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A Permaculture School Garden

3487 Lettuce kids

Originally appears in the Spring 2006 issue

The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy states that “we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” This law speaks to the importance of considering how our actions affect the natural world and in what condition we will leave the world to our descendents. Proponents of permaculture are substantially motivated by the same goal. In today’s world of depleted natural resources, species extinction, and other widespread damage to the environment, we must look for ways to lessen our impact on the Earth. Permaculture is a design methodology that seeks to do this through the observation and mimicking of patterns and relationships found in nature. It can be described as a way of living in harmony with the rest of nature by designing landscapes and human habitats based on principles of ecology. Lee Barnes, former editor of Permaculture Connections writes, “Permaculture is the use of ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production, housing, appropriate technology, and community development. Permaculture is built upon an ethic of caring for the Earth and interacting with the environment in mutually beneficial ways.”

Whether applied to food production, land stewardship, urban planning, or social and economic structures, permaculture is based on a set of principles for working in harmony with natural systems. At Oak Grove School in Ojai, California, faculty and staff decided to follow those principles in their school gardening projects. They felt that if students could experience permaculture practices first hand, they would develop a greater awareness of the subtlety of nature and learn the values of resourcefulness, stewardship, and sustainability. Examples follow of the application of permaculture principles in the creation of Oak Grove School’s gardens, pond, straw bale greenhouse, and seating area.

It is hoped that these ideas with inspire other educators to incorporate principles of permaculture in their own schoolyard “greening” projects.

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Patrick Praetorius is an educator, writer, and permaculture enthusiast living in Ojai, California.