Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage – Days 11-13

Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage with Rosemary Morrow

by Tamara Griffiths, Ali Ma and Delvin Solkinson

Day One

It was a beautiful spring day in this incredible eco-village when we met with our hero, Rosemary Morrow, the inspiring and resilient godmother of permaculture. Teaching and travelling since March, Rosemary Morrow seems to tirelessly teach. Over 27 years she has taught in so many war zones, refugee camps and crippled countries.

Rosemary’s beautiful grandmotherly presence makes us feel at home and comfortable in the first instant we meet her. She encourages us right away to begin thinking like teachers and not like students.

We three are sooo excited to be with one of our greatest heroes.

Our food comes from organic growers at Crystal Waters or just down the street at a Biodynamic market farm. 230 people live here in 80 residences on this permaculture eco-village. The eco-classroom we meet in is a grid interactive system which generates more power than it uses, extra power gets sent down to the kitchen below.

From the first moment, the importance of setting the tone for the entire course was recognised. Clear objectives support clear outcomes combined with building the community trust facilitating an inclusive safe space for learning.

As she takes us through an introduction and logistics, we see that everything we do is modelling how we might facilitate a course. Every word and action is stacked in space and time, marrying content with process to both teach us and show us how to teach.

A flexible but considered group learning agreements was facilitated centered around co-operation. Many different learning styles were acknowledged as people processed information in different ways.

We reviewed the ecological model of learning with the classroom as an environment. This included good learning spaces and blocks to learning in classrooms. Following this we evaluated adult education and noted blocks to adult learning as well as different teaching styles.

Rosemary’s teaching outcomes in teaching a PDC is to prepare students be able to do site analysis, to design in such way that they can impose patterns, zones and sectors, and make connections between elements. Her metaphor for adult education is not building foundations but making scaffolding around already existing knowledge. She represented zones in a new way for me, relating them to nutrient, energy, work, water and access. She also notes powerfully that there are always alternatives to violence.

On the first night we did small presentations relating a principle of permaculture to a topic in the designer manual. We retired under the stars warmed by the loving glow of Rosemary’s stunningly beautiful humanity.

Day Two

The day began by the shetland ponies. We learned how to breath from our noses into their noses to gain their trust and affection. It was beautiful to befriend these kind creatures.

Today we learned about getting to know learners and student types. In particular we explored adult learning types, environments and styles. We noted the importance of dynamic teaching appealing to all the senses and using different techniques to be an holistic communicator to a wide ranging group of people. We also talked about learning retention and were reminded that 15% of learning happens through simple listening while 85% happens through learning experiences that include hearing, smelling, talking and doing.

We were invited to consider designing an eco-classroom. What elements would we need to include? We noted biotecture depending on climate, shade, access to breezes, a place for bags, shoes, storage, entrance for wet things, shelving, hanging areas, light and internal arrangement of seating.

With gentle eyes Rosemary talked about living the virtuous circle as the heart of all permaculture practice. She illustrated how the ethics we model as teachers will inspire more positive learning than the information we convey or how intelligently we convey it.

The afternoon focussed on what makes a good teacher including qualities, essentials and learning/teaching objectives. This led into actively brainstorming and demonstrating the roles and responsibilities of the teacher as a manager, communicator and motivator.

We also considered who are our learners? She noted we must consider their
age, sex, attitude, origins, experience, ideas, dislikes and possible patterns.

Rosemary taught us how learning is about behaviour change. As teachers we have been encouraged to look for observable indicators. Some tangible ways to informally assess if information is sinking in is through eye contact, language, the types of questions being asked and answered, design work, passive observations and written evaluations. The green mind becomes observable as people begin to own the information themselves, this is seen through their actions over time.

Our evening presentations included the contextual ‘book ends’ of the night before, as well as principle-anchored PDC topics, but also included learning methods and styles talked about during the day. In addition we added a more focussed constructive criticism feedback loop that all the students took turns giving.

Day 3

Today we focussed on successful teachers and teaching techniques — offering many practical techniques, methods and strategies for being a great teacher. This included sharing stories of great teachers we have had in the past. For example we noted how great teachers have a conversational style, are aware of students strengths and weaknesses, supply study pleasure, support and motivate, give reasons and present alternatives, offer reassurance, make praise personal, make information relevant, assist in success, know material well and never ever punish, blame or patronize.

Pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching. We brainstormed and explored many methods in facilitating interactive and interesting groups (especially with low resource or paper usage), looking at ways to implement these strategies into our teaching practice.

Teaching aims were the next thing to explore in a comprehensive and dynamic way. Included in this were ways to monitor and evaluate students energies and comprehension. Non-violent communication and language issues came up here as a way to encourage a respectful learning environment.

Rowe took us through a comprehensive exploration of the method of questioning. It begins with holding up an object "What is this?", in other words, starting with a question that everyone can answer. "Where is it found?", "What depends on its existence?", "How can we use this element", or "Are there waste products that require attention". Keep the questions positive, interesting and on topic, leading with known subject matter into unknown territory.

A poster was demonstrated to be a wonderful teaching aid, by questioning students on various aspects of the themed poster, a teacher can facilitate the students to tell the story of learning a key concept or method in permaculture.

Tonight our presentations were even more integrative and included the use of language and questioning in addition to the other dynamic presentation components.

Rosemary Morrow is teaching teacher training at Milkwood soon — we recommend anyone who wants to move to the next level with their teaching to make a bee-line.


  1. Great rundown – many thanks. Can’t wait to host Rowe at Milkwood – this woman is a treasure.

    I have never seen design work like that that came out of the PDC she taught at Milkwood in Spring 2010, nor have I seen such cohesion in the PDC student crew like I witnessed at that course – amazing stuff.

    The best thing (ok one of) I love about Rowe is her honesty, which while tempered with great compassion is no nonsense and straight to the point. It is this ability to discern true meaning and take (or recommend) appropriate action that I most admire in her.

    That and her incredible ability to get a class of adults to teach themselves effectively in a way that produces tangible, useful, activating outcomes. Something to aspire to for all us Permaculture educators, certainly…

  2. It is wonderful to future Permaculture teachers receiving such training from the likes of Rowe. I recently did a case study on Permaculture Design Courses for a subject called Transformative Learning which was part of an Education Masters. My research concluded that only a portion of students did in fact have a transformative experience which was due to the quality of the teacher. Many permaculture teachers treated the students as vessels in which they can deposit all their great knowledge upon. Many other respondents who were students of high profile teachers commented on ego and self-opinionated approaches that limited their appreciation for the course. Rowe manages to inspire every individual and is happy to change her approach depending on the energy and skills of the group. She successfully uses the knowledge of the group to create a fully participative reflexive learning experience. I just remember if i ever tuned out of the discussion she would immediately fire an insightful question at me to bring back into the moment- Hopefully more can learn from the her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button