The Permaculture Podcast

    Episode 1515: Jen Mendez – Teaching Children with Permaculture

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    My guest for this episode is Jen Mendez, the founder of PermieKids.

    As this episode comes out I’ve known Jen for over a year, beginning with some conversations via phone and email about parenting and permaculture and then digging in on discussions of different pedagogical approaches and the changes in curriculum between primary and secondary education, and then getting a chance to sit down together and talk for a while last year at the Mother Earth News Fair (which is where the picture for this episode comes from). Those experiences reinforced our interest in working together as we both have areas of education that we focus on. Mine is definitely towards adults, both young and older, and she has a fantastic ability to work with young children and families.

    That focus on children and families forms the framework for this conversation as we talk about the various ways that Jen applies permaculture to teaching children and engaging family members and other mentors in order to provide the best experience possible for everyone involved by reconnecting those who care about children and the children themselves with their education.

    Hers is not a one size fits all approach and it shows. You can, of course, find out more about her and her work at and via the links in the resources section below.

    My conversation with her is set to go live at PermieKids on Thursday, April 8, 2015.

    I like Jen’s approach because her techniques empower us, like all of permaculture practices, to actively and intentionally participate in the work that we do, in this case the teaching of children.

    As a parent myself and having few role models to turn to when my two youngest were born I would have loved to have had a mentor like Jen to help answer some of my questions about early childhood development and milestones in a more academic, though friendly way. Since I was rediscovering permaculture at the time this would have been most valuable. Times have changed and we adapted to include both private and public schools to handle the early childhood education with my children, while supplementing with family activities, yet every time I talk with Jen I’m given new tools, such as her very visual child friendly Me-Map, that I can use now even though we are not homeschooling.

    When it comes to education in general I don’t like the idea of specialized education before college. I want everyone, particularly permaculture practitioners and their children, to be polymaths. There is a line I turn to time and time again from the author Robert Heinlein that expresses my thoughts rather succinctly.

    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

    Though I might lean away from the more violent aspects of that quote, the general tenor of it holds true to what I see as the role of education. We’re not cogs in a machine. We don’t have just one job in this life where we push a button repeatedly to create the same thing over and over again.

    We are, all of us, capable of incredible things. We are more than the sum of our parts.

    I’m not just a podcast creator. I’m also a father, an artist, a partner, a teacher, a bad karaoke singer, an even worse gardener (but I can raise strawberries, onions, children, and cats), a woodsman, a philanthropist, a writer, a son, a cousin (though not a brother, I’m an only child, which also means I’m not an uncle, or an aunt), a nephew, a student, a gentleman, a swordsman, a scholar. And those are just the roles I can rattle off at a moments notice. If given the task to write down all the things I am now or ever was the list would take volumes.

    The same is true for each of you. Who you are, and your education, matters. Teach yourself something new today. Then teach someone else what you’ve learned and keep this cycle going. If you need help along the way, get in touch with Jen and she will be there to give you a hand. Or get in touch with me and I will do the same. This is our community. By tuning in to this show you are a part of it too.

    Email: if you would like to get ahold of her.
    Email: if you would like to get ahold of me, or you can call me: 717-827-6266

    I’m not going anywhere and will be with you for as long as I can.

    You can also send me a letter if you would like. I think postal mail may be my favorite way of hearing from someone, as I have a box where I keep everything I receive. That address is:

    The Permaculture Podcast
    P.O. Box 16
    Dauphin, PA 17018

    Also to help you along that way, sign up for the traveling permaculture library project. Send an email to Matt Winters with your name and address and he’ll get you added to that generous cycle of sharing, all we ask is that once you are done reading a book that you agree to mail the book along to someone else involved in the project. There’s a sticker in the front of each book we send out with more information.

    To support that and other projects, I do ask for your help. In keeping in-line with the gift economy of this show I heavily limit any advertisers to only people and products that I believe in and that have contacted me directly for assistance. For that reason, I rely almost entirely on listener contributions to keep this show going and on the air. Please consider becoming a member of the show by signing up at, or if you would like to make a one time contribution you can do so via the PayPal button at, or by sending something in the post to the address above.

    You can also help me by taking two minutes and doing two things. First, leave a review on your favorite podcast site, such as iTunes. Second, share a link to your favorite episode on Facebook, Twitter, or your favorite social media of choice. Get the word out there and we can help more people create the world they want to live in.

    Until the next time, when Dina Falconi author of Foraging and Feasting joins me, spend each day doing something new that takes care of Earth, your self, and each other.


    PermieKids Podcasts

    PermieKids Edge Alliances

    PermieKids Educational Design


    1 Ping/Trackback

    1. April 8, 2015    

      Thanks, Scott, for having me on your show. It is always a true honor and joy. Folks, you’ll hear Scott on the PERMIE KIDs podcast that comes out tomorrow (4/9/15)! Listen to find out what his future plans for bringing permaculture education into the lives of youth and young adults entails. Teaser!

    2. […] The Permaculture Podcast: “The Plan” (original podcast where this conversation began) The Permaculture Podcast Permabyte: Children and Education – the first full podcast about PERMIE KIDs and some things he does with his children to bring permaculture into their lives The Permaculture Podcast Episode 1515: Jen Mendez – Teaching Children with Permaculture […]

    3. RLM McWilliamsRLM McWilliams
      April 10, 2015    

      Loved the Heinlein quote, Scott! Those who are into sci-fi AND also into eco-agriculture, permaculture, sustainable living, etc seem to be a rare breed. We rarely think of engineers as people of the soil, yet a dean of engineering I knew lamented the lack of students coming to engineering schools with that background, which he said gave them a sense of how things work. Farmers have always had to be resourceful – and jacks of many trades.

      As a generalist in a hyper-specialized world, it was refreshing to read your thoughts on this topic. Part of why farms don’t function as they should (ala Jerry Brunetti’s ‘Farm as Ecosystem’; if you haven’t read it, you must; I’ll offer you a money-back guarantee that your mind will be expanded!) is that farmers were pushed into specialization, too. Not livestock and forages and other crops rotated across the land with the ‘waste’ of one feeding the other in synergistic cycles that can regenerate endlessly… but the industrial model. But technological industrial approaches to biological processes are not a good fit. Reductionism, in thinking and learning, and in biology, is stifling.

      Another quotable quote:
      ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid.’

      (Attributed to Albert Einstein, though I have no idea of that is accurate.)

      Warmest regards-

    1. Reimagining Permaculture in Education with Scott Mann from The Permaculture Podcast PERMIE KIDs on April 9, 2015 at 15:35

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