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Permaculture for Kids

Editor’s Note: Please welcome new contributing writer, Paul Douglas of Victoria, Australia!

During my two week immersion into permaculture design, Bill Mollison was asked by a student, “How do we go about teaching permaculture to our children?” to which Bill replied something along the lines of, “I don’t believe we should be teaching Permaculture to children. They already have enough on their plates in terms of responsibilities and such, so we shouldn’t overburden them with yet another subject.”

True enough, if you take permaculture as the full 72-hour course that we adults tend towards. But I approach the idea that teaching children permaculture is vitally important to the sustainability of life itself and needs to be taught to youths so that by the time they are adults, permaculture is no longer a subject, but a way of life that is as natural as breathing.

But how would we go about uploading The Permaculture Designers Manual into the minds of our youths without overburdening their grey matter? Exactly the same way that farmers (1) are learning Permaculture – a bit at a time, with small bite sized chunks of drip fed information, with an emphasis on tacit learning. My son’s school has done their part in this by going for the low hanging fruit, the easy beginners’ steps of sustainability;

  • Rainwater tanks all over the place, so many of them I lost count and the larger ones are connected to the subsurface irrigation system on the sports field. No swales though…
  • Vegetable gardens for the children to learn about where food actually comes from and how to grow it. Other schools have taken this step even further with a Kitchen Garden Program
  • Teaching about biodiversity; what it means, why it’s important, and how can we go about achieving it in our area? The NSW Government has provided fantastic teaching resources for this subject. They are covering subjects such as; the web of life, habitats and homes, ecosystems, vertebrates, invertebrates, food chains and webs and vertical layers of habitats.

Now these simple elements are not Permaculture as such, but they are a fantastic place to start and they will sow the seed within their generation for them to make the necessary changes for a sustainable planet.

I should probably point out that that my son is not at high school. He is only 7 and has already begun walking the path to sustainability. If he and his class mates can do it, then there is hope for us all.


  1. You would simply be amazed how well farmers are warming to elements of Permaculture. More on that next time.

Further Reading/Watching:




  1. I tried a little experiment two weeks ago with a group of 7 boys aged between 14 and 16. We did a little team building. We talked about Eco systems and what elements are needed in a system to survive, I then explained to them that I want to design a little pond for the herb garden to keep certain elements out and to encourage other beneficial elements in. I already had the design worked out but wanted to see what they came up with. To my surprise they included things I never thought about. And we built their design that day. Never underestimate their abilities. My youngest, 10 years, show no interest at all. He just wants to play and my believe is to give them that space to play and explore. When he is old enough and start showing interest (or not) he will remember something he observed when younger and probably unintentionally picked up tips along the way.

  2. I am teaching my kids (4, 7, 14) permaculture by first teaching them the core ethics, the 12 principles = they hang on our fridge.

    My kids absorb it by living it on our homestead – they SEE the nutrient flows (from our goats and chickens to our gardens and then our veg, eggs, milk)

    There is MUCH about permaculture and the entire zen ethic of Fukuoka that is better learned by doing and living versus powerpoint slides to which NO ONE should be subjected to (sorry – I have spent way too much time watching them) – we are all seed balls and esp kids – what grows from them is a direct result of their environment.

    I applaud ALL efforts to get permaculture integrated into all aspects of schooling (maybe I am a radical?)

  3. Well, as an eleven year old PDC graduate (thirteen now) I feel some obligation to leave my comment on this. I tagged along with my parents when, in 2008, they flew overseas to take a PDC with Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton in Melbourne. At first I was uninterested in the whole thing. “Permaculture? Who cares, it’s just some boring sustainability class.” Long story short, Bill’s stories reeled me in, and the more I listened, the more interested I became in everything he and Geoff were teaching. The stories, the science, everything in between. I took notes, I understood what they were talking about, and when I was surprised with being put into a design exercise team I gave input just like everyone else did.

    However, you have a valid point. I don’t think there are that many kids who will sit down and listen to someone teach a 72 hour permaculture class. They’re around, but they’re relatively few and far between, and they would need something permaculture-related that interests them, to reel them in.

    The 4-8 year old crowd would be good to work with. I think young children would be a lot more likely to jump on the permaculture bandwagon than “tweens” and teenagers. There’s no better way to reach out to them than hand-on application of permaculture. Flowers, butterflies, and songbirds are likely to interest little girls. The reptile and amphibious visitors to the garden, plus worms, dirt, etc. could bring in the boys who might be less interested in gardening. Teach them how the beautiful flowers attract the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, and how important that is to pollination. Teach them that the worms fertilize and aerate the soil to make the plants grow better, how the mushrooms work to break down decaying plant matter. Teach them that instead of planting rows of one plant, they can stack their favorite fruits in a single space to make a miniature food forest. Think of the fun you could have just teaching them about plant guilds and how Mr. Basil is best friends with the Tomato family.

    The hard part is going to be the kids who are ten years and up. They will be much more absorbed in video games, whether or not Ashley and Brent are back together, and there social status within their school. For them you need to weed out the ones who’s minds you can actually access and hope they can spread out their permie feelers into the minds of their friends.

    I hope that helps.


  4. With all the stories that Bill Mollison told us during our PDC in 08 about children he has taught about permaculture, such as the 9 year old girl he referred to as “The General” who lead the people in her village in practicing permaculture and other young people he gave as good examples, I think the comment he made during your PDC was “classic Bill humor and is usually (but not always) delivered with a wink and a smile. I applaud your efforts in wanting to teach children about permaculture and you will probably find they will be easier to teach than adults because have fewer preconceived notions about how the world should work.

  5. Just spent the day scouring the web for Perma-resources for children, and then this finds its way into my inbox! Great to hear all your thoughts…I’ve just completed the PDC at Zaytuna this July and am now beginning to prepare a teaching scheme for the school i teach in (11-18 year olds) in London…my experience is sustainability engages them, becuase they see it as a dynamic area they are directly affected by and htey can directly impact, in real time… it comes ‘off the page’ and a part of thier converstation and concern, not just somethign they learnt about at school…

  6. You instill permaculture principles, ethics and practices in your children through everyday activities – my kids (aged 5, 7 and 8) help with feeding and watering chickens and ducks, collecting eggs, picking and planting fruit and vegies, etc.

    Through spending time together and working side by side, they pick things up. They ask why the water tank is at the top of the hill, why certain plants are planted together, why we keep moving the chicken tractor, why we eat the boy chickens, etc. They see where the sun shines from, where the wind blows from, where the hot and cool places are on our block.

    If there’s one thing kids are good at, it’s asking “why?”!

  7. I’m glad you like the message board Paul. I’ve just done some updates (hopefully more on the way), and I’ve opened it up to include adult teachers who would like to work with kids. The forums have been kind of dead for a while, so I’m going to send out a mass email to all the registered users for a call to action.

    I’d love to have an adult who has some permaculture experience and an interest in working with kids to help me moderate the site and keep it more active. Maybe you would be interested? ;)

  8. i think Permaculture for kids can open new green businesses like : printed and computer games, puzzle, stories, books, movies, kids programs and reportages, .. till it is get educated in the classes ~

  9. I will be starting a permaculture site at my school (teacher). I would like to get some incites on effective usage of the site and the full engagement of the kids. Thanks

  10. I have found that children love permaculture, as a way of life. It comes so naturally to them. We play lots of games and make it fun. Designs, maps, and observation are all tactics we have used with our 3 sons and all the children that pass through our education center in Costa Rica. Children love to interact with their environment, whether watching the cycles of nature, cobbing, planting, or helping implement systems. Its all about fun. We have even created kid’s camps that coincide with courses, such as the PDC and currently a natural building course. Children are the future, when they are given the power to co-create they thrive and feel empowered to make change in the world. If you would like to come to any of our courses, check out our website and come play with us. With much respect and gratitude.
    Alana Bliss
    The Fruition Center
    Costa Rica

  11. I’m a Homeschool mom of 1 and just looking ahead. I took permaculture courses before I got married but we still live in the heart of a city on about 1/10 of an acre of land. I think you’re absolutely right about the hands on. My kid just turmed 5 and is just starting to read. But at this point her world view is forming. We have a small garden complete with a rain barrels and a compost pile. Though we don’t have chickens we have family in the country that does. So now I’m looking to shape her entire elementary curriculum around permaculture concepts. Take it slow and thorough and put it into practice where we can or at least make designs for our dream farm for the day when we do finally flee to the mountains 😉 honestly I have found that she has a lot of questions about what she sees in the city. Why are there so many lights ? Why don’t people care about seeing the stars? I really didn’t want to raise her here but I have found it to be to our advantage because its given me the chance to answer her questions honestly. Her worldview is forming. She’s seeing the developed, commercialized side of things. The gigantic smoky plants where electricity is produced and oil is processed. What are they doing there?? …now I get to describe to her the alternatives and hopefully she’ll be looking forward to living it one day, like I am.
    But really, this interest stems from love and appreciation of nature and wildlife. If I express it, she can catch onto it too. Sometimes we take time just to drive into the country where there is nothing but open land. She hears our comments of relief as we take in the view and it shapes her view too.
    So for those of you that are stuck in a concrete metropolis like us, don’t give up. There’s lots you can do to inspire and shape young minds

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