Balancing through Transition

Hey Now! I haven't written anything since September. It has been a time full of imminent change and flux. A lot has been accomplished and has now settled, which has finally given me the space to write again. I am actually very excited to be on my blog after so long and have been daydreaming of figuring out how to start a vlog this last month. It is also 4:00 in the morning and I can't sleep due to the biggest littlest bit of change happening right now. Our third child is expecting to arrive some time in April. I am now 6 months pregnant and this baby is well on its way. The plan is to have another homebirth, possibly hire a postpartum doula, and enjoy finding a new level of balance and energy with a 4 year old, almost 2 year old, and newborn this Spring! 

Speaking of balance, that has been the main goal as of late for not just myself and family, but also for REC, the Regenerative Edge-ucation Collective started by myself and 3 other amazing educators two years ago. We have been an amazing team. We started with putting together a meeting to discuss the possibility of a gardening summer camp, which led into many more weekly meetings (approximately 70-80 2-3 hour meetings over the two years!) and huge educational accomplishments within the Las Vegas Valley. Here is a brief (ha,ha, I don't do brief) outline of what we have accomplished:

 

  • 1st REC Gnomie Summer Camp at Crestwood Elementary, Summer 2015
    • 40 students participated for three weeks
    • Students accomplished 6 Permacognition projects focused on improving their school garden
    • Educators contributed daily with hands on learning experiences in health, science, art, math, and Permaculture using outdoor classrooms
    • We provided organic food for 50 people thanks to donations and by using our harvest from the garden
    • REC designed and implemented its first holistic education experience 
  • REC wrote a chapter for an upcoming regenerative education book being written by a well known author (more details once it is released), 2015
    • We developed our vision, mission, and goals as an organization through this process
  • Developed a Teacher Training experience for local school teachers while partnering with Green Our Planet and the Clark County School District, Spring 2016
    • Designed a 15 hour learning experience tailored towards teachers becoming proficient garden educators
    • Organized a teaching team with 10 teachers and a chef
    • Over 100 teachers participated and completed over 70 Permacognition projects at different schools all over the valley
    • The Permacognition growth model tailored itself to an effective workshop model with 2-3 hours spent face to face at the trainings and 7-10 hours spent independently online while teams of teachers put together projects at their home schools
  • 2nd Annual Crestwood Elementary Gnomie Summer Camp, Summer 2016
    • Improved upon our design with all the feedback gathered from our first camp
    • Completed another holistic education experience for 3 weeks with 40 students while bringing in an amazing chef and music guests
    • Partnered with Nevada State College to provide a Permacognition internship program for their students
  •  Fall Green Our Planet Teacher Training, Fall 2016
    • Green Our Planet was able to partner with Whole Foods to provide funding for another round of trainings
    • REC hosted and worked to perfect another garden educators training experience for over 150 teachers
  • Wild Things Preschool Program Launched, Fall 2016
    • Jessica and I developed a preschool program while partnering with Great Basin Permaculture
    • 12 families joined us as we explored different nature spots around the valley 
    • We implemented outdoor education models as we taught different natural elements each week
    • Developed an ongoing program and Permaculture curriculum
Juliana's lovely Sunflower at Crestwood

Juliana's lovely Sunflower at Crestwood

Picking our Permacognition projects

Picking our Permacognition projects

Jessica teaching in the outdoor classroom

Jessica teaching in the outdoor classroom

Cindy teaching cob 

Cindy teaching cob 

Crestwood's Sunflower Mural

Crestwood's Sunflower Mural

Our first Teacher Training

Our first Teacher Training

Our amazing Chef Deborah

Our amazing Chef Deborah

A Gnomie Summer Camp Lunch

A Gnomie Summer Camp Lunch

Jessica teaching Permaculture design in the outdoor bee classroom

Jessica teaching Permaculture design in the outdoor bee classroom

There are many other accomplishments that were also being put together during this time by different members of the group that have also gone beyond our main roles as family members and our part-time to full-time work positions. Jessica has been busy restructuring Great Basin Permaculture while subbing, being a stay at home mom, and working as a flight attendant. Cindy has been working hard at her full-time teaching position at the Springs Preserve and teaching Saturday classes with Jessica. Juliana has been coordinating and putting in her extra time to create a sustainable garden program at Crestwood Elementary as well as meet the needs of her Special Education students and I have been juggling being an Airbnb host, a stay at home mom, and being pregnant again.

Last Spring, at least half of that green is gone now!

Last Spring, at least half of that green is gone now!

After all of these tasks, roles, and projects have been said and done there is barely any room to even mention our families and the people we are closest too in this post! Not to mention the fact that my Permaculture garden seems to be half dead and forgotten. I haven't had the time to care or even think about planting new plants each season. Our irrigation system is simply jacked up at this point and we are making the shift to sunken beds, which means we are shoveling the extra raised beds' soil away (work party, anyone?) and I am still dreaming of getting chickens. Still, I have to admit that a couple good things have come out of the yard despite its neglect and my sour mood about it all thanks to the Permaculture design we put in. We have a beehive that moved in and is being taken care of by our neighbor (we are lucky to have a neighbor that is a beekeeper, right!?), a bit of chard, asparagus, sweet potatoes, onions, mints, herbs, carrots, artichoke, and broccoli are holding on with and without watering, and we still have a yard full of fruit trees. I suppose this proves that Permaculture as worked for us. Without it, our yard would be a bunch of dirt and Bermuda grass at this point. You just have to look past the weeds to see how many plants are still thriving with no care being provided at all.  

We have been busy, which leads me back to our current goal of finding balance. We have been working together and putting forth so much energy towards expressing to others how to make steps towards living and educating in a regenerative manner that we have failed to do so for ourselves. So much perceived success has been obtained yet we have failed in this crucial way. By overextending ourselves towards providing as much fruit to our community as possible we neglected our roots, overall structure, and branches. REC in now wintering in order to recover! We are repairing and recovering by pulling back, letting fruit go, and reserving what energy and resources we have towards building our families, selves, and rediscovering how we should all continue to grow in a more balanced manner. To be honest, let me say that this particular transition has been truly difficult and painful for me! Change is not easy and when you work so hard towards a perceived goal only to find that you were wrong in your ambitions and missing key components in your overall design it kind of feels like you were hit by a semi-truck. 

A key contributing insight I have had through all this has been the discovery of my underlying motivation behind this whole educational project. I have been working to prove myself. After leaving my position as a public school teacher and growing up in an overpopulated public school situation I felt unappreciated. Through all this I have discovered my abilities and talents and have taken many leaps forward towards healing those wounds. I now feel very confident towards moving forward as an individual pursuing life and education for myself, family, and community according to my vision. 

Great Grandma Beatrice died at 107 years old, being the oldest person alive in Utah at the time

Great Grandma Beatrice died at 107 years old, being the oldest person alive in Utah at the time

My great grandmother also recently died and with her loss I have experienced a deep sense of grief and clarity throughout this last season as REC has been shiftingI have learned so much more about myself and my mission through all of this and how I lost sight of it all by pursuing this desire of proving my worth through all these projects. With grief beauty has come and love for myself and the world around me. What continues through me with her memory is the true value found in the simple things. Those things that a mother, father, and mentor do and never receive societal thanks for. Showing that care towards the future by being present with my own children and family is my prime objective. If a project doesn't stack its function towards directly improving our lives it simply ain't gonna happen!

Another huge problem with starting complicated educational projects such as we did is the issue of how heavily it all relied on mental work. So much problem solving, critical thinking, and mental stress has gone into all these projects. I need a mental break for this overbearing and heavy head of mine! Through meditation I am working towards discovering how to balance out my heavy mind, and neglected body, heart, and spirit. My true sense of balance will come through balancing myself first and then sharing that balance with my family and others. If some task or project is relying too heavily on any one of these aspects of myself it must be counter balanced, dropped, or deemed too much of a task for my balanced self to handle.

Ha, ha, I do have one fruiting branch still moving forward at this point that I just couldn't let go of besides this little baby arriving in April. The Wild Things project began with a balanced design that not only included all sides of myself, but has been designed towards the education of my own children from the beginning. We are exploring our world together with other likeminded families as we discover nature with our children and as a community. Each experience is totally unique and stimulates my mind, body, heart, and soul. Sharing these treasures with others and their young children gives me the opportunity and freedom to discover my creativity, become not just a teacher but a life mentor, and find a sense of what it means to be apart of a healthy developing community. We are exploring the living elements of nature this January. I can't wait to show the kids the Bighorn Sheep hanging out by Lake Mead! 

Wild Things Tree Day

Wild Things Tree Day

Little Sierra scaling a rock during our soil day adventure

Little Sierra scaling a rock during our soil day adventure

Climbing Trees

Climbing Trees

Ember helping me scout out our next adventure

Ember helping me scout out our next adventure

As I am reflecting, I realize that this post shows the completion of my larger Permacognition project started 3 years ago. Sure, there have been projects and learning cycles that have branched off and been completed along the way, but this truly feels like a synthesis (the last module in the growth model).  I have learned so much about how to interact with the earth, people, and myself. We teach Earth Care, People Care, and Future Care in Permaculture, right. I am finding that first and foremost I am the future just as you are. If I am not growing, thriving, loving, and abundant as an individual first then my children and husband will not receive as much care, my garden will be neglected, and I will not be fully present to share the unique skills and talents I have that make me a necessary and beneficial member of my community.

Green Our Planet Teacher Trainings: Permacognition Workshop

It is now September of 2016 and the Regenerative Edge-ucation Collective is gearing up for another year of educational projects. We are getting ready for our second year of teacher training events for the Las Vegas valley that will begin in the next couple of weeks. Whole Foods has come through and partnered with Green Our Planet to make this all possible. Thank you Whole Foods and Green Our Planet for organizing this year's events!

Our lovely Crew

Our lovely Crew

We love bringing together our extended team to put on these trainings. All 8 of us work together to bring a quality experience that is tailored to each of the grade levels and also provide plenty of hands-on learning while demonstrating how to integrate Green Our Planet's garden curriculum. It is also important to note that with our last round of trainings Jessica Penrod did a great job seeing the online portion of the course through to the end. Teachers were sharing ideas all over the discussion boards and sent in short presentation on all those 66 projects. By completing the whole course teachers were able to earn one PDE credit from CCSD. It was great seeing teachers continue to share their projects and ideas online even after completing their training sessions. 

My big input into this event is the Permacognition Workshop. The workshop basically organizes the trainees experience into a learning project. They set goals as garden educators with us as their mentors, research how to accomplish their garden projects, and follow the outline of the Permacognition framework to then go back to their schools and improve their gardens and community. Last year we had about 66 garden projects, both large and small, that resulted from our three trainings with over 100 students. Many of the teachers collaborated to accomplish their projects as a team.  It is a big accomplishment to be able to empower so many people to take that first step towards becoming more engaged in their school's garden program. Some real change took place towards enhancing many of CCSDs school gardens from all over this valley through last spring's training. Some of the projects I remember off the top of my head include: 

  • Create Garden Signs to Label Plants
  • Build or improving Outdoor Classrooms (These participants were very enthusiastic and ready to make big changes!) 

  • Different Varieties of Seasonal Calendars 
  • Pamphlets and Brochures
  • Ollas
  • Presentations to Admin about how to improve garden programs

After the workshop the trainers and I had a chance to review our surveys from the participants and the comments were mostly positive. They all said things like it was great to have a step-by step tool to help them work through a project and that they were excited to leave with a project all planned out. There were a couple of comments that expressed ideas about not knowing how it related to gardening or that they didn't expect it or get it. I suppose it isn't the right tool for everyone or perhaps just not the right time for some to be learning about it. Here is one of my favorite positive comments we received from one of the teachers:  

"My project was altered after completing the Permacognition Workshop. I found that the ideas that I had at the beginning of the workshop were scaled down by the reality of what I could accomplish in the time frame. I had too many things in mind and the workshop helped me to narrow those ideas down to what was achievable. It also allowed me to talk to my peers to ensure that what I was thinking about doing was not too overwhelming for the other teachers at my school. When our group settled on making a garden newsletter, I wanted to include so many things it would have been overwhelming to others. My group members helped me to see this and organize my ideas appropriately."
Everybody from our first training at Crestwood Elementary

Everybody from our first training at Crestwood Elementary

It is amazing what can be accomplished when working as a team. One of the most exciting aspects for me with this training, beyond seeing the enthusiasm from fellow teachers in the audience, was seeing the excitement and involvement unfold amongst the fellow trainers and organizers of the event. They were also able to experience the whole process and interact as mentors during the workshop. The workshop gave them an opportunity to experience it all at one time and perceive how this type of learning can build and develop communities. 

We are hoping to maximize the effectiveness of the training even further this year and are restructuring the training into two night classes rather than one full day Saturday training. Splitting up the content should help teachers have more time to let all these new ideas sink in and also have some time to think about their projects and research while in the midst of learning all the new gardening content being shared. I will also step in earlier to have the Permacognition process become more apart of their learning experience from the very beginning. Some other improvements I hope to make with our 6 trainings this year relate to giving the teachers more tools to help them further collaborate in teams and to continue their collaborations throughout the entire school year.  I am looking forward to meeting all of this year's participants and discovering what projects they will create for our local schools' garden programs!