Storm Cunningham builds on this particularly in economics in his books with the idea of the “de/re” shift that is underway. De relates to a downward descent based on degradation and destruction, while re speaks of return, replenishing, rejuvenation, resiliency, etc. He adds these prefixes to wealth, to speak of the shift from making money based on deweath to economies based on rewealth.
And so, as Kirsten, reminds us we are stuck in an old story of education, desperate for a new one. I have offered an overall paradigm based on the 3 new R’s: restoration, rejuvenation, and resilience, which are easily applicable to humanity’s overall role on the planet and in line with The Universe Story, and Storm Cunningham’s work as well David Orr, E.O. Wilson, and others. So it comes naturally that if overall these ideas are to be our new cultural story then it must be that it is also educations. That’s easy to say. Mission statements are great on paper, but how does it operate? Here I will offer one new way to think of approaching education based on the design principles of permaculture. This is my rough application of the concepts, this is a developing concept for me. The bottom line for me is that we must begin utilizing systems thinking with an orientation towards holism. This is one perspective that does that.
For those not familiar, permaculture is born of the idea that instead of living within a throw-away, toxic culture, we must build more intelligently designed human environments which utilize ecological truths to maximize productivity, efficiency, and ease. Furthermore, these built environments increase biodiversity, strengthen ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, air and water purification, and flood and erosion control. These are built environments made to last through all the variety of experiences that is the biosphere. These are not built environments designed only to maximize human convenience while severely degrading the biosphere and thus or and its ability to exist within the demands of the ecological world.
So what does this mean for education? Just like in agriculture which is currently under shift from the industrial, green-revolution, model to one of agro-ecology, our education system must also shift; from an industrial, mono-culture to one that is attuned to human development and promotes diversity.
In the beginning stages of permaculture design an analysis is done, what are the inputs and outputs present in a given system. Permaculture design is always trying to close the loops such that inputs match needed outputs and the system takes care of itself. For example, the three sisters-beans, corn, and squash. The corn provides a natural trellis (output) for the beans to grow up (input). The beans fix nitrogen (output) in the soil, which builds soil health (input) and benefits the corn and squash (inputs). The squash creates ground cover (output) which helps to prevent weeds and retain moisture (inputs) in the soil. Inputs and outputs thus relates to the overall system (nutrient cycling, water purification, etc.) and the members (soil, plants, animals) of it. So how does this relate to education?
Well, this analysis potentially provides a more holistic perspective to even begin approaching learning with children. Instead of just throwing manufactured seed and fertilizer (curriculum and materials) around classroom, you first actually take inventory of who is in your classroom, what are their individual needs? Where do they come from, where are they in development (cognitively, emotionally, socially, etc)? How do they learn best? Right off the bat we will recognize that regardless of those answers an input necessary for any child is good, nutrient dense food, physical activity, respect, compassionate guidance, and free-play. We can also argue that now, digital access is also a necessary input. From there we can attend to individual differences.
Moving to outputs, we come to know the gifts and challenges of each student, what do they produce? Beautiful visual images? Kindness and sharing? Defensiveness?
So how can we begin putting these together? If we learn that Chelsea is a whiz in math and Tyron has a knack for big-picture business ideas, couldn’t the two work on a business plan together? We can find a plethora of such “companion plantings” in the classroom. The point is that instead of mandating that the classroom produce one thing only (standardized test scores), the intrinsic nature of each student is valued, and everyone is enriched by the diverse system that is created.
Just like in agriculture, a more resilient system is created. Instead of the entire crop (students) being vulnerable to a condition such as pests or weather, their ability to tap into the resources around them to creatively adapt to the situation is promoted. This means that not only will individual members be more likely to survive but that the greater population will be too.
So what do you think? Does this analogy prompt any new ways of looking at education systems in relation to human development? Have I lost it?