Permaculture at Pinello Elementary School

Permaculture at Pinello Elementary School
We all have an innate connection with our Earth, Biophilia, and we all deserve to learn about her.

 What is Permaculture? One can describe permaculture as a whole systems design science integrating land, resources, people, animals, and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – mimicking the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. More deeply, Permaculture is a way to connect with nature to understand how natural systems work to grow food for all life. Permaculture has an ethical base of care for the earth, care for the people, and care for the future. PPP has certified many professionals and students since 2002 in Beginner/Advanced Permaculture Design, as well as offering Advanced Permaculture Teacher Training. We value providing permaculture education, fair and equitable systems, and embracing ethical processes. Since last year, with many partnerships throughout the community, PPP has broadened the capability for bringing important Permaculture education to a larger audience in our region by offering hands-on skills training and workshops. We all have an innate connection with our Earth, Biophilia, and we all deserve to learn about her. Let love grow.

In March of 2022 PPP was contacted by the social worker at Pinello Elementary, in Widefield School District 3, to help with their Environment Club following a community recommendation.  This past spring (2023), PPP created a Permaculture curriculum focusing on presenting permaculture to 24 students in 2nd through 5thgrade, for eight weeks, and I would lead the lessons. Our curriculum focused on observation skills and interconnectedness with recurring rhythms and patterns found in nature, as well as outdoor exploration time to learn in the environment/climate we live in, which I strongly believe enhances one’s sense to understand complexity and a sense of place in the world, as well as demonstrating that the earth and all inhabitants are entitled to care and protection. The club gathered for once a week from March to May to talk about many topics that include: Observation skills with journaling about the environment and searching for natures’ patterns, the advanced water cycle to see where water flows and where water travels here in Colorado, the soil’s physical properties and the soil’s very alive food web, the principle of observation where we spent time with the sun and shadows using a sundial and learning about cardinal directions with the compass rose. During the last gathering on people care I was truly touched when presented with a gift, a book called Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner — inside were special messages from the students thanking me personally for teaching them about nature, some saying they will miss me, and others wishing to see me again. Under an oak tree in the schoolyard’s front lawn, we ended our club by gathering in a circle. We discussed caring for other people and other animals in our environments, as everything is connected and serves a purpose, and most importantly, caring for ourselves – Self Care. Realizing I had two minutes together with the students, I shared my gratitude to them for teaching me so much over the past few months. Then, I grabbed my silver spoons and created a rhythm – and for a solid minute, we chanted “Fire, Water, Earth and Air,” walking in unison together, in a beautiful harmony. We even had a student’s family member join in – the cherry on top.

Seeing that we were working with an underserved community, Jayme Domejka, program director at PPP, came up with a brilliant idea to offer to host an Earth Day event for the whole school, focusing on permaculture-related activities to show appreciation to the Earth. The school administration gladly accepted the proposal and considered this their STEM day and a Day without Hate at the end of April. Jayme and I worked diligently to ensure we had enough materials for the teachers to lead the activities for 336 students. The 9 activities we had planned were making seed balls, planting seed in pots, grounding earth meditation, repurposing dishes into birdbaths, building a bug with repurposed materials, reading The Lorax and discussing standing up for the voiceless- animals and plants who share our planet, natural paints made from plants, a wind erosion game, and a schoolyard scavenger hunt. We gathered all the materials for the activities, and even extended our collecting efforts out into the community to ask for donations. For the seed balls, Ricks Garden Center donated 150+ packets of wildflower seeds, C and C Stone of Colorado Springs donated 5 5-gallon buckets of red clay, and Jayme donated some amazing worm casting from her farm. For the birdbaths, we needed over 200 pieces of bowls and dishes, a team at Goodwill Outlet of Colorado Springs personally gathered the pieces for the students and donated toward the effort. How very moving the whole experience was! All the support from the community was a big deal for our organization and for the 336 students at Pinello. We are extremely grateful!

Pinello school administration have expressed their wishes to continue the Environment Club program next year, as well as incorporating Permaculture principles into their whole school’s curriculum. My wish would be the beginning creation of a perennial edible landscape; a food forest in which students can intermingle with different levels of vegetation and at different times of the year.

— BiophillicAlly