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Permaculture and Ecovillage Immersion

Curriculum

Our Approach

Education at SOIL is interdisciplinary, rich with application, and essential for healthy and powerful engagement with the most critical issues of our time. Our curriculum is based on social, ecological, economic, and eco-spiritual sustainability. By deeply exploring these topics, we build important skills, foster awareness of global society, empower the self, increase connection, and provide hands-on experience for daily life.

The Permaculture and Ecovillage Immersion combines ancient and social and ecological wisdom with modern techniques, empowering people of all ages to become stewards, mentors, and leaders. Our approach joins experiential and traditional methods of education. Through expert lecturers, excursions and field trips, salon talks and fireside conversations, scheduled work shifts, pertinent readings, journaling, small group projects, independent observation, and team building, we provide an intimate, well-rounded, and powerful learning experience.

Curriculum Topics

Food as Medicine
Deep Nature Connection

Food Forestry and Ecological Farming
Village Building and Regenerative Culture
Home-Scale and Village-Scale Water Systems
Communication and Community Living
Personal Development and Leadership
Deep Ecology and Eco-Spirituality
Appropriate Technology
Renewable Energy


Our Curriculum at a Deeper Level

Food Forestry and Ecological Farming

Our permaculture education focuses on ecological food-production strategies that combine pre-industrial foodways with contemporary research. Through hands-on experience, local farm tours, and presentations, you will learn about integrated food production systems that mimic the cycles of natural succession, sequester carbon, and allow adaptation to global climate change. Classes cover the following topics:

  • Mulching and cover cropping
  • Agroforestry and forest management
  • Fruit and nut tree tending and grafting
  • Integrated pest and disease management
  • Pollination, perennial plants, and propagation
  • Milpa cultivation, polycultures, and plant guilds
  • Organic home gardening, crop planning, and planting
  • Mushroom cultivation and bio- and mycoremediation
  • Integrated animal systems for healthy soil and human nutrition
  • Soil fertility and the soil foodweb, compost systems, and biodynamics

Village Building and Regenerative Culture

We teach skills and processes that can make the difference between a community that thrives and one that atrophies, falters, and disbands in conflict. Classes cover the following topics:

  • Regenerative community design
  • Legal entities and land-financing strategies
  • How to create a healthy and thriving community
  • Alternative economics and local currency systems
  • Effective self-governance and decision-making methods
  • Steps to start successful ecovillages or land-based endeavors (both rural and urban)
  • Peacemaking practices, proven communication skills and conflict resolution methods

Food as Ecological Medicine

The human body is like the body of the Earth and follows parallel bio-cultural processes. We explore how illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, and depression indicate unhealthy ecosystems, as well as how archetypal patterns of nutrient cycling and toxin metabolism apply to human bodies and the environment. You'll learn how the skillful preparation of animals and plants as food medicines can help heal both humans and the Earth. Classes cover the following topics:

  • Seasonally appropriate techniques for harvesting, processing, preserving, and preparing food
  • Vegetable fermentation, mead production, milpa cuisine (tortillas and tamales), and kombucha brewing
  • Mushroom and wild plant identification, harvesting, and preservation
  • Local medicinal herb identification and use in herbal medicinal teas

Personal Development and Leadership

In permaculture design, Zone Zero refers to the center of activity. We believe that Zone Zero of our education is the student. By focusing on personal development, we encourage students to become empowered, skilled, conscious leaders dedicated to creating regenerative change and healthy reciprocal relationships. Classes cover the following topics:

  • How to determine what matters most to you in life
  • How to identify your gifts and what you need to share them
  • How to identify and release obstacles to your personal progress
  • Practical techniques for managing time, money, tasks, complexity, and relationships
  • Honing your vision and setting intentions for the next steps in the life you want to lead
  • Accountability processes to support your personal learning journey and accomplishments

Renewable Energy: Now and in the Future

Learn about the current range of renewable energy options. We explore strategies that have been applied and tested at Earthaven, creative ways to integrate off-grid technologies in holistic land-use systems (both urban and rural), and the economic, social, technical, and legal dimensions of renewable energy in the future of sustainable human settlements. Classes cover the following topics:

  • Biochar and the use of charcoal as a fertilizer
  • Renewable energy options, including solar, hydro, and bio-gas
  • Home and utility efficiency through Passive Solar Design practices
  • Energy alternatives that provide possible solutions to the world’s energy crisis
  • Core concepts of electricity and how it pertains to us, whether we live on or off the grid
  • Integrated renewable energy systems and issues surrounding both grid and off-grid systems
  • History of modern electricity, including its origins, uses, and central importance to our lives

Deep Nature Connection

The process of deep nature connection transforms a nature-lover in theory into a person intimately familiar with their environs in actuality. Because humans evolved as natural beings interwoven with the surrounding world, deep nature connection helps people become more well-rounded human animals. We believe that observation is the first step in permaculture design—deep nature connection gives our students the tools to actually do this observing. With the woods as both teacher and classroom, you’ll explore techniques for identifying and learning from many sources:

  • Trees
  • Hazards
  • Bird Language
  • Animal Tracking
  • Plants and Mushrooms
  • Ecological Indicators (e.g., water, amphibians, reptiles)

Communication and Community Living

The health of the land is tied to the balance of the people who live with it. We believe that honoring personal emotions while maintaining care and connection with others is essential for creating a regenerative human ecosystem. You’ll practice effective tools and strategies for cultivating awareness of the essential self:

  • Deep listening
  • Effective group project management systems
  • Graceful negotiation and conflict reconciliation
  • Understanding and leveraging your emotions as allies
  • Using sensitive moments to find deeper understanding, self-discovery, resolution, and peace
  • Compassionately discussing challenging topics and differences while maintaining connection to self and others

Appropriate Technology: Tools and Utilities

We teach the conscious use of tools and technologies to grow a truly sustainable future. You'll learn how to ethically use—or choose not to use—technologies based on a real-world understanding of their social and ecological benefits and costs. Under this big-picture framework, you'll explore many practical techniques for using technologies effectively, respectfully, and with fair distribution of benefits. Classes cover the following topics:

  • Fencing styles
  • Earth-moving equipment
  • Building materials science
  • Tractors and farm implements
  • Traditional, mid-tech, and low-tech hand tools
  • Tool maintenance and tool sharing strategies
  • Software applications and computer mapping technology

Deep Ecology and Eco-Spirituality

We believe that a reciprocal relationship with the global ecosystem leads to a visceral understanding of the complex systems humans belong to. This relationship helps people process grief and other emotions, as well as experience deeper inspiration and empowerment. Through the following practices, you'll foster your connections with other people and the non-human world:

  • Systems theory
  • Indigenous spiritual lineages
  • Community rituals and ceremonies
  • Fireside conversations and guided inquiries into knowing your own cosmology
  • Experiential processes drawn from the work of Joanna Macy, John Seed, and Jon Young

Home-Scale and Village-Scale Water Systems

Water is the lifeblood of ecosystems and of human life. Its flow has shaped the history of human settlements, conflict, and mysticism.  We teach students to understand the interactions of water in the landscape through weather, soil, animal activity, buildings and roads, plant life, disaster planning, and climate change. Classes cover the following topics:

  • Efficient irrigation techniques
  • Reading water in the landscape
  • Greywater systems, ponds and dams
  • Rainwater catchment in rural and urban settings
  • Best stormwater management and water conservation practices
  • Topographical design with swales, berms, keyline, paths, roads, stairs and living architecture

Check out Reaching Nature Connection

Join SOIL for this weekend exploration of how to incorporate nature into early childhood education. The conference is designed for beginners and experienced educators alike, as well as therapists, administrators, homeschool families, camp counselors, grandparents, and parents who have an interest in developmentally appropriate nature mentoring for children.

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