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My guests for this episode are David Blumenkrantz and Jen Mendez. They share with us the idea of youth and community development through rites of passage. This is a conversation that encompasses education, teaching children permaculture, community development, what it means to grow up, and four of the major life experiences shared by most cultures. Those include birth, adolescence, marriage, and death.
This is something that David has worked on for 50 years in various forms before coming to examine how rites of passage and initiatory experiences influence education and community, and how reintroducing these ideas paired with indigenous wisdom and ways of knowing and scientific understanding can create a new narrative. Jen has been adapting these ideas and applying them to education design through her work and how to use them to develop new models for raising children in a way that includes care for the earth, care for ourselves, and care for others.
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You can find more of David and his work at Rope.org, and Jen is at Permiekids.com. I also recommend checking out the recent video I posted that provides an overview of this work on rites of passage and what David and Jen are collaborating on. This is a great way to share this idea with people you know interested in children, education, and community building to help spread the word about their project to return rite of passage and initiatory experiences to education, living, and growing up in community.
You can find more information about the course David and Jen are offering this fall from the link below. If I’m able to, with everything else going on, I am planning to participate in that course as I am able in order to examine and apply these ideas to secondary education.
With all that written, one of the things that really stood out to me is when David said that this work is “the confluence of the sacred and the profane” and the blending of traditional indigenous wisdom and ways of knowing with the scientific way in order to create a new narrative and educational system for children that come together to develop our communities.
Part of that is because it touches on the need for informal, yet rigorous, education. To begin telling stories that weave together more than just the facts, that include the emotions and cultural touchstones of the things we and others around us connect with.
I like this approach because it provides a big picture for a number of related though disparate parts I’ve been mulling over and working on the past few months when it comes to my own work of establishing a sense of place for myself and my children, and how that influences my understanding of self and my permaculture practices, teaching, and creating a community.
One of the biggest influences on my perspective when it comes to permaculture and the other parts comes from the environmental education field and the writings of David Orr and David Sobel. Both work heavily around the idea of establishing a Sense of Place that roots each of us into a given biome. This is then used as both the classroom and as a teaching tool by connecting students with resources that further integrate them into the community by using examples that are close at hand to discuss various disciplines from math to science to history to language.
Once a certain core proficiency is established, such as being able to read, write, and do basic math, students progress in a non-homogenized way through their further studies by integrating things such as the local biota, climate, and geology into history classes about biology or earth science. History includes conversations about how the place where one lives fits within the greater context of national or world events. An example of that might be how during WWII the Enola Yard, a local rail yard, was receiving shipments from all over the allied territories, including the USSR, because of the risk of transport via ships to Europe. We can use examples from sports played in the area to teach math and physics. Around here most children play soccer, baseball, or softball. It makes more sense to ask them, “If Monique runs at 30 feet per second, how long does it take her to round the bases of a baseball field, a total distance of 360 ft.?” Yes it is a word problem and what is being asked for is abstract, but it’s something that can be seen. Then during recess or a gym class children can go run the bases and be timed, seeing if they can beat Monique’s time, or find out that she runs fast.
As adults this sense of place provides a community for us to get involved in. To be active in politics and be on planning commissions or various advisory boards. We can go and have our voices heard. We can work with business owners, people we can get to know, to bring permaculture into their lives, or contract with a landscape design firm if we are designers, or teach after school programs through local organizations such as the boy and girl scouts or a boys and girls club, or if one is so inclined through a church, mosque, or synagogue.
Taking this back to what David and Jen shared here, this also allows us to begin to recreate those rites of passage and initatory experiences as a community that help children and the people they call their friends and neighbors to develop the connections needed to increase the yields of all kinds to create the world we want to live in.
Together we can look beyond the immediacy of the now and the fear and separation that is fed to us every day and cast off that wrong story and have the space to create the right one. The beautiful this is that we don’t have to do this alone. We can do this in community. Start with the virtual camp fires and those people near you. Get to know people who are your allies, wherever they are, and use what you learn through these processes to start applying it where you live. Create conversations and dialogs to change the narrative, provide space for others to self-empower and find productive rites of passage and initiatory experiences, including and especially for children.
Throughout your journey if I can assist you in your efforts, let me know.
Give me a call: 717-827-6266 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow in the conversations at facebook.com/thepermaculturepodcast, or see what I’m up to with short form updates via twitter where I am @permaculturecst. With all these shout-outs and ways to connect, I’ve begun moving the podcast to soundcloud as part of a move to a new website and server later this year. Soundcloud.com/permaculturepodcast.
Next week is an interview with Victoria and Eric of Charm City Farms about their work establishing an urban food forest in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and after that is Adam Brock talking about the role of a guest editor with Permaculture Design Magazine in case anyone listening here would like to assist John Wages by doing so in the future.
Until the next time do something each day to create the world you want to live in by taking care of Earth, yourself, and each other.