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July 2015: 6 Day Teachers Training Course, Sintra, Portugal: Terra Alta

Having had a lot of New Zealand energy come back my way this past year, it made sense to reach out to my old mentor Robina McCurdy when I heard she was coming to Europe in light of the IPC in London this year.  Thus back in spring we started the process of putting together what we needed to let others know we would be teaming up as co facilitators of a Teachers Training Course.  It was an exciting proposition as I have been wanting to take next steps of my Permaculture facilitators role within the movement.  Not just pdc’s and short courses but also this advanced course and it makes sense cause it’s a topic I am really dedicated to; holistic education.

students practicing teaching in the field with the principles, 4 past TreeYo students

students practicing teaching in the field with the principles, 4 past TreeYo students

Thus 14 students arrived for a 6 day course at Terra Alta where I am living and working pretty much full-time these days.  It was great to invite Robina here so that she could also see our food forest and off the grid educational center.  I earned a lot from her in New Zealand and so much of what I learned there I have applied in Portugal because of the climate analog that is between the two.  White sapote, cherimoya, tamarillo, pepino dulce, avocados….. and the list goes on of the species we have here and that I learned about there.  So once she arrived we planned diligently as our busy schedules gave us the opportunity to plan intensively in person instead of skype and spread further out.

I relied heavily on Robina for the scheduling part as I have never put together one but remembered back to mine in late 2008 which really helped me to take next steps.  A couple of months later TreeYo Permaculture was formed.  So we debated and invented which was fun as well as catching up and enjoying stories and laughs from our past and travels over the years.  Robina is an elder in the movement in New Zealand and I am grateful that she was willing and able to work with me during this time.

Robina, our fearless boundless ball of positive energy

Robina, our fearless boundless ball of positive energy

Thus we led the students through so many different facets of facilitating permaculture that its hard to even know where to begin.  I guess the details don’t matter so much but it was great to see that half the group was past students of ours at some point in the journey of Terra Alta/ Escola da Terra.  Having this comfortability with the others already allowed the group to really come together quiet quickly and with Robina’s playful facilitation and meal time songs it was even easier.  I guess I fell back into my normal role of the pdc in some ways, facilitating about technical issues, holding space in the classroom of people’s learning process, making adjustments along the way to help maintain the mission of the course and have fun along the way.

me assisting along the way with students teaching

me assisting along the way with students teaching

It was great to see along the way as well the students making strides in their comfortability of teaching and also applying what they were learning.  Whether it was how to work in a team or using certain teaching methodologies, they got very creative in their “group final design project” where three to four students were in a group and they had to take on a certain topic and facilitate a 30 minute section of that.  Oddly enough 3 of the four groups took on soil which I consider to be one of the hardest subjects to do because there is just so much to say.  Whether it was the sandbox or the jar test, nice graphics or effective powerpoints, they did a fantastic work to pull through in the always present time crunch of a final design.  But that is how it always seems to be in real life anyways so why not just roll with it now.  Hopefully they take the time and begin to develop certain sections of the pdc or short courses and begin to manifest it more.  It’s a slow process to get to the pdc lead position but if you go for it, it can be quite quick and rewarding but does require intense research dn a knack for teaching.

Thanks again to robina and all of the students who were involved and the terra alta hosting team.  I got some really great feedback from Robina and I do hope that we can refine the program even more and teach together again one day.  And who knows, maybe back in New Zealand again!

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