Tuesday, 28 April 2015

European Children in Permaculture

Children in Permaculture European Project

This interview took place between Joe Atkinson and Lusi Alderslowe in early April 2015, it's about the innovative European children in permaculture project outlined in Permaculture Works issue 124.

J: Who came up with the idea for the project and how??

L: Thanks to your European Permaculture Teachers (EPT) project which delivered excellent resources and connected people from different countries in inspirational ways... But, participants recognised that the EPT did not have any focus on working with children under 12 years. Thus Gaye from Turkey (living in Finland) worked with Rakesh (from London) to initiate a network of people in Europe who were dedicated to the vision of creating resources (like curricula, activities, session plans, handouts, posters etc) for sharing permaculture with children. Martina (Czech) and Tomi (Slovenia) were instrumental from when Gaye met them in Slovenia in 2012.

J: How did the partnership come together, and who else is involved?

L: When Rakesh and Gaye put the shout-out, 14 organisations applied, from which we shortlisted and selected a variety which met our criteria and Erasmus' priorities. In the end we applied to Erasmus with a partnership of 7 organisations, 5 NGOs from UK (PA), Slovenia, Italy, Czech Republic, Romania; and a local state school in Scotland (Gatehouse Primary and Nursery) and an NGO who runs a kindergarten in Romania. Gaye is strongly involved but doesn't currently have an organisation so will be included in innovative ways.

In November 2014, 1-2 representatives from each organisation met in London in Rakesh's house (and LAND Centre) for a 2 day sociocracy training course, and to set a good foundation for how we will work together for the coming months, and hopefully years. This was followed by a 3 day meeting in which we established the groups vision, mission and aims, and discussed the activities which we would like funding for. We also laughed and hugged a lot, making sure that we had the friendships and trust we needed to create a high quality application for European funding.

J:What challenges did you face while writing the application, and how did you overcome them?
L: At our meeting in November, we set ourselves the target of completing the first draft of the application by the end of January, ready to send to people who could advise on how to tweak it. So after the meeting, the funding circle had many Skype meetings - And a few!!! At the end of January, we were still consenting to SMARTE Goals (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic, Timebound and Ethical) and timelines. This was agreed to using consent, but later changed in fairly minor ways for practical reasons. The deadline for Erasmus was 31st March, and we only had a first draft ready one week before the deadline - and that was a big stretch! - Phew!

When we sent the first draft to different people with more experience than us to comment, they each gave different responses, some of which we agreed with, and some we didn't! This was definitely a challenge, and with only a week to go, and an ambition to agree to everything by consent – this was a combination which was simply impossible!! In the end many unilateral or bilateral decisions were made, some as late as 4:30am when we both had to be up again at 7am - to lead a workshop!!!
Yet, we got the application completed with all the questions asked – all 84 pages of it agreed and submitted a few hours before the deadline (at 00:30) - no mean feat!.

J: What is the plan?
L: We now have a plan A and a plan B depending on whether we get the funding, but either way we will be developing best practice for sharing permaculture with kids, and finding ways to share this with others.
Plan A (with funding) includes the following 'intellectual outputs':
  • developing a website with a database in which practitioners can share their lesson plans and activities
  • researching current resources
  • creating case studies
  • creating a film about children in permaculture
  • publishing a manual which includes a tried and tested curriculum with associated lesson plans, activities, methodological guidelines, and dissemination strategies.
  • Writing a training course which will be publically available for permaculture educators to introduce school & kindergarten teachers to permaculture and our resources, enabling educators around the world to access the resources.
We will also be meeting face to face annually, running training courses for permaculture educators, and a pupil exchange to Romania.

Plan B – we will create a newsletter and continue to link people who are interested in Children in Permaculture. The first exciting opportunity for this is at the International Permaculture Convergence in London (more details below).

J: What happens next?
L: A few things:
1) We wait to hear from Erasmus+ and respond to any further questions they may have. 
2) We get really excited about IPCUK in London in September! Because we will organise a way for permaculture educators who work with kids from around the world to get together and share their favourite sessions, and get feedback on it. This is an idea I had during the meeting in November and lots of people are very excited about it already – if you are interested, please do get in touch youngpeople@ipcuk.events and read here for more.
3) Newsletter – we will be creating a newsletter and mailing list to keep folks in touch – again if you are interested, please get in touch, making it clear that you are interested in the Children in Permaculture newsletter scotland@permaculture.org.uk 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Reflections on a very successful second Eastern Permaculture Gathering

by Lee Jenkins

Lee Jenkins,  reflects on a very successful second Eastern Permaculture Gathering, held over the weekend of 10th-12th April at his home in Norfolk.

The weekend was initially planned as an opportunity for a small celebration on the completion of mine and Ben Margolis' Permaculture Diplomas, our accreditation presentations for these, and the launch of Soil and Soul, our permaculture teaching collective.

However, over the months that followed interest from local permaculturists, as well as people at both ends of the country grew, organically turning the event into something much more. This led to a coming together of an incredibly diverse group of people of all ages and backgrounds. Ben and I were truly thrilled to welcome everyone to our homes at Walnut Farm in Southburgh and to The Grange at Great Cressingham for the weekend.

A grounding opening circle beside the tranquil banks of the water’s edge and underneath the pollarded Oak tree was the perfect beginning to an amazing weekend, but the kids were having none of it! The energy was electrifying from the start and this set the tone for the couple of days to come.

More than 80 people came together to witness Ben and I present the culmination of our Diploma pathways and to join in with the variety of fun and interesting workshops and activities. These included an interactive arts project to re-purpose old umbrellas, willow weaving, bird box making and a wonderful dance workshop; as well as thought provoking discussions on everything from food, survive and thrive, localising permaculture and many more.

A truly fitting transition from day to night in the form of a moving fire ceremony was held
in the forest garden early Saturday evening by Bee, singer of the Blue Dawn. Here a space was created for us to give thanks and peace to our ancestors and to our land. A good moment for reflection and appreciation before being lured by the inviting sounds and warmth of the barn for a spirited celebratory cèilidh.

With nearly a third of the crowd being kids, the weekend was rich with the buzz and excitement made by many generations all in one place. The incredible and inspiring contributions made by so many people - from the food to signage around the site - is a real example of what we can all do as a connected community.

The venue for the event, my home at Walnut Farm, is a 16 acre certified organic smallholding including a two acre forest garden, (which has now kindly been adorned with a magnificent archway, created in a group workshop). 

During the weekend the event spread beyond Walnut Farm, with the opportunity for people to have a tour of The Grange, Ben and Sophie's home, their site at Great Cressingham. This ten acre smallholding offers a range of therapeutic retreats and courses leading to qualifications for marginalised groups. 

Both sites reflect a wide diversity of permaculture in action and in true permaculture style we managed to stack the extra function of officially becoming the first two registered LAND Centres (demonstration sites) in Norfolk!

The origins of how this event came to be makes me reflect on the invaluable role of Hannah Thorogood, as she sowed the seeds with the courses she has led over the last 5 years. The accreditations over the weekend were a culmination of her work too and a clear reflection of the magic she has inspired within us as we both move forward delivering permaculture education and our first full PDC course together as lead tutors.

Further details of Lee and Ben’s work and courses can be found at http://www.soilandsoul.org.uk/