Breaking new ground: The first UVic permaculture course

As the daffodils bloom and the pollinators begin to buzz, permaculture education is blossoming at the University of Victoria.

Over the past few years, more and more Environmental Studies students have expressed interest in learning permaculture at UVic. The School wanted to offer more hands-on, real-world experiences in which students could build practical skills. I knew permaculture would be an excellent way to fill this need. With two incredibly talented instructors, Mike Simpson and Hannah Roessler, we launched a pilot Intro to Permaculture course in January. Given the waitlist, it was clear right away that students had a strong appetite!

With guest talks from local experts and inspiring field trips to Eco-Sense and Wild Edge Farm, home of permaculture design company Hatchet & Seed, we explored permaculture applications in our local area.

The highlight was definitely the design projects. Each of the six teams created designs for a partner organization, including community associations, a local high school, the campus community garden, and a public community orchard run by a food justice non-profit. We’ve created a class blog with photos from our field trips and the group design projects.

Students gave professional presentations of their final designs at Studio Robazzo, a local holistic design company. We welcomed attendees from each of the community partner organizations – and even some city councillors and staff! It was inspiring to hear from attendees how these projects were already making a difference in the community. The students’ excitement and level of engagement throughout the course was contagious, and by the end of the presentation event it was clear this energy had spread to the community partners too.

The most rewarding part, though, was hearing from the students how this course made a difference in their lives. Their feedback mirrored many of the sentiments shared by students I interviewed for my Master’s research who took permaculture courses at universities. Working on projects with tangible significance in the world built their confidence and skills to take on bigger projects. The focus on group collaboration and community provided opportunities for students to build strong relationships. And the focus on solutions-oriented integrated design provided a unique skillset whereby students could apply their existing environmental knowledge to tangible actions that encourage plants, humans and other living creatures to flourish.

We’re thrilled to be offering the second course of this two-part series in May at Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island in May. After completing both courses, students will receive their permaculture design certificates and be ready for their next big projects. Anyone in need of some talented young designers!?

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Scope Design Co. proudly presenting their final design for the Oaklands Community Association.
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