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I am teaching Permaculture in a public high school, need help with curriculum!!

 
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Well as the title says I am working on a new course to teach to 9-12 graders in a public high school in Pittsburgh.  The name of the course is Applied Environmental Sustainability (AES), the reason for the name is because I already teach a class called Environmental Sustainability which is part of a national program called Project Lead The Way (PLTW) here is the course description:  In Environmental Sustainability, students investigate and design solutions in response to real-world challenges related to clean and abundant drinking water, food supply, and renewable energy. Applying their knowledge through hands-on activities and simulations, students research and design potential solutions to these true-to-life challenges.  


My new course is described as such:  

This year-long project-based course focuses on the development of environmentally sustainable systems and their integration into our lives, schools, and communities. The guiding principles in this course are the designing, building, and testing of various systems that could potentially resolve real-world problems while expanding upon Global Standards. Specifically, the goal of the course is to afford students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the areas of environmental sustainability for a better tomorrow, safe and abundant water, food security and renewable energy. Students will use content and concepts from the Environmental Sustainability course to design and create systems that reinforce the concepts previously learned. A review of the relevant material will help all students succeed, thus, any student in grades 9-12 will be able to participate in the course.


Basically what I have done is subversively get a new course approved that in my mind is all about permaculture and even though my curriculum director doesn't know what permaculture is she is on board with my new class.  I have never even used the word permaculture in all or our meetings about the new course.  My task is to write a curriculum that spans the entire school year that uses project based learning to teach about sustainable living.  You can see my 4 units in the description above.  Some of my project ideas are:

design and make various types and styles of rainwater collectors and see which design is most efficient

design and make various types of solar hot water heaters and compare them

design and make various solar electricity systems

design and make windmills from old DC motors

design and make various indoor and outdoor growing systems

design and make something that explores bio-gas


I live on a small farm we attempt to homestead and raise our own cattle, pigs, chickens, honey bees, fruit and nut trees, free-range organic children and we have a milk cow.  Since our lifestyle is permaculture based I do have some experience I can bring to the class, but need help designing a curriculum for an urban high school.  I have limited growing space for the growing part of the class.  What I would like is some ideas on projects, concepts to be taught, curriculum mapping, assessments and unit/sub-unit names and breakdowns.  I want to start with unit 1: environmental sustainability for a better tomorrow,  which will be largely conceptual and attempt to teach my students why we need to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  Mind you I am not preaching any extreme environmentalism or getting into politics and policy.  I am not going to tell them that cow farts are killing us and veganism will save the world.  Of course we will look at these issues as a class but they will get a fair presentation of the various views and then own their personal beliefs.  I really try to give the facts on all sides and let them come to a conclusion they can defend and live.  Anyway, unit 1 is important as it will lay the "why" for the units 2,3,4.  

Since many of us are stuck at home I figured it would be a good time to start my curriculum, so please jump in and offer your suggestions.  Maybe someone can donate a PDC for us to work through?  

Thank You

Zeek
 
pollinator
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If it were me I would contact Matt Powers.  He was an English teacher who turned permie, seems like a nice guy.  He has a student curriculum for Elementary School.  He is a prolific writer on the subject of permaculture, almost guarantee he'd help you.

Good Luck

https://www.thepermaculturestudent.com/

 
steward
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Good stuff Zeek!  How about:

making a j tube rocket heater  

making solar dehydrators and testing them against each other

Vermicompost

Composting

Testing water infiltration on different surfaces (hard packed dirt, weedy dry dirt, grass, etc).  Make boxes 2' by 4' and plant them (or abuse them).  After 3 months, put them at an incline and "rain" X gallons of water on the uphill side and see the quantity and clarity of the water running off the down hill side.  My dad's local water quality people had a demo like that to show residents how they could keep rain from running off into the lake.

Experiments with insulation and draft sealing a big box with a little light bulb in it

 
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Hey! Matt Powers here

Over the past 6 years, I've developed high school/collegiate, middle school, and K-12 programs for permaculture.

My high school teacher's guide is standard-based: NGSS, NSES, & Permaculture Education Standards, and comes with lesson plans, book lists, projects, and more, so students of all learning modalities can thrive. (I have a Masters degree in Education)

The Advanced Permaculture Student Online, my high school/collegiate/adult program, is the only program in North America that is accredited by a government body, peer-reviewed, fully cited, and a full year of curriculum.

AND ALL MY COURSES ARE 50% OFF THIS WEEKEND!! AND ALL SIGNUPS ARE ENTERED IN A SURVIVAL SEED GIVEAWAY!!
50% OFF ALL COURSES
http://thepermaculturestudent.com/course-signup

Only $50 a month on 50% Payment Plan for The Advanced Permaculture Student Online:

SIGNUP TODAY & SAVE!!

SEE WHAT STUDENTS ARE SAYING:

I am an environmental science student at Georgia State and I have learned more in this course than my 4 years at this University. Thank you for everything Matt, I know our time together isn't over just yet, but I want to express my gratitude for everything you've done for all of us students and for the regenerative community as a whole. - Alex Kerr



And then we met Matt. I want to tell you, he is the real deal. He is as energetic and passionate in person as he is on his videos, if not more so! As we learned more about Matt and about permaculture, we realized that his course was the answer to our situation, not only in helping us achieve our goals but in a responsible and regenerative way. - Synthia Carlisle



This course is World Class! I love the info. I own a company and work 70 hours a week. This is the best course I have ever taken on this subject. Matt Powers ROCKS!!! -Mike Garcia



I really thought I knew something about nature. I feel like I have to review it again to properly build schema. Just in the last two weeks I learn nature is a new science with a lot of niches to fill in. So many gaps in education. We should be teaching this to our children. Imagine the potencial of human race's evolution if we all start with this kind of basic understanding of nature early on in our education system. Geoff Lawton's PDC completely changed my understanding of nature, but this course is just taking it to a whole new level. Future now looks more feasible. We have to set a good example so we can properly inoculate people around us. We are really living in a nature illiterate society, our biggest challenge is to fully understand the impact of community building in nature and society. Thank you Matt for all your effort to put all this information together, it is really powerful and empowering. - Thiago



I got my B.S. in Biology in 1995. I have been looking for a way to go to grad school ever since. This course and your programs are so much more efficient at delivering information - resulting in the competency of students. Not to mention the real world experience of your guest teachers and students. I cannot think of way to continue my education than what you are offering and this community. Thank you to everyone. - RJ Cox

 
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Hello Zeek!

What a glorious class, and an honor to teach it!
My advice on this subject would be this: whatever curriculum you decide on, i would say that it is important to focus on things that are, or seem, relevant to an Urban city dwelling person, generally, if that is indeed your audience...
I say that as a sub-urban homesteader who grew up in a very urban highschool. I'm trying to consider what the majority of kids that i grew up with would want to know and also be able to use. In a smaller urban area, how can these kids adequately utilize permaculture and sustainable solutions in their daily life? Milking a cow?? Whilst, this may be a super useful skill, absolutely, due to obvious zoning and land restrictions, urban dwellers will likely not be able to have a cow. And frankly, its likely that if this is a very urban high school, they might not even know someone who owns a cow. Urban mentality is: Oh, you own a cow, you MUST be a farmer.... See where im going? If i had some of the urban city kids who are currently attending the High School i grew up in, over to my quite small sub-urban homestead, they would say that this is a legit farm. And it is most certainly not. Its all about perspective.
-Small indoor aquaculture herb garden? Hmm that sounds useful, to a city person.
-Ways to create a sustainable, space saving, organic garden in a small urban backyard? That seems like something that can be doable for someone who is [likely] going to stay in an urban environment.
-Backyard chickens? Might be perfect, depending on zoning restrictions. This could be an entire course series. Breed variations, egg laying basics, chicken care, coop choice, bedding, chicken behaviors...
-Id suggest maybe having a mini course on solar power or other forms of sustainable energy like passive solar solutions for homes. Maybe even get a guest speaker in to teach the basics on how to set up your own at home solar set up. That would be such useful knowledge!

those are all applicable urban sustainability/permaculture ideas. And i am sure there are much more! Good luck on your course and shaping the minds of tomorrow

Cheers,
M
 
Zeek McGalla
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Michelle you are right on and that is exactly what I was going for.  My students live 10 miles from a city and they think I am just strange for living the way we do, but they love to hear about it.  Keep the ideas coming!  I do have some space at the school to grow limited things and I already have a small aquaponics system.  In my mind what I really want to do is teach my students a sustainable  mindset that they can live out anywhere.  I do not think I will be able to teach straight up permaculture but I see so much overlap with what the class is supposed to be and what permaculture is all about.  I thought about taking a PDC myself, but I need to be sure that I am a project based class where we design, build, test and compare.  I see that Matt replied above and that is great, now I have to decide if my school will buy the stuff from him or if I have to. But I really think that this post and the folks that will respond will give me some good ideas. Thanks to all!
 
Zeek McGalla
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Matt,  thanks for the reply I will be sure to check out what you have and I am sure I can use some of your curriculum. I did look around your site today and was pretty excited about what you have, now to figure out who will pay for the stuff.  Thanks again Matt.
 
pioneer
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I think what you our doing is awesome.I was born in Pittsburgh.Hands on activities is your best approach.What about cob?There's an awesome horticulture program by the casino the school is called Manchester Bidwell.Check them out if you have sometime might give some ideas for careers for students. a 2 acre greenhouse with Catalina orchids. they have a great program turned the hood into a nice looking area.Mexican war streetslPhipps,the bird aviary,carnegie museum (has a huge plant taxidermy collection)Have examples of permacultiure also great field trips.What about Sepp holzer masonobu fukuoka, ruth stout,ben law ben fawk. They have some awesome material on youtube.Check out ben laws dvd timberframing if you have a chance.Anyway I read your post and thought it was awesome your teaching permaculture in Pittsburgh inner city.
 
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Love the idea of a class and I put together some ideas on what I would want to learn if I were to take the course. I live in the city, in a cookie cutter neighborhood, and I have about 0.12 of an acre where my house is located. When accounting for space for the house, the front yard that we cannot use because of HOA restrictions, and those sorts of things... I am left with less than 300 square feet of growing space. Those considerations being as they are, perhaps module 1 might talk about the following:

Class 1 - Intro to permaculture Ideas
- What is permaculture? Where did it come from? Why is it a "buzzword" in the homesteading community?
- "Environmentalism" and how individuals can help do their part to better the world and lead us to a more sustainable planet.
- Difficulties in Urban "Homesteading": HOAs, Nosey Neighbors, Space Restrictions, Trees (trees in the neighbor's yard can suck water from gardening beds in my backyard), "Ugly" plots, and Busy Schedules
- How we can learn to overcome some of these challenges via a permaculture outlook and how we can work around some items and supplement others.
- Project: Draw a "floorplan" of your house and yard to scale. Include notes on slopes, sun/shadow, elevation, pitch, and other obstacles.

Class 2 - It Starts with Soil
- The foundation is in the foundation: Building great soil
- Compost is king: What is compost? Why is it great for every soil type? When can it be used? (always) When can it not be used? (never, unless it is still hot.)
--- Cold Composting
--- Hot Composting
--- Vermicompost
Project: Start a compost bin. Either of the 3 mentioned above is okay.

Class 3 - Something to Chew on
- Food for thought: Which foods could you grow in your back yard?
--- Do you know what plants look like as mature plants? (okra, brussel sprouts, corn, beans, lettuce, onions, artichoke, ginger, coriander, etc)
- Common Gardening Myths: What have you been told about...
--- Tilling vs. No-dig gardens
--- Fertilizer vs Compost only
--- Seed Starting Mix vs Compost only
--- Three Sisters vs. Actual practice (ONLY useful if you are NOT harvesting until winter and makes for a poor use of space, not efficient)
--- Other Garden Myths (rows N&S vs E&W, Crop Rotation, etc)
- Container gardening
- Project: Plant something! Ideally, this is a group project where students are "repotting" starts that the instructor has already started. Let them take it home to grow and take photos of progress.

Class 4 - H2O-mazing!
- Water is life!
- Water and Soil permeation
- Water Harvesting
- How much water is too much? Too Little? (How can you tell?)
- Can plants drown?!
- Project: Kratky Method Lettuce  -OR-  Build a rain collection barrel

Class 5 - The light of my life!
- The importance of light for life: Gardening, Vitamins (E,D), power/electricity, and that gorgeous tan!
- Passive solar options
- Basics of solar power generation
- Project: Build a passive water heater.

Class 6 - Something Fishy!
- With the world covered in 80% water, sustainability also includes our little swimming friends! A note on "sea life" in the homestead.
- Aquaculture - What is it? How is it used? What are the byproducts?
- Aquaponics - How does this differ from Aquaculture? What happens to the byproducts?
- Project: Build a small aquarium sized Aquaponics herb garden that can sit on a kitchen counter or in a windowsill.

Class 7 - Looking up, down, and all around!
- A more in depth look at permaculture, specifically relating to different canopy levels
--- Overstory
--- Understory
--- Shrub
--- Herbaceous
--- Root
--- Ground Cover
--- Vine
- Project: Using your plan for your home in class 1, design a permaculture area at your home location using the 7 layers listed above. If you cannot do this exercise with your home plot, use the school plot as an example instead.
--- Keep in mind that plans should be made according to the plant's mature full-size and not it's adolescent size.

Class 8 - Mastery of the basics!
- Each class member is to take a topic from the course (or from a list of topics related to the course) and is to write and then present to the class. They will cover their topic broadly as a whole, then will discuss specific applications in the urban home. The majority of the grade will come from different ways to apply the subtopic in the urban home environment. For example, how would one maintain a worm bin? How would someone plan and run a successful garden area in a small plot? How would one transfer as much of their electrical usage over to renewable sources?
--- Extra credit / brownie points would be awarded for in depth analysis and explication that also addresses problems and issues and how to overcome them.


I love these types of projects! I just noticed the APSO class was 1/2 off and when I went to the site it was back up to full price. :-( So, I am very sad I missed that sale. Now that I know the site exists, I'm hoping to learn more myself. Hopefully all of this is helpful for your class.

Other things that are cool, but probably not relevant to your location:
- Banana circles
- Year-round cropping, multi-cropping
- Challenges with different types of soils (I have sandy soil... Not sure what you would have)

Best of luck! Please let us know how things go.

Anyway... Hope this helps.


 
pollinator
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Close the loop would be a great topic where you look at waste reduction and management. This could include food waste and composting.
Most permies are very gardening focused, that might not be so relegation to your students. Toby Hemenway's book permaculture City might be a good resource for you.
 
pollinator
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Why look further that Molison's Permaculture Handbook? It's written to be a textbook, after all. No reason to reinvent the wheel, I say :-) Projects can be associated with the appropriate chapters.

 
Matt Powers
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:Why look further that Molison's Permaculture Handbook?



Bill's work has outdated, out of print, and disproved science - I spent years with dozens of experts updating it. Even the new Italian translation of Bill's work required a lot of updating for it to be accurate and was done with Lisa Mollison's blessing.

If it's an academic work, it MUST be updated regularly with current research.

It's also standard practice to get peer-reviewers and to align things to standards. Both those aspects never were approached with Bill's work - his best book, the Designer's Manual, is rested upon 70s & 80s science. If you've been following science for the past 20 years, we've been having groundbreaking discoveries every few weeks.

You can download a FREE copy of The Permaculture Student 2 which is peer-reviewed, accredited by a gov't body (the 1st in North America), and is cited with recent and cutting edge regenerative science:
DOWNLOAD THE BOOK FREE

It's a human right to know how to live regeneratively - that's why this project which took years and dozens of professionals is FREE!!

AND if that's too advanced: It's high school and college-level technically and aligned to NGSS, NSES, & Permaculture Education standards, then you can get a PDC ON PAPER here for FREE as well:
GET THE BOOK FREE
This was written based on Geoff Lawton's Online PDC with his blessing - he had it translated to Arabic and uses it in his Greening the Desert Arabic PDCs! You can download it FREE now!

Grow Abundantly, Learn Daily, & Live Regeneratively,

Matt Powers
 
Mike Haasl
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Hey Matt, I followed the download directions but when I clicked to download it, my virus protection program went crazy.  McAfee classifies it as "Malicious Downloads".  Not sure why but I figured I'd let you know.
 
master pollinator
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Matt Powers
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HighTail used to be a reputable sharing program - I need to fix that.

I'll just post it here for you all!
Filename: The-Permaculture-Student-2-the-2nd-Edition-(ebook).pdf
File size: 83 megabytes
 
Matt Powers
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Mike Haasl wrote:Hey Matt, I followed the download directions but when I clicked to download it, my virus protection program went crazy.  McAfee classifies it as "Malicious Downloads".  Not sure why but I figured I'd let you know.



And I REALLY appreciate the headsup - that's been setup the same way for downloading for years now without complaint and I'm a solopreneur so I'm not double-checking systems setup years ago, so knowing Hightail has degraded is critical for me! THANK YOU!!
 
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Thanks for the downloads! I love reading about everyones experiences but the student in me loves the textbook, peer reviewed style too.

As to teaching in a classroom, rather than just doing traditional lessons, having some that are interactive where each kid looks into some part of it that they are interested in and do a mini-presentation on it, and maybe as an end of quarter event, have the students try and make a working model for it. further, you can have the kids do additional presentations for extra credit (or something) where they have integrated two or more of their projects into a system. Example, Student A does his on high density micro-greens, Student B does hers on aquaponics. they then do a presentation on aquaponics used for high density micro greens.
This could obviously get more and more complicated and you might have an entire permaculture system by the end!

if you could arrange it, maybe on a regular schedule one or a group of kids could do a field trip to your farm to see some of it in action so to speak. For your limited growing space, turn that into a plus -- have them research into ways to maximize yield in a small space, or things such as green walls. another thing would be to have them vote on a meal and grow the ingredients for that meal. No kid doesn't like food and going from harvesting to a meal -- even if it is only one, helps bridge the gap from 'just gardening' to 'actually useful'.  I don't know how urban you mean, but I remember seeing a documentary over how some kids didn't know what tomatoes were and thats really stuck with me. I'm sure it's improved since then, but while most people love animals, insects and plants are harder.
 
pollinator
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Oh my! what a wonderful idea! i would have LOVED to take this class in HS! My only recommendation is to give a large overview but to keep it small and simple KISS! For me my venture into permaculture started by creating my own worm bin out of two small plastic totes. This lead to bsfl when i found out that worms don't like to be overfed and composting. and now i'm on my way to a pretty nice food forest with 3 raised beds that use hugelkulture, my own compost, vermicompost and biochar. so a little "dipping your toe in in the pool" can lead to a lot of curiosity, success and confidence. Currently i'm learning about Marty Mitchell's Rubbermaid aquaponics system and wouldn't that make a great class project? https://permies.com/t/68438/MOBILE-Rubbermaid-stock-tank-system
 
Zeek McGalla
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Hello and thank you to all who have responded, I am now starting to write the curriculum and as I have questions or ideas I will come back and post.  This course is not about permaculture and I am not an Ag teacher and growing food is not the main point, but there is so much overlap with the ethics of permaculture I am still low key teaching permaculture.  Well at least the ethics of permaculture.   Earth care, people care and future care apply to my 3 main units of safe and abundant water, food security and renewable energy.  Of course my first unit: Environmental Sustainability for a better tomorrow will be all about the 3 ethics, permaculture principles, Birch's 6, Mollison and so on.... My intention is to get my students to have a systems way of thinking, or a way to see how parts and wholes work together (holons)  so they can apply that method to the next 3 units. I will be using Matt Powers' stuff as a guide and template in some cases, I wish I could buy his course so I can learn more. Feel free to add to the list of projects my students can do so they become solutions, not problems.
Thanks
Zeek
 
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Zeek, Matt et al,

Amazing, I just joined these forums as I am doing a deep-dive into permaculture education for ourselves while we are social distancing at home. and my sixth-grade-teacher mind naturally goes to how to teach this to my children and my students! =)
I'll be following this thread with great interest!
 
Zeek McGalla
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I need immediate help with what kinds of activities can we do to teach a permaculture mindset.  Sadly I have not completed a PDC and I am not trying to teach a PDC.  Basically I want my students to design sustainable systems in the area of food, water and energy (see above) and evaluate their designs with Earth Care, People Care and Future Care (Return of Surplus) in mind. I am struggling with designing activities that will change and challenge their mindset..I want them to think about circular design, closing the loop, regeneration, observation and so on. I really think that if I can do a good job with the concepts of a permaculture mindset then they will be able use that new mindset to do great things for the earth, people and the future.  

Does anyone have some activities or projects I can do to effectively teach the permaculture mindset?
 
pollinator
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I think that any curriculum in permaculture should include work with an ecological footprint survey.  There are several websites that offer these, some more detailed than others.  Most are quick, fun, and interactive.  You enter in different parameters regarding lifestyle (house size, miles driven, diet habits, etc.) and the survey then spits out a number...usually the number of planets that would be required to sustainably support that lifestyle for everyone on earth.  Because it's so quick, it's easy to play with by entering hypothetical changes (What if I quit eating meat?  What if I give up the car for a bike?  What if I invite 2 roommates to live with me? etc.) and see their impact in a jiffy.  This begins to sort out which changes have the most impact.
 
Mike Haasl
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How about creating a circle with waste paper from the classroom.  Instead of putting it in the blue bin, come up with things to do with it.  Use it full sized to sheet mulch a spot.  Shred and compost it along with their lunch leftovers.  Shred and start a worm farm.  Etc...

Or take some broken up cement sidewalk pieces and make an herb spiral to show how it can be reused and the microclimates you can then create.

Maybe a Covid hand washing station that captures the grey water and then uses it for something?  Likely need different soap than what the school district provides.  Wow, just think of the clean grey water you could get from a water fountain in a school...

Waste elimination or upcycling would be good projects.  Look for things in the dumpster at the school.  Come up with something artsy or useful for them.  Bonus points if they find something that is constantly going in the trash that they can come up with a constant use for.  Not that there are many coffee grounds going into the dumpster but it would be neat to capture them and feed them to the soil somehow.  Oh, maybe in the teacher's lounge there's coffee...

I've really started to see a lot of things around the homestead as having many yields.  Not that this is applicable to your classes, but I'm cutting up trees that a neighbor had cut down.  They're in odd lengths (8-11') so I cut my firewood lengths from them and end up with little bits of extra on the end.  Those coins go in the flower beds to keep the chickens from digging everything up.  There was one hollow log and it got cut up into lots of coins/donuts to go around plants and save them from chickens.  We collected up most of the chainsaw shavings to use as chicken bedding.  When I'm splitting the wood there are some ugly white grubs falling out.  The chickens are learning to hang around to eat them as I split.  The crappier wood gets split smaller for the maple syrup rig.  The better wood gets split into bigger pieces for the wood stove in the house.  The little chunks of wood that accumulate go in a bag for getting turned into biochar.  The bark that accumulates around the chopping block is collected up and used as mulch.  Back in the day, many of those smaller yields would have been dumped in the woods.  They'd've had a use in the woods but I like to think I'm getting a higher use from them this way.
 
Zeek McGalla
Posts: 29
Location: Ohio Zone 6b
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Is it appropriate/accurate to apply the Universal Systems Model as a filter to look at the way things work in the natural world? Do you think I could use that model to guide their designs as they build various systems like solar power, growies, filters.....  The model is divided into these 4 parts:

1.  Input
2.  Process
3.  Output
4.  Feedback

The idea is that the loop is closed and although the model was a huge part of my training as a Technology Education Teacher I think it can help my students think in a closed loop, system kind of way.   Any thoughts?
Thanks

 
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Hi I have started the process to become a highschool ag teacher and really hoping I can teach sustainable ag through it.  I keep thinking with regenerative ag becoming popular that schools would support these smaller scale farming techniques and create more niches for farm education.  Wondering if anyone else out there is doing this already, like if you had to transform the Big Ag mentality, is there a more integrated approach at your highschool?  I have a journey of more of the natural resource jobs and range science degree in Ag department a long time ago.  Over the last 10 years of kids and exploring teaching and finally taking a PDC I have been wanting to still find a stable career that is tangible, especially for my rural area, same schedule as kids, and this seems like a good idea.  Thanks for advice and opinions!
 
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