The Classroom as Permaculture

A Permaculture classroom? Not a classroom where people learn permaculture, but a classroom that is itself a permacultural phenomenon… Is there such a thing? Could, or should there be?

Permaculture (“permanent” “agriculture” or “permanent” “culture”) is an approach to farming and human settlement that is sustainable and interconnected. No one aspect is considered in isolation; everything is part of a system. Additionally, in permaculture, one observes first and then looks for the smallest amount of change or interference to impose while gaining the greatest effect.

Households that have gray water directed to a filtering pond rich in plants that benefit from the water and in turn purify it, or a system for watering the garden from vats that collect rainwater from the roof are examples of permaculture. Strategically planting thorny roses that beautify the garden, attract pollinators, produce immune-boosting rosehips, and keep out pests is also an example of permaculture. So things are interconnected, and the least intervention with the greatest benefit is paramount.

What if we took that approach in our classrooms? What if classes, students, topics of study, teachers, were not considered in isolation, but as vital and irreplaceable components of a vast interconnected organism? I wonder in what ways the classroom can serve as the rose bush or the gray water. Community involvement certainly comes to mind, where the community benefits from the focus and action of the students and vice-versa.

In a permaculture, each element of the design is carefully analyzed in terms of its needs, outputs, and properties. Solutions simultaneously fill multiple needs. With the diminishing funding, time, and resources allotted to our schools and the increased demand for 100% success rates in schools, a system that serves the greatest number of needs simultaneously with the smallest output certainly seems like a good idea! Growing metaphors (flowers, trees, gardens) have always been applied to education. I would like to see us go beyond the simple garden metaphor and apply these highly successful, highly sustainable methods in agriculture to the system of educating our children.

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