Permaculture in higher education: opportunities and challenges




Zimmer, Kat

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There is growing agreement that integrative “whole person” approaches promoting transformative learning are important aspects of sustainability education. Increasingly, universities are using permaculture in teaching sustainability. Permaculture is an ecological design methodology for meeting human needs while increasing ecosystem health. This study investigates the implications of integrating permaculture into university sustainability curricula. Following “movement-relevant” research, this study also seeks to provide useful information to the permaculture movement about the challenges and opportunities posed by integration with academia. An interpretive approach was utilized, involving participant observation and interviews with students and instructors who had participated in permaculture courses at universities. The study finds that educational partnerships between the permaculture movement and academia can be mutually beneficial, advancing goals of both parties related to student engagement, enhancement of curricula, and the practice of sustainability. In particular, permaculture courses offer significant opportunities for advancing an integrative, “whole person” approach supporting transformative sustainability learning.



sustainability, education, permaculture, transformative learning