART ONE : Permaculturing the Education System

13. Permaculture Community Classroom : Heart Gardens
14. Permaculture Education Center : Elfinhome
15-16. Permaculturing Education : Elementary grades k-7
17. Permaculturing Education : Intermediate  education : grades 8-12
18-19. Permaculturing Education : Post-secondary and adult education

PART TWO : Educational Media

20. Signage
21. Heart Gardens Map
22. Heart Garden Kids Map
23. Plant Information Book
24. Worksheets
25. Card Deck
26. Permaculture Tokens
27. Educational Flier
28. Native Plant Card Deck
29. Websites and Social Networking
30 – 31. Events


32. Right Livelihood
33. Future
34. Theoretical Conclusion
35. Practical Conclusion

37-60. Appendices
61. Post-Script



White Fawn Lily in the Heart Gardens : photograph by Josef Schmidt
Biographical Picture : photograph by Josef Schmidt
Red Flowering Currant in the Heart Gardens : photograph by Josef Schmidt
Heart Gardens Digital Picture : art by Mark Lee
Elfinhome Picture
Grade 3 Waldorf Students
Alternative School Students
University Students
Adult Learners
Permaculture Design Certificate Students
Elder College Students
Heart Garden Sign
Heart Gardens Map
Heart Garden Kids Map
Gaiacraft Permaculture Workbook
Permaculture Principles Card Deck
Permaculture Token Set
Educational Flier
Native Plant Card
Event Poster
Sechelt Nation Elder and musicians speak about traditional plant wisdom and sing.
Sitka Valerian and Roundleaf Sundew : photographs by Josef Schmidt
White Camas in the Heart Gardens – A Painting from my Grandmother Winifred Dennett


At the heart of this permaculture thesis are learning and teaching tools designed to be adaptable to support curriculum for all ages and educational levels of students. They are put into zip-lock bags for protection. Feel free to laminate and use these cards in your permaculture practice but please do not make copies.  

"Permaculture is information and imagination intensive…if we take the time to read, observe, discuss, and contemplate, we begin to think in terms of multidisciplines, and to design systems which save energy and give us yields" (Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture, page 31)

The tiny mountain village of Roberts Creek lays at the base of Mt. Elphinstone, on the Pacific West Coast of British Columbia, Canada. This nook in the Northwest Coast of North America hosts a temperate rainforest famous for the diversity of frogs, salamanders and mushrooms. Here the entire downtown business district is less than one square block. The businesses are surrounded by permaculture education gardens that are the feature focus of my Masters Project and the experiential space from which this Masters thesis was written.

I completed my Diploma almost six years ago now on the 11th of May, 2004 during which time I did extensive work with elementary and high school students including many one-day and week-long permaculture courses with them. During this Diploma project I also facilitated 20 high school aged students through a full PDC through an online course.

Over the next two years with advice from Bill Mollison I co-created a Masters Project with the support of Vice Chancellor of the Academy Patricia Michael. This project officially started in January 2007 and involved two years of practical work and another half-year writing the thesis. I have done over 120 hours of teaching people of all ages and educational backgrounds, comprehensively read many permaculture texts, and developed a full PDC course and delivered it to groups of students. I have also taken teacher trainings at the Bullock Brothers Homestead on Orcus Island and at Aprovecho with Tom Ward and Jude Hobbs. Using this direct experiential work as a foundation, this thesis will explore the role and place of permaculture education in the mainstream and alternative education systems.



"Nothing beats firsthand knowledge and acquired skills from gardening, designing and building your own systems…permaculture is not a destination, it is a direction" (Ross Mars, The Basics of Permaculture Design, Page 3)

During this time of great turmoil and crisis in our world, Permaculture Education is struggling to address key issues of accessibility and affordability while stepping forward as a holistic paradigm that can be incorporated into any system of design and development. As a cross-cultural toolkit of applied solutions for the environmental, economic and social issues of modern life, Permaculture Education can offer a bridge from the present culture into a healthy and sustainable future culture. To help make this transition, Permaculture Education begins with a widespread integration into the education system at all levels of curriculum and program development. This integrative permaculture curriculum is ready to move deeper into the sphere of public education with increased presence in the global media. Through the internet and social networking sites, the emergent Permaculture Education is sharing information, building networks and connecting the global community together.

The main focus of my Masters Degree Project has been to set up a living classroom community permaculture demonstration garden in my tiny mountain village. The process of establishing this garden has included hosting tours, classes, workshops, and courses for people of all ages and educational backgrounds giving me the experiential and practical basis for my study. The discussion of Permaculture Education in this thesis will unfold in the context of my experience developing this Permaculture demonstration site and facilitating learning within it.



(photo : poxin.org) 


“The educational approach focuses on the quality of holistic thinking, through the application of ecological principles and the understanding of patterns” (Joanne Tippett, Permaculture Teachers Guide, page 29)

Permaculture education today is a global movement of students, teachers and practitioners, which is growing exponentially each year. There are countless short classes, workshops, lectures and community events involving permaculture education.  Permaculture Design Certificates are being offered all over the world, mostly as two week courses and occasionally as online courses which can span any length of time. In some cases Permaculture Design Certificate courses have been woven into the curriculum of accredited university courses. Some people are continuing on to do two-year Permaculture Diploma projects and receiving Diplomas from the Permaculture Institute in Australia or the Permaculture Institute U.S.A.




"Not so much about Permaculture Education as about the 'permaculturing of education'. Nonetheless, the processes listed here can equally be used by teachers in any subject or discipline" (Robin Clayfield and Skye, The Manual for Teaching Permaculture Creatively, page 3)

The permaculture education system is an open field of exploration. There is some established global infrastructure and also much room for new developments. Permaculture Design Certification Courses are now very accessible and located at least once a year in almost every bioregion on earth. In this way the first level of Permaculture Education has had an incredible affirming global impact. There are countless bioregional organizations, guilds, societies, clubs, groups and community learning gardens that make simple permaculture concepts accessible to most of the world. Permaculture education can also be found at many conferences, gatherings, festivals, convergences, permie parties, talks, presentations, classes and workshops. I have been working to make permaculture accessible to my local community in these ways.

However I have found that teacher trainings, advanced courses and diploma support groups are quite rare. Often people who have done a PDC do not have a clear accessible direction to go or the support to pursue advanced education. Graduate degrees like the one I have been doing are rarely known about. To address the spaces in permaculture education in my local community, and as a reflection for the global community, the Heart Gardens plans to host part of a two year advanced permaculture course which also helps guide people in doing their Diploma projects.


Hoppy Leafjumper Avatar by Mark Lee 


"Network of learning (81) has established the importance of a whole society devoted to the learning process with decentralized opportunities for learning. This network of learning can be greatly helped by building a university, which treats the learning process as a normal part of adult life for all people in society" (Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language, page 232)

In my research I have experimented with holding different courses, classes, tours and workshops in the Heart Gardens for people of different age groups. Elementary school groups, Home School children, Waldorf classes, High School groups, Alternative School programs, Adult Education courses and Elder College students have all come to the Heart Gardens and helped me develop and test different types of curriculum aimed at different ages, educational backgrounds and learning styles.

In the course of developing different curriculums in the Heart Gardens I have experimented with ways to make the gardens into a living classroom. Not only do I want the gardens to help host facilitated classes, I also hope to create it as a kind of transparent educational experience that people can guide themselves through in a course of self-directed learning. In this light I have opened a small permaculture education center with a variety of educational material including a map of the gardens.

Heart Map by Mark Lee :  Somnio8


To keep my project work grounded in local, direct, experiential research I have created a set of permaculture education gardens woven throughout the less than one square block downtown core of my little mountain village. The gardens feature more than 250 species of food and medicine plants, a variety of signs, maps, and supporting media. Here people of different ages and educational backgrounds can guide themselves through the gardens, identifying and learning about plants as well as permaculture techniques. In addition, the gardens are set up to provide an engaging and hands on classroom environment to host different kinds of facilitated permaculture education, whether it be short introductions or advanced courses.

The Heart Gardens are a community education initiative designed to open dialogues about permaculture in the community, as well as between government, schools and organizations. The project has been shared in a number of different types of media to inspire others to create similar educational environments in their own communities and affirm those who have already done so. This classroom is also a creation space for developing permaculture media, worksheets and photo tutorials to demonstrate permaculture techniques, strategies and principles all over the world.

At the Heart of the Gardens is a small permaculture education center. This is a distribution node for free educational material from the Heart Gardens and also from the different eco-organizations in my bioregion. Here one can find out about ways to get involved in the local permaculture / sustainability / food security movement. There is a small library of permaculture books, including the Permaculture Designers Manual and native plant ID books, which are in house-resources to be used around the gardens. Here too are the newest publications of many local eco-journals, newsletters and magazines. Posted in the center is information about local classes, volunteer opportunities, gatherings and community events. Free maps of the Heart Gardens, which locate all the plants, can be found here, along with a custom built plant sourcebook with information from the Plants for a Future Database about all the specific plants in the gardens. A seed bank is also here offering free seeds to the local community, educating people about seed saving and inspiring people to grow from seed.

This open, unstaffed, all-ages permaculture education center intends to support people in creating and guiding their own educational experience at the Heart Gardens while learning about green organizations and permaculture education opportunities on the Sunshine Coast. It is designed as a public permaculture learning installation.

Age Specific Education

"Involve children as much as you can. Teach them about design. Get them to measure the area and do scale drawings…Many students will begin to understand the ideas after they can visualize what they can do at their school. Students learn by seeing and then doing" (Ross Mars, Basics of Permaculture Design, page 128)

I have enjoyed my experiences working with elementary aged school children in the Heart Gardens. Children of this age love to engage the senses, tasting, smelling and touching the plants. It is fun to point out interesting looking plants and talk about the gardens as a living community. After losing their attention in long tours, I found 30 - 45 minutes an ideal length of time to run a dynamic and hands on workshop tour of the heart gardens with children of this age range. Keeping information clear and simple seems very important if it is to be retained. For me the main objective is just to connect children with nature and introduce the general concept of permaculture to open them up to being comfortable with permaculture education when they encounter it in the future.

My experience was that students from the mainstream elementary schools on the coast were amazingly receptive. They are used to being in a classroom so any time away from that routine seemed to be a special treat. An effective way to deepen the experience is to give the teachers some small post-tour curriculum activity for the students to do when they are back in the classroom.

The Waldorf students, who biked to the garden, were also excited for the tour. They have a garden classroom and growing food is already a part of their curriculum. However, taking them out of their regular learning place on a field trip also helped to capture their attention and excitement about what was happening. The experiential sensory learning worked well for this group. One interactive learning game I have tried involves the children with a theatrical, physical exploration of permaculture in an engaging and immersive way. We all pretend to be elements illustrating layering in a forest garden. Together, forming our bodies to show which elements we represent, groups of students ‘became’ each new layer as it was talked about by me as the central big tree facilitator. Some children became potatoes and other root vegetables, others creeping thyme and other groundcovers, some were broccoli and other herbaceous plants, some were blueberries and other shrubs, some hazelnuts and other small trees, some a canopy of oaks and other tall trees, and finally some children can be vines climbing up the layers.

Offering a tour is a great way to expose children of this age to permaculture ideas. Doing this on a weekday during school hours is a good way to connect with students who might be less able and interested in attending a permaculture class outside of school time.

Introductory level permaculture talks, done in the context of fieldtrips to nature and garden sites, is a good way to communicate the ethics and principles of permaculture in an accessible way to elementary aged students.

Doing school gardens, like those I built during my Diploma process, gives the children early experiences with growing food from seed as well as harvesting it and saving seeds. Although students of this age would not be able to complete the full Permaculture Design Certificate, it would be useful to make up another certification that involves teachers facilitating a path of study including permaculture basics and hands on work with gardening and composting.

The Kids Heart Map was developed for elementary aged children and as something that can be taken back to the classroom to continue their work after leaving the Heart Gardens. The map also has a series of activities that are self directed so elementary aged children who can read independently can utilize it. For parents, teachers and facilitators, the Kids Heart Map also includes activities for younger nonreaders that can be guided by an older person. I will focus more on the maps later in this report.

"What better place is there to become partners with nature and to learn about the water cycle, nutrient cycles, earthworms, food chains, soil and foods than a school garden" (Ross Mars, The Basics of Permaculture Design, page 127)

Working with high school aged students is definitely a challenge. Often these students are not as happy with school and are hard to inspire to learn. However taking them outside the confines of their regular classroom is a definite advantage. Coming from a media saturated environment of television and video games, I found it effective to include short video and flash animation segments as part of my time with high school aged students. As they are able to understand more complex whole systems concepts, the high school students are able to grasp permaculture and could be taken through a Permaculture Design Certification course. I also found they appreciated hearing about failures as well as successes, and in fact it was the failures that seemed to spark their interest more than the successes.

A class from the mainstream education system was receptive to the information I wanted to share, although they were easily distracted. When we put our hands directly in the earth it seemed more engaging and empowering for students who were more likely used to rote book learning. Making time for students to be heard and recognized for their ideas seemed important in bridging the generation gap. It is effective to be able to give some activities for classes to do later when back in their classrooms. High school students often rebel against the authority of teacher figures, giving them ways to be peer teachers and do self-directed learning seems like an interesting option to complement the other types of learning they do and open them up to permaculture ideas.

The Alternative school program was very interesting. It seemed like the students were particularly receptive to outdoor, hands on activities. Self-esteem was an important issue to attend to with the alternative school children who, for one reason or another, were not well suited to the mainstream educational environment. I used more slang and tried to be as casual a facilitator as I could be, feeling like I was able to treat the students as my peers and not younger students. I also used music and media modules to engage their senses.

As with the elementary school children, the high school students seemed excited to get out of their indoor classrooms and take a field trip to a new place. Whereas they might have not been interested in sacrificing their valuable free time to do this, they seemed excited and receptive to the permaculture ideas when done in lieu of normal class time.

A permaculture design certification could be integrated into the high school aged curriculum, both in mainstream and alternative education systems. Incorporating this important missing link information that would help ground in the practicality and relevance of learning, something that students of that age sometimes are challenged to discover.



Adult learners often like to “be self-paced in their activities...like individual responses...[and] appreciate student-centered learning” (Graham Bell, Permaculture Teachers Guide, page 154)
Post-secondary and adult education is an important aspect of Permaculture Education as it is this segment of the population that has the time, energy and money to set up personal and community gardens and education sites as well as attending different forms of permaculture education. Often receptive to both basic and advanced permaculture education, adults are quick to the see the practical applications of the permaculture paradigm. I found it effective to encourage independent learning on people’s own properties to further the direct relevance of permaculture in every aspect of their everyday lives. Doing year-long mapping and design processes also seems like an effective way to help people make space in their busy lives to do a Permaculture Design Certification. After much experimentation with adult learners in the Heart Gardens, I found that engaging groups with both specific practical information and advanced whole system information was an effective way to engage groups with different interests and educational backgrounds. Creating a dynamic curriculum that is cross-disciplinary, and includes science and artful creativity helped to keep people’s interest.

In my experience at the Heart Gardens, I found that college and university students are well suited to permaculture education, however they are often busy and have expensive school schedules. These students would benefit from having Permaculture Design Certifications offered as accredited parts of their post-secondary programs. I found these students, used to complex and dynamic learning programs, were interested in being challenged with advanced and whole system information that bridged the concepts and applied aspects of permaculture in practice.

I have run adult education courses offered as 'Continuing Education' through the Regional Government and University. Often people who have chosen different career trainings are now looking for more practical learning opportunities. There is also a strong green consciousness emerging as a response to the environmental crisis. Many people are wanting to green their resume and portfolio to fit into an increasingly green job market. The Permaculture Design Certificate courses I have offered in the Heart Gardens have attracted adult learners of all kinds, ages and educational backgrounds, demonstrating the ability of permaculture to cross over cultures, ethnicities and social groupings.

In order to address adult learners who were too busy with careers and family to take permaculture courses, I organized a Seedy Saturday Salon event. There are Seed Saturdays in many towns all over North America, where seeds are sold and traded along with other farmer's market like stalls, workshops and activities. In the evening of the Seedy Saturday event we held our Salon, an elder from the Sechelt Tribe, a representative of our local First Peoples, along with 10 musicians, opened with a long talk about the land and sang some traditional songs. Following this we showed a series of permaculture movie clips. After a break we had a forum of speakers from the local permaculture and food security movement doing 5-10 minute presentations on their projects. It was a sold out event with about 60 participants. The event was framed as a movie night, a relaxing and fun way for the local community to come and be exposed to permaculture ideas. By having local permaculturalists, teachers, organic farmers and activists representing their projects, those who attended could learn about what was happening in our local community and were given an opportunity to meet and network. The event ended with an open salon of everyone talking. Here the local community could talk to the presenters and have the chance to get involved and begin actively participating in what was happening. The movie and presentations served to inspire people to get involved. They were then given a chance to become a part of many local projects. Because it happened in the early spring, this event helped inspire and motivate people to plant the seeds they received at the daytime Seedy Saturday event and begin a year of gardening. The event was a success and seemed like a good template for doing adult education using the movie and speakers model for short, dynamic media events occurring in the evening time when more adults were free to attend.

Permaculture seems like it was designed for adult education and Certification courses. It would be a perfect addition to any post-secondary education program.

Often adult learners have jobs, families and other responsibilities, so the Heart Map helps give people an open classroom they can integrate into their lives however they wish. I will continue to work on supporting media, worksheets and booklets that can help carry experiences from the Heart Gardens into peoples’ own lives, and offer people further resources to following their learning path in areas of their interest.



Inspired by a trip to Evergreen State College in Washington, U.S.A. I developed a series of different types of signs to help teach people about permaculture and the plants in the gardens. Signs located in the eco-education center helped people to see the different resources available and invited people to take some of the free media offered there. A set of sturdy metal signs which are written on with a carbon pencil have been put throughout the garden as plant signs. In this way people can identify the plants and go to the “elfinhome” to read more about those plants and their functions. Copper tags were used on trees and shrubs, which also served to keep the slugs away. I had a large wooden sign made and put on the compost to direct attention to this educational installation.  A local artist was also hired to paint a general Heart Gardens sign and an Elfinhome sign.

Heart Gardens Map

The Heart Map material I put together was designed by Sijay James. It was developed with high school aged and older students in mind. Allowing teenagers and adults to do self-guided tours of the gardens, find plants of interest and learn more about those plants in the permaculture education center, this is designed as an empowering way for people to experience independent learning.

The Heart Map lists all the plants in the gardens so people can locate and identify plants of interest. In addition the map also lists local education groups, government bodies and green organizations, helping people learn more about the community.

The map is a social permaculture vehicle for me to connect with and learn about the community in which I live. It is also a way for me to open up dialogues between educational groups, government bodies and eco-organizations at local and regional levels about permaculture.

Starting in my local village, I contacted the Community Association, Advisory Planning Commission and Official Community Plan Commission and asked to come in and do presentations at their monthly meetings. Here I got a chance to meet my local government and introduce them to my project. I asked for their support in being included on the map in a ”supported by” section. They were thrilled to give their support and happy I was not asking for any money or resources. I also connected with all the community schools in my district including the alternative school programs. I did presentations for the Parent Advisory Committees meeting, and gained the support of all the mainstream and alternative groups on the Sunshine Coast. Next I contacted a series of eco-organizations and permaculture projects in my region and did another series of presentations. After this I proceeded to contact my regional district government, the regional school board, and larger eco-organizations. Finally I connected with all the permaculture schools and organizations in my bioregion (British Columbia, Washington and Oregon) and a variety of other eco-organizations. Everyone was happy to support my project, learn about what I was doing and then to learn about other groups that were involved as supporters.

For elementary aged children I developed the Kids Heart Map that was co-developed and designed by my great friend Lunaya. It has a map of the gardens and a number of different activities visitors can do there. Younger children would require their parents to facilitate this; however, once children learn to read, the language is simple and clear for them to follow. There is a coloring and maze activity for children ages 3 and up to do. A scavenger hunt is fun and easy for children ages 9 and up. A more advanced game to locate different gardens on the map and to take a specific route through the garden, making note of special landmarks might be suitable for children age 11 and up. There is also a plant identification game for children ages 13 and up, as well as suggested garden tours that could be facilitated by parents or teachers.

The Kids Heart Map represents a dynamic piece of permaculture media with engaging activities for younger children of different ages and educational levels. The idea of the map is to create an easy way for learning to happen for children even if I am not in the gardens to facilitate specific activities.

Plant Information Book

From the “Plants for a Future Database” I have printed out a page or two of information about every plant in the garden, which now consists of over 250 species of food and medicine plants. This three ring binder is located in the Elfinhome center. People can use the maps, or see the signs, to identify plants of interest then go to this plant book to learn more about the plants and their uses and contributions.

Permaculture Worksheets

At the teacher trainings I did on Orcus Island at the Bullock Brothers and at Aprovecho with Tom Ward and Jude Hobbs I learned the importance of giving out worksheets to help people remember the information and have a reference for it later. I developed the content for this worksheet booklet which was then designed by one of my star students, Lunaya Shekinah. Now I hand these worksheets out at different classes, courses and programs I teach. They work well for high school age students and adult learners.

Principles Card Deck

As an interactive learning and teaching tool for illustrating the permaculture principles, I worked with Lunaya to develop the content for a card deck. This was designed along with a set of creative icons by my friend; permaculture designer Lunaya Shekinah. We made a booklet to go with the deck showing different ways the deck can be used as a learning game by individuals, small groups, large groups and to assist permaculture design consultations.

The Permaculture Principles Deck is set up with icons on one side and text on the other. Sometimes I show people the icons by holding the card up while I read the text on the side facing me. The text describes a permaculture principle, illustrates the principle with an example then asks a question that shows how people can apply the principle.

For elementary aged students I talked about the principles and put the cards face down on a table. We played a memory game to see if the children could remember which principle related to which icon. The cards were laying down flat on a table, icon side facing up. Then as I announced each principle we had already talked about, one by one, the children got to point and choose one card they thought it was. We turned the card over and moved onto the next principle if their guess was correct. If their guess was wrong, we turned the card back over and the next child got a turn to match the icon with the principle. It was a fun easy mnemonic learning game.

With high school children we put all the cards down icon side facing up. Each child took a turn choosing a card and reading it aloud to the group. We allowed for a short discussion of each principle in light of the questions asked, to occur after each principle was read out. This way the children themselves were able to participate in the process of both learning about and teaching the principles. This kind of peer teaching and direct involvement in facilitation was empowering for kids of this age group.

With adult learners I then asked a series of leading questions for students to answer both with words and with illustrations as part of a permaculture design process. After they answered each leading question, I showed them how they had just illustrated a permaculture principle, holding up the card and reading the information on it. To work backwards and let the students discover each principle from the leading questions before revealing the principle, was a dynamic way to engage their more sophisticated intelligence.

Permaculture Tokens

After a number of attempts, I designed a permaculture tokens set featuring common elements found on a permaculture design plan. The first 64 cards illustrated the features I felt were most commonly found. More cards can be designed later. A small booklet was made to illustrate how this dynamic learning and teaching toolset could help people learn about permaculture ethics, principles, and design strategies. Using these cards to facilitate learning games, dynamic discussions and other basic and advanced permaculture activities has been a great success for people of all ages and educational backgrounds.

With the elementary aged children I laid out the tokens on the floor and asked them to put them into groups of cards that seemed to go together. Then we took turns and each child got to choose one token and place it into a blank central design space where we made a map of a permaculture farm together. This was easy, fun, and although some children had not been on a farm before, it was great for them just to get to know the elements in this interactive way and place them on a map wherever they wanted to. There was no right or wrong in this game, just an introduction to permaculture elements.

For the high school students, I gave each child a stack of tokens. On an area of large recycled paper, we created a base map of the Heart Gardens. Then we took turns helping to put down cards from our hands and draw in features with felt pens. Once this was done, each player placed down an element onto the map that was not yet here on the land, at which time they said one reason why it would be helpful to have that element here. This more advanced mapping and design game introduced students to the idea of elements and their functions and let them explore what it might be like to do a base map and design overlay.

The adult learners seemed just as engaged with this learning-teaching toolset as the elementary aged children were. Using a paper base map, sometimes with contours or objects beneath to create slope, we took turns placing element tokens down on the map while stating the functions of each element and why they were putting it in that location. Afterwards we explored zones, sectors, and specific climate designs by moving tokens around to reflect our discussions and ideas. I have developed curriculum using this game for almost every different module in the Permaculture Design Certificate Curriculum.

art : Ben Tour : The Tour Show



Educational Flyer

Using art from a famous local nature artist Robert Bateman, I created an educational flier to promote the Heart Gardens and inspire people to come and visit, and to discover the different learning resources here.



Native Plant Card Deck

I have begun to build a native plant card deck to teach people about some of the native plants with a long history of use by Coastal First Peoples. With the flyer and these cards, I wanted to use art to draw people of all ages into the kind of learning that can occur at the Heart Gardens. In both cases one side of the card was almost entirely art so could be put up on people’s refrigerators, walls or mantles to illustrate the magic of our natural world.

Websites and Social Networking

Wanting to develop a learning resource for students to use from their own homes, after they had come into the Heart Gardens, I worked with Lunaya to create a website :


Here you can interact with a map of the gardens that shows photographs of the gardens in all four seasons. I have not yet finished taking the pictures to complete this process but the website is up and running. Here, too, you can download printable heart maps, see the complete plant listing for the gardens, and learn about permaculture composting and hugelkultur.

Try going to the Hugelkultur section to see the flash animation.

The site uses flash graphics so I have found it not as accessible for people with older computers as I would like it to be. To view it one may have to download a free flash player from a link on the first page that appears when you go to the website.

During my process with the Heart Gardens I also worked with a design team to create a main permaculture website


Here people can see illustrated how-to's for permaculture techniques, see pictures from permaculture classes, and read all the articles I have written about permaculture and the heart gardens.

Visitors can also join a dynamic social networking site here where they can interact with forums and discussion groups, read blogs and tutorials, watch videos and look through galleries of photos. The direct link to the social networking part of the website is.



"The main principle of teaching is that you vary your methods of presentation, say from the following list : group, discussion, lecture (always short), brainstorming, seminar, field visit, demonstration, questioning, your ideas. It should also be remembered that the most effective method of teaching is learning centered" (Rosemary Morrow, Earth Users Guide to Permaculture : Teachers Notes, page vii)

Permaculture education is increasingly important at this turning point in human history and reflects the spirit of an Earth-honouring future culture. Every year the permaculture movement and core curriculum has been evolved and taken to increasing numbers of people. There are a variety of ways permaculture education can be organized, many of which I have explored over the course of this Masters project.

By offering a dynamic selection of different types of courses I tried to make permaculture as accessible as I could to my community.

Every year I do a number of free garden tours. We walk around the gardens while I talk about its history and identify some of the staple food and medicine plants of the Coastal First Peoples. I sprinkle permaculture information throughout the tour. Sometimes we go next door to Farmer Dave's biointensive greens farm. The tours last from half an hour up to two hours depending upon the group of people that participate. Often these tours are done in alignment with other community events. I found this open free format successful for bringing people in who might not come to any other kind of permaculture education offering. A wide variety of people visited, from children to the elderly. We do some smelling, tasting and eating to address the sensory and elementary level of learning, accessible and simple plant identification to stimulate the secondary level of learning, as well as permaculture concepts and strategies used in making the gardens for the advanced learners.

Short one-day workshop classes on composting, vermiculture and organic fertilizer making tends to attract adults. I charge about $20 - $30 for a few hour session which results in smaller classes than the free tours, but people usually seem quite interested in the specific topic being presented. The cost is prohibitive to high school age children and the material inaccessible for elementary aged children so this is mostly styled for adults. These sessions work best centered on specific hands on techniques. The Heart Gardens applied and succeeded in becoming a Branch Campus of the Sustainable Living Arts School, a larger learning institute in my village (www.slas.ca).

Weekend introductory courses are offered through the local university, but are located at the Heart Gardens. I take people through the permaculture ethics and principles, mapping with zones and sectors, as well as some plant identification and garden tours. It’s an intensive weekend and the university wants a large share of money to sponsor it so it ends up being $80 per student. In the three years I have offered this twice a year, about half the classes were cancelled for lack of registration, and the other half featured almost exclusively retired and elderly folk. Perhaps the large cost and characterization as 'adult education' or 'continuing education' for a weekend course offered through a university mostly offering semester long classes, would explain the advanced age of the majority of participants. Some people who have taken this weekend course have gone on to take my year long PDC.

Full permaculture design certifications could occur at the Heart Gardens, particularly with the crystal shop and yoga studio available for inside work. I have now hosted full-day modules from my year long PDC's at the Heart Gardens five times. There are plenty of different lawn areas for us to sit in, and a short walk away are locations along Roberts Creek, as well as picnic areas and beaches along the Ocean. There is also wireless internet access throughout the Heart Gardens so I can show computer media and movies at different shaded locations. There is the issue of different interested community members or friends coming over to say hello to me or someone in the group which can be distracting.



The Heart Gardens have served as a perfect place for me to do my Master’s project. Since I am able to be paid to build and care for the gardens, as well as provided a rent free space for the permaculture education center, this job feels in alignment with the spirit of right livelihood. I am able to pay my rent and buy food by working to provide beautiful and educational green space throughout my community center in the Heart of the Creek (downtown Roberts Creek). These gardens flow around the post-office, cafe, healthfood store, woodworking school, yoga studio, midwives clinic, Chinese medicine doctor, kayak shop and many other businesses in my little village. This central location has given me a great place to attract people of all ages and educational backgrounds to explore permaculture teaching and learning.

One day I may have a permaculture teacher training happen at the Heart Gardens. In the teacher trainings I did with the Bullock Brothers on Orcas Island, as well as with Tom Ward and Jude Hobbs at Aprovecho in Oregon, I saw how they were open to the involvement and input from the class in a dynamic way. They also let all the student-teachers have teaching moments and facilitate the group in an extremely empowering way. I hope I can bring older, more experienced teachers to the gardens to help empower me as well as other permaculture teachers and student-teachers in my area.



(photo : poxin.org)




"The global village community has been developing over the last decade. It is the most remarkable revolution in thought, values, and technology that has yet evolved...the philosophy of a new and diverse approach to land and living" (Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture, page 177)

The Heart Gardens have a healthy future. This year I hope to organize three permaculture design courses, each of which will host classes in the Heart Gardens. For the first course I will take 13 students across a 15-month curriculum where we meet for one full day each month. There is a year long mapping and design project as well as an academically rigorous amount of readings, questions and hands on activities. The second course will be twice a month, the full PDC curriculum will happen in the mornings. In the afternoons a co-teacher, Robin Wheeler, a much older and wiser organic gardener and resilience trainer, will take us on a practical exploration of growing food from seed, to harvest, to preservation including making salves, tinctures, hydrosols and other medicines. The third course will be a two-year post-PDC advanced permaculture training carrying people over a full two year diploma process. We will meet twice a month for two years until December 2012. Included in this course is even more resilience training from Robin Wheeler and many guest teachers on topics like wood lot management, retrofitting for food storage, seed saving, plant propagation along with a two year mapping and design process. I will bring these classes down to the Heart Gardens once a season for full day learning modules.


(photo : poxin.org)



“Humans are intrinsically related to all life and the systems they support. We cannot create ecosystems, however our actions influence the conditions under which ecosystems can develop. Recognition and understanding of the intimate relationship between humans and the environment is known as the ‘ecological imperative’. We risk alienation from life processes when we ignore or fail to understand the ecological imperative.” (Rosemary Morrow, Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture : Teachers Notes, page 17)

It’s an exciting time of transformation and change in our world. The environmental crisis is inspiring more openness to environmental issues than ever before. People are being challenged to look closely at their relationship to the earth. The time is riper than ever for the empowered global permaculture movement to influence the development of human culture and the evolution of human’s relationship to nature. The key to the future of permaculture is education. Curriculum that is developed for all levels of mainstream and alternative education systems will help pave the way for foundational changes in human civilization that could help carry us towards a truly sustainable future.

"There is no other path for us than that of cooperative productivity and community responsibility. Take that path, and it will change your life in ways you cannot yet imagine" (Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture, page 178)

(photo : poxin.org)

"Pro-active creative education is an exciting, challenging and effective path toward a truly sustainable society, or should I say Perma(nent)Culture. In looking back we realize that what we have been doing is applying the principles of Permaculture to a landscape called the "classroom". We have "permacultured education". (Andrew Goldring, The Manual for Teaching Permaculture Creatively, page 8)

Permaculture education has a healthy future. Longer types of learning relationships such as apprenticeships will help to establish comprehensive practical skill building with an emphasis on how to use tools and tool care, along with lots of bioregionally specific information about native plants, animals, history of the land. Practical seasonal garden activities including growing and preserving food and medicines will empower permaculture students with on-the-ground skills they can begin to practice right away. I expect to see more bioregional permaculture groups as well as national and planetary congresses and meet-ups. The grassroots permaculture education of the Heart Gardens demonstrates how small centers can share its methods and information through printed media, video and websites to become part of the global permaculture movement.

The decentralization of mainstream education brings with it the development of all sorts of small, alternative private schools, institutes and learning centers where people can take permaculture classes of all lengths and types, from beginner classes to advanced teacher trainings. The global permaculture network has spread out and planted itself all across the world making the whole planet a classroom for permaculture, teaching human cultures how to live in successful relationship to the natural world.

Empowered by new communications technology and social networking sites on the world wide web comes the successful expansion of permaculture in the major media and into the education system. With more PDC graduates than ever before, people have a stronger interest in advanced permaculture courses and teacher trainings.
More teachers are becoming ambassadors and taking permaculture into mainstream and alternative education at all levels by building school ground living classrooms, setting up fieldtrips to other learning sites and bringing permaculture into their core curriculums. There is lots of room for the expansion of permaculture into educational curriculums through the development of interactive learning games, toolsets and media.

Permaculture is both practical and fun, it has never stopped evolving as it becomes an integral part of the emerging education systems worldwide.

(photo: poxin.org)



Elementary School Activities to do on School Grounds after leaving the Heart Gardens.

Lesson One :

Objective :

To learn about local trees and the resources available at the school library to identify trees.

Supplies :

Pen and paper.
Drawing supplies.

Activity :

Take the students out on the school grounds.
Find a few different trees and respectfully take a leaf or needles for use in the id. Have the students draw a rough sketch of the trees as a whole, and a closeup of the leaf or needle.
Point out different characteristics of the bark.
Take the students into the library and show them how to find books on identifying native trees. Help them to use the id book to learn about what the school ground trees were. If the information is available, talk a bit about the way these trees have been used by humans.

If there are not native plant id books in your school library you can borrow the one's in the elfinhome resource center.

Lesson Two :

Objective :

To connect students with the cycle of food growth and give them a direct experience growing food.

Supplies :

Dirt, rocks, annual veggie starts.
Small signs or popsicle sticks to mark the plants.
Watering can.

Activity :

In the springtime, take the students to a place on the school grounds where they can make a small food garden.

Build a small garden with dirt and surround with rocks.

Have the students plant food starts in the garden. Identify each plant before it goes in and mark it with a small sign.

Water the plants in well. Assign the students to garden care during recess or lunch, perhaps two students a day will check in on the gardens and water when needed.

Harvest and eat the food while it is still young and tasty. This will also allow the process to be completed before school is out for the summer.

Lesson Three :

Objective :

To introduce elementary aged students to the permaculture ethics.

Supplies :

Two large pieces

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Vanessa Monge Augusto Fernandes
Vanessa Monge Augusto Fernandes : It's obviously been quite a journey,the information is excellent,thanks for sharing this.It's great to see the B.C is in good hands! We keep up with some of the stuff going on in B.C via face book could you direct me to a few more Canadian sites in B.C that I could follow? Thanks again Van
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