5 Reasons Why To Involve Children In Permaculture!
By Shawn Levine
Okay, I’ll admit it; when my 6-year-old asks “why” for the 1000th time in a day, I get frustrated. However, a child’s curiosity is never a bad thing, I admire his efforts as he attempts to understand our reasons for why we do what we do. I am part of a program called SL2 (Sustainable Living, Sustainable Learning) that focuses on bringing permaculture practices into elementary and high-schools in the Cowichan Valley as part of the new BC school curriculum. For anyone unfamiliar with the term permaculture, it is often explained as a set of design principles centred around whole systems thinking which stimulate or directly utilize the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, community, and organizational design and development. So, with that in mind, I figured if we are going to be engaging children in permaculture, it would be best to answer the all-important “why”.
1. Improves Physical Health
Most children have lots of energy and can benefit from lots of movement. A day outside and in the garden will help keep kids active and engaged. I have seen so much creativity when children play on the jungle gym of nature. Permaculture practices encourage children to engage with nature in a way they find pleasing. Using inquiry-based learning there is much room for calmly exploring and observing nature, or lots of activity depending on the child’s energy levels. Additionally, growing and eating your own food is possibly the most nutritious thing to consume! Taking that first bite of a fruit or veggie that you put love and care into growing, is remarkably satisfying. Kids eating and enjoying all organic, locally grown food is truly a wonderful thing for growing bodies.
As an added bonus, get this, fresh air is actually really, really good for you! Don’t believe me? Check out this research showing how trees remove pollution form the air, which benefits our lungs and other vital organs. https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/jrnl/2014/nrs_2014_nowak_001.pdf
2. Stimulates Mental Well Being
Having a greater understanding of eco-systems and the interconnection of all things is fundamental to permaculture. Rather than reading about how systems relate to one another in a text-book, permaculture offers hands-on understanding of how each part of an eco-system has value, yourself included! Expanding your mind to see the whole picture, as well as all the tasks needed to get there, greatly benefits our reasoning and mental understanding. Beyond that, permaculture is all about community, and working closely with others we are able to better hone our problem-solving and communication skills.
3. Helps Regulate Emotional Balance
There are some obvious, and not so obvious, benefits linked to our emotional well being and spending time engaged with nature. As our bodies and minds are stimulated through permaculture practices, we can feel the effect that has on our moods. A day in the garden, or building a structure, or just taking a walk through the woods, allows us to feel inspired. I can observe a remarkable difference in myself, and the youth I work with, after a day outdoors versus indoors. It’s not always easy to get myself off the couch, and engaging in the world around me, but it is always worth it.
In addition to all that, there is actually some amazing scientific evidence that has found soil microbes living in dirt that stimulates the release of serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical our brains produce which is linked to our happiness and relaxation. Approximately 20 percent of teens experience depression before they reach adulthood, and between 10 to 15 percent suffer from symptoms at any one time. It is vital we do all we can, and offer tools to young minds so they can process their emotions in healthy ways. I strongly encourage everyone to see for yourself how your mood is affected just by getting your hands dirty. If you would like to read more of the science behind the anti-depressant found in soil, check out this article: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/raw-data-is-dirt-the-new-prozac.
4. It’s Good for the Soul
Being a part of something greater than yourself is a profound and gratifying experience. Permaculture helps children see the inherent value in themselves and the world around them. As we work with the land, it is clear no task gets done without active involvement, and many hands make each task easier. Also, it is almost impossible to tend to nature and not simultaneously feel some form of love in your heart. There is a beautiful relationship between taking care of the planet and caring for yourself. The very act of caring for the earth is caring for yourself. Like a flower, through permaculture practices, we are given many opportunities to blossom and grow. In my opinion, there is no greater use of time than any act that helps us to feel alive. Each day we spend in wonder, openness, creativity, and engagement leads to a life well lived.
5. Allows the Environment to Thrive
The Earth is our home. So far it seems collectively we are not doing the best job of leaving this place better than we found it. It is a very real possibility that within our lifetime, or our children’s lifetime, there will be environmental challenges that will force us to reshape many of our current systems, including how we get our food. Teaching children all aspects of permaculture, and giving them hands-on experience to learn it, will increase the quality of life for ourselves, our children, our communities and our planet. Through sustainable practices we can help prevent and prepare for environmental changes that come our way.
Thanks for reading, I hope this article was helpful and offers some insight as to why the folks at SL2 and OUR eco-village are so pumped to teach children about permaculture! Check us out at: