Permaculture Teachers Training, Austria

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Juergen was long overdue for a visit back to Austria after being away for 3 years. I tagged along to meet his family, friends, and Rosemary Morrow! A very much sought after permaculture teacher from Australia, Rosemary was scheduled to do a Training of Permaculture Teachers in Austria, from 19 – 25 July 2011. We synchronized our trip with the Teacher Training and managed to get the last spots available in the course. Organised by PIA (Permaculture Academy in the Alpine Regions), the course was taught at the foothills of the Alps, under a giant walnut tree whenever weather permitted.

outdoor classroom

We were a very diverse group with participants coming from all over Europe: Austria, Italy, France, Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Check Republic, UK and Netherlands. Even in Europe, permaculture was developed in some countries, and less developed in others. Being the only one from Asia, I was asked to do a presentation along with 2 other participants, Helder Valente from Portugal and Mari Korhonen from Finland about emerging permaculture education initiatives in our respective countries.

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Coming from different cultures and contexts, everyone had something unique and valuable to share which contributed to our collective and integral learning process. Rosemary reminded us that every adult learner brings a trove of experience with them, and learn more from each other than they do from a teacher. Rosemary was an expert at facilitating this process, hardly speaking for more than 15 mins in any given session. Through a participatory and learner centered approach, she drew out the teacher and learner within each of us, with the two roles gracefully switching back and fourth so naturally and effortlessly. At the end of the day, we would break into groups for our individual teaching practical’s. Each day, our confidence grew as we experimented with various learning styles and teaching methods, that took the weight of being an ‘expert’ from our shoulders, and empowered our learners to draw from their own wisdom and understanding through the structure and facilitation provided by us.

learning styles

Needless to say, this approach to teaching does not undermine the role or responsibility of a teacher in any way. A good permaculture teacher cultivates a strong grasp of permaculture knowledge and skills, and is able to internalise the permaculture principles, design and systems thinking. This should come across to students in creating a learning outcome where the student adopts the permaculture ethics and leaves empowered to act, and become part of the solution to the world’s problems. Knowing what permaculture means, and understanding that it is a holistic system in which all elements are interconnected, students should be equipped with the personal and general permaculture design tools to begin working productively and regeneratively across climates and circumstances.

certificate giving ceremony

This was the general outline of our 6 day course.

  • Teaching cultures & structures
  • Approaches to teaching PDC’s
  • Who are your learners – What do they want?
  • Adult Learner Psychology
  • Principles of Adult Learning
  • Teaching methods
  • Teaching tools
  • What makes a good teacher?
  • Evaluation and monitoring of class & teacher
  • Microteaching by participants
  • What are our desired outcomes?
  • PDC course structure
  • Learners with special needs

The days passed by so quickly, I wish we had more time to spend with our new found friends and Rosemary Morrow. The good news is that a group of European teacher met at Sieben Linden, and proposed to create a ‘Learning Partnership’ that will support 6 meetings of permaculture teachers around Europe over two years. I hope they get the funding to make it happen, and maybe we will learn from their example and do something similar in Asia. Any takers?

“Learning is finding out what we already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” — Richard Bach

(Photos courtesy of Domen Zupan)

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