Edit: Eltham College, Victoria offered APT Certificate I Permaculture for four years. Templestowe College will be the second Victorian school to offer APT, and the first to offer Certificate II Accredited Permaculture Training.
Drew, you have a fantastic farm garden at the school and an Eco-Café that functions as the school canteen. What else do you have in terms of sustainability at the moment?We have a number of initiatives. Our students are very involved in activism, and we have an Environmental Action Group which regularly organises sustainability-focused events and awareness-raising campaigns among the student body. However, I would characterise our approach as one defined by permaculture rather than mainstream sustainability, for want of a better term. Permaculture meshes with our educational philosophy as well, so our students learn about the big picture issues, but are encouraged to “Start where they are, use what they have, and do what they can”. So creative upcycling and repurposing are huge themes with us.
Permaculture also blends disciplines seamlessly, so our program reaches out to food tech, science, design tech, working with animals, and entrepreneurship. We do food miles sessions for food tech and science; our kids collaborate with design tech classes to build mini wind turbines and use recycled timber; working with animals produces manure for our garden and we provide on-site fodder through Tagasaste, Arrowroot and other forage plants.
How did you get involved in permaculture and what led you to offer it as at TC?I grew up on a hobby farm in the 70’s and my Dad was a handy man, who was passionate about old trades and traditional farming methods. So I learned a lot from him, and I had my own milking cow, chooks, veggie patch and orchard. As I reached my later teens other interests took over and I drifted off to uni, and then into a career in superannuation and investment.
But the old interests were still there, and my wife and I bought a small acreage at St Andrews, with a 120-year-old cottage needing a lot of work. We worked hard building a garden, and restoring the house, putting in fences, timber plantations and water tanks. But we still hadn’t really explored permaculture. In 2009 we lost the house and farm in the Black Saturday fires, and over the coming months I found my interest in my work flagging.
Angie had done a PDC, and told me “permaculture is it, it’s what we’ve been doing and believing all these years.” So I started a Diploma of Permaculture with Virginia Solomon (Chair of the PA Board), at Eltham College. I went on to join the training team, for Certificate III and IV, and Diploma. Soon after, we were invited to establish a garden at Templestowe College, and offer a permaculture elective, and it has snowballed from there. We’ve been at TC for 6 years, and although we always wanted to offer accredited permaculture, we could never find an RTO who was prepared to back it. Then we met Lucy Chen from Gold Standard.
Where do you think this could lead your students on a personal and professional level?I think anyone who has done a good PDC or Accredited Permaculture Course can attest to the revelation it is on a personal level, so our students will get that same life changing experience. But while for most permies it’s something we’ve come to as adults, for school students, it is happening at a formative time of their lives. My hope is that permaculture influences their personal and professional development throughout their lives. Our course is vocational, and directly designed to help them find employment. For young people who love working outdoors, and who have a passion for the environment, the course offers practical skills applicable to a host of industries. Perhaps most importantly, as a multi-disciplinary course, it provides lateral thinking skills and familiarity with a range of job roles that employers will find attractive.
Your school is very progressive and specialised in individualised learning. Do you think alternative schooling models work especially well with permaculture?Yes, yes, and YES! Permaculture and progressive education is a natural fit. TC has a Montessori Adolescent Program, and the Montessori system emphasised the importance of children learning through, and in nature. For early childhood and primary educators, that’s fairly familiar territory. For teenagers, their social group and peers are everything, so we try and make the garden their recreational space of choice. Permaculture students are engaged with designing and building, cultivating and nurturing. The whole student body inhabits the space, and learns through nature. Photography students shoot in the garden, philosophy students meditate in the garden, food tech students forage in the garden. While horticulture will interest students who are natural gardeners, permaculture presents such a range of possible projects, that we can meet most students’ particular interests and learning needs. Each student has an Individualised Learning Plan, and we can review those plans to create engaging projects on an individual basis.
We at Permaculture Australia couldn’t agree more. Thanks to PA members Drew and Angie for this interview – we wish them all the best for their permaculture education endeavours.
How can I find out more or get involved?
If you want to find out more about Templestowe College, you can find their website here.
Further information on Accredited Permaculture Training for students, potential teachers and RTO’s who may be interested in offering APT click here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Drew and Angie are PA members – sign up here to join up with PA today to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.