The Permaculture Podcast

    1912 – Tacit and Embodied Knowledge with Melissa Peet, Ph.D.

    In this episode, David Bilbrey sits down with Melissa Peet to talk about her work in learning to trust one’s inherent knowledge. As the first of a two-part conversation, she provides the background to her research and establishing trust in our personal understanding; that which we already know and that which others might draw out of us through education or transformational experiences.


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    In the second half of this interview, out in Mid-May, David and Melissa discuss more of her process and the methods for discovering and embracing our embodied knowledge.

    Find an archive of David’s podcasts and other work at

    Melissa’s ongoing research, exploration, and workshops with The Generative Knowledge Institute is at

    Though I can’t speak directly to Melissa’s research and methods, as I do not know them well enough, I am reminded of two points learned during my Permaculture Teacher Training, and while studying Environmental Education at the graduate level: The role of a teacher, and approaching education holistically.

    During both my teacher training and Environmental Ed studies delved into what a teacher does,  and that teachers do not impart knowledge—you don’t just plug it into someone’s head—but instead act to draw out a student’s love, desire, and interests, so they can be self-directed, while the instructor provides the resources needed for the pupil to deepen their own understanding.

    Yes, there is a base amount of knowledge needed before we can self-direct, and my impression of this through reading the literature and working with children, is the elementary school years provide the core skills of reading, writing, maths, and communication, that students can then build on through guided rather than dictated activities. Once this core curriculum is understood, the role of the teacher moving forward is a guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage.

    When it comes to a holistic approach to education, especially at the elementary and secondary levels, there are two authors whose work I continue to go back to from the Environmental Education field that influences my thoughts on what we need to do as parents, concerned citizens, and educators, to create meaningful, holistic programs. The first is David Sobel, who stresses the importance of play and exploration, particularly for younger children. The other, David Orr, who write about overall views on what education should be and how the kinds of reforms necessary to get us there.

    If you would like to get started with understanding more from these authors, I recommend two from David Sobel: Beyond Ecophobia and Place-Based Education. From David Orr, there is nothing better than Earth in Mind, though do look for the 10th-anniversary edition. 

    Though ostensibly about the natural world, once you begin to learn more about the entire environmental education field, you realize that the real focus is on holistic, life-changing experiences. These authors, combined with trusting our own interests and knowledge, hold the potential for lasting and systemic change that makes greater understanding and care for the world, our selves, and each other possible.

    If you have thoughts on this or follow-up questions for Melissa, call 717-827-6266, email: or write:

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

    Until the next time, embody your knowledge while taking care of Earth, your self, and each other.

    The Generative Knowledge Institute
    Wholeness and the Implicate OrderDavid Bohm
    Black Male Initiative at University of Central Oklahoma
    David Orr
    David Sobel 


    1 Ping/Trackback

    1. May 1, 2019    

      I have no idea what she was talking about and even less of an idea about what this has to do with permaculture.

      • Ron TesterRon Tester
        July 16, 2019    

        I think the relevance to permaculture depends on how you define/understand “permaculture.” Although permaculture was originally understood to be a combination of “permanent” and “agriculture,” it seems that many people are now thinking of permaculture as a combination of “permanent” and “culture.” As David Holmgren says on his website, “People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture…. [P]ermaculture is not the landscape, or even the skills of organic gardening, sustainable farming, energy efficient building or eco-village development as such, but can be used to design, establish, manage and improve these and all other efforts made by individuals, households and communities towards a sustainable future.”

    2. May 8, 2019    

      […] 1912 – Tacit and Embodied Knowledge with Melissa Peet, Ph.D. […]

    3. SamanthaSamantha
      August 13, 2019    

      For me, this topic was a reinforcement and confirmation of what I know to be true about permaculture education being embodied learning and the incredible importance of my role as a permaculture educator to continue to do this work and in an even more embodied way. I had an intuition that the way I was educating my children in an “unschooling” way on our permaculture homestead was really vital and very important to their beings and also for the world, and this article confirmed that. It seems far fetched that she would be cured of lupus, listening to the story, but I know that this kind of learning is really transformative and so necessary to heal our world and our disconnect with nature, other creatures, and our fellow human beings.

    1. Anonymous on May 8, 2019 at 09:24

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