The story so far

Tamara left Bunyip in April 2009 seeking what she needed to know for her permaculture future. She spent 9 months at her Aunt Catherine's farm in Arid South Australia, then 9 months at Bill and Lisa Mollison's farm in Tasmania. Now she's off on more adventures starting Moonrise School of Permaculture and teaching Permaculture Design Courses in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne. Ducky is there for the journey...

Friday, November 25, 2011

planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage - Robin Clayfield Dynamic groups Day 6

Robin Clayfield Dynamic groups Saturday Day 6

Our final day of dynamic groups with Robin was fantastic. We had grown to enjoy each other and were having a lot of fun, with spontaneous percussion collaborations erupting at dinner and in the breaks. This was possible because Robin had 2 big baskets full of different percussion instruments. She also had a biggish drum which we took turns at to hold the rhythm. I found these awesome pods attached by string to a band that went round the ankle, making noise as I stepped and stamped in time.

As the week progressed people felt more and more comfortable in the group and we had built up a lot of trust. After 3 days of presenting on topics we all chose to learn about we had become fluid in creative processes and Robin said we were all flying. On day 6 we all did our final presentations, and by this stage we were enjoying the creative process of coming up with ways to get core information across in a marvellously engaging way.

Our class began with a beautifully facilitated 'milling' process from the Deep Ecology toolkit facilitated by Ali Ma. We met eye to eye and connected with each other from a place of love, respect and support. It was an incredibly bonding experience to do on the last day of the course.

In between the presentations Robin led an activity on brainstorming, giving us tips on how to get them really cranking and how to use mindmaps to record the info. This was really useful as brainstorms are used in mainstream teaching environments and can be a good way to gently lead people to more creative processes.

It is worthwhile going through all the presentations that day – Kathleen and Olga led a session on working in small groups using a PMI/ That stands for “Plus, Minus and Interesting – a method invented by Edward De Bono. This is my least favourite method but I am getting used to it. (I’m not sure I would use it, I dislike it so much).

Tonia and Bruce did a HILARIOUS speed dating session called “Permie Match”. Tonia is so funny to work with and I loved it. It had people being principles who were moving around dating different aspects of teaching – I was the teaching environment. It got a lot of information across very quickly and was so much fun with everyone getting into role play easily. I’ve often said we should have permie speed dating at permaculture convergences.

Ali Ma and myself led a labyrinth walk. We walked to the centre with a prayer for the earth. We staying in the centre to ground before winding our way out on the new path we had forged for ourselves over this transformational week.

We said goodbye to Bruce before lunch, wishing him well on his Vegie Village project. I must remember to post his You tube video of his adventure creating a community garden.

After another fantastic lunch, Emma and Kirsty hosted a session on delivering to the mainstream – having us sit in a boardroom configuration and introduce ourselves – Julie and I pretended we were on the local council and pro-development. I’ve had plenty of contact with people like this and we played it up for the group. They used a big jigsaw to present the content and a word hunt on words for the mainstream designed by Emma.

The finale of the day was a design session with Delvin and Zoe, with each group using a small collection of animals Delvin had brought from Canada. I had the poultry set with Olga and we put in a circular lake with a poultry island and had different zones coming off with different gangplanks and gates. I’ve worked with poultry a dozen times before but never come up with anything so creative!

This is my way cool poultry island!

To finish we had a feedback and evaluation session for Robin, followed by certificate giving, where we presented them to each other. Interestingly I had Delvin’s certificate to present and Ali Ma had my certificate!

We followed that with a series of closing activities – where I got a little teary – the group was disbanding the following morning and we had become very close knit.


Crystal waters is a great place to learn about permaculture- for both visible and invisible structures. Crystal waters was set up in the late 80’s as a permaculture village and has approximately 300 of people living there. We’ve been staying in the bunkhouse, learning in the purpose built eco room and eating at the community building. We’ve sung in Robin’s rammed earth office and had sourdough bread straight from the bakery.

The animals here are incredible, we’ve spent a week being surrounded and supported by them - including kangaroos and wallabies, black and white butcherbirds, crows, swallows and all manner of birds. There is a nest of baby swallows on the short corridor to the loos – and in true animal loving style there has been some bark placed below the nest to catch the droppings rather than remove the nest.

On my walks I’ve also seen a huge goanna, a pink tongue lizard, bandicoots, and a sugar glider. The women’s shower block has a resident green tree frog – who turns up in lots of different spots over the week. Tonight it was in one of the hand basins but a few days ago it was lurking in the loo – and I feel terrible peeing on them!

The food has been amazing – we’ve had 3 cooks – Kira, Yii and Len the pizza man who makes them in the wood fired stove in the bakery. The food has come mostly from a local coop farm and from the gardens of Robin and Yii. Spectacular!! The eggs have come from the coop on Crystal waters and all our kitchen scraps have gone back to them.

Although this was the third time I have done similar courses with Robin, I found most of what we covered extremely useful. It was a good revision for me and it included much more permaculture than the previous two courses. That this one was 6 days gave us heaps more time to experience more of Robin’s processes and 3 days of throwing ourselves in to creating facilitation.

Robin’s style is about as far from “Chalk and Talk” as you can get. The planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage was put together to get as many different styles of teaching and jumping into Robin’s course after Geoff’s was pretty interesting. I loved Geoff’s course but really wanted to show the other students that creative processes can be used to teach permaculture and that it was worthwhile. I think it all comes down to using lots of different teaching methods to get permaculture across.

Robin’s method is full of activities and small group work – which can be tiring if like me you are half introvert and half extrovert. I found if I spent the odd lunch or morning tea alone I was fine. But I loved the class sessions, our percussion meal breaks and the fantastic friendships I have formed.

I would have loved to have more from Robin on how she used to teach specific subjects in the PDC – she did mention a few and it whet my appetite - although these have been recorded in the back of her book: “You can have your permaculture and eat it too” and also in her manual “Teaching Permaculture creatively”.

Robin did a huge job pulling everything together to convene the course as well as teach it. I recommend her course, especially if you are already teaching permaculture and would like a few more methods in your toolbox. People learn in many ways and chalk and talk often doesn’t work for people who learn kinesthetically – or by doing – and there are lots of those in permaculture.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to hear from you. I hope to get to study under Robyn sometime. Her courses always sound like they would challenge me deeply(total introvert here).. but sometimes we need to be challenged to find a better way.

    Kind Regards