Permaculture Design Course

Permaculture Design Course
Madeira Island - Portugal
Permaculture is to live in harmony with nature providing for human needs and the needs of everything around us

Permaculture Design Course: Core Curriculum V2. by British Permaculture association

Permaculture Design Course: Core Curriculum V2
The curriculum presented here describes the content that must be included in a Permaculture
Design Certificate (PDC) course, if a certificate from the Permaculture Association (Britain) is to be

Please note that there is a 72 hours minimum contact time between teacher and student to be
awarded this certificate. In this period it is impossible that all of the topics outlined herein will be covered in detail, however some detail may be entered into and students may be signposted to
researching further in their own time.

It is internationally recognised that 'Permaculture: a Designers' Manual' by Bill Mollison is the basis
for the PDC curriculum. This curriculum builds on the Designe rs' Manual and extends the scope to address challenges of the British context, and to reflect the development of the permaculture field since the Designers' Manual was published.
It has been updated from a previous version (issued in early 2013) in August 2014 by the Education Working Group (EWG) of the Permaculture Association Britain.

This document states the absolutely essential topics that must be included in a Permaculture
Association PDC and optional, but recommended topics in italics.

 It does not include a comprehensive list of subjects that the PDC could include; courses will almost certainly include other subjects (especially skills and practice based learning) and may be targeted towards a specific area or group of people, or draw on the expertise of the teacher and students.

This document does not tell you how to teach permaculture. If you are planning a PDC, you can
find inspiration in, e.g. 'Permaculture Teachers' Guide' and 'Teaching Permaculture Creatively'.
EWG is also working on quality guidance for ‘How to teach effectively’.

Background to this document
This curriculum was produced by the Education Working Group, a voluntary group of members of
the Permaculture Association. It includes input from all the home countries.

The project originally consulted widely among British permaculture teachers at key stages, and took place between March 2010 and January 2013. It also absorbs a similar process from diplomat teachers in Scotland.

The document will continue to be reviewed regularly. Please contact the office to submit contributions to future versions.

This document is for use by teachers intending to award a Permaculture Association (Britain) PDC
Certificate. It makes no statement regarding the relative quality of any other PDC curriculum, or the suitability of other curricula for any given context.

Externally accredited learning outcomes for the PDC are also available from the Permaculture Association for those who are interested in delivering accredited training.

Please contact the office for more information.

The Permaculture Association can accept no responsibility for the quality or content of courses that are certified by other organisations.

The Curriculum
By the end of this course, students will know about:

1. Context
The Prime Directive of Permaculture:
"The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children."
Bill Mollison.

What is permaculture?
Permaculture as an approach to designing systems which meet human needs.
 Many teachers also include: A Brief History of permaculture

2. Ethics Earth Care People Care Fair Shares (“setting limits to population and consumption”)
Refer to Permaculture: A Designers' Manual for full definitions.
Essentially permaculture teachers agree to teach the discipline respecting ethical values.
Many teachers explore different interpretations of the ethics and how they are applied in practice.
-ask at the outset why students are on the course

3. Principles
The principles below are as they appear in the Mollison's Designers' Manual. Other wordings are

3.1 Attitudinal Principles:
Work with nature, not against
The problem is the solution (Liabilities into assets)
Make the least change for the greatest possible effect

Many teachers also include:
The yield of a system is theoretically unlimited
Start from your back door and work outwards
Everything Gardens (or has an effect on its environment)

3.2 Ecological Principles:
Cycling of energy, nutrients & resources
SuccessionEdge effects
Every element performs multiple functions
Every function is supported by multiple elements

Many teachers also include:
Cooperation rather than competition.
How does this square with the fact that nature is competitive as well as collaborative?
Niches–how to profit from them
Use stacking in space and time to increase yields.
Value Diversity: including guilds.
Efficient energy planning (e.g. zone, sector, slope).
Place elements to maximise the beneficial relationships between them (relative location).
Value biological resources everything works both ways, and permaculture is information and imagination-intensive.

3.3 Principles sessions should mention that there are contributions from many other sources.
Youmay choose to explore them in depth as well. Holmgren Principles

3.4 Permaculture design can be seen from many different perspectives e.g.:
Energy Management
People Care
Landscape Design
Pattern understanding
oDesigning from pattern to detail

4. Design
4.1 Process Frameworks:
1.e.g. SADIM / OBREDIMET / other

4.2 Skills, Tools & methods:

Client Interview
Maps & Mapping
Key Planning Tools:
Zones,sectors,energies in the landscape
Reading the landscape
Relative location
Input/output analysisClimate & microclimate
Further analysis tools (e.g. identifying functions and elements,
SMART goals, SWOC,placement, design by limiting factors, process flows)

Many teachers also include:
Levelling tools:
Plants, animals, structures, tools/technologies, events (PASTE).
Mapping tools:
Plus, Minus, Interesting (PMI) evaluation tool
Conservation & hierarchy of intervention
Yeoman's scale of permanence
McHarg's exclusion method
Limiting factors and hierarchy of resource use
Random assembly
Data overlay
Collaborative decision making
Phenological/biotime diaries
Wild design
sit spot
Shade mapping
spirals of erosion & entropy
cascade of intervention
6 coloured thinking hats

4.3 Design Practice
A series of opportunities to develop and practice design skills throughout the course, leading to...

Final design exercise
(This may be individual and/or group exercise)that is both sustainable and productive

Group working/process skills, for example:
Planning and allocating tasks and time
Decision making in groups (Sociocracy for example)
Communication & conflict resolution
Using permaculture principles & ethics in groups

4.4 Design Presentation
Students should have seen at least one implemented design of diploma standard

Sharing & evaluating design work. The design may be an individual and/or group
presentation; creative presentations are encouraged.
For distance learning, a design portfolio should be submitted.

How to present
-presentation skills, hints & tips
How to give & receive feedback (if students are giving each other feedback).
4.5 Celebration
5. Themes
5.1 Soil
The following topics should be covered:
Soil food web: macro and micro organisms and their relationships
Tilling: pros & cons
Mulching–why and how
Soil sampling & analysis: types, textures, pH. Simple solutions.
Mycorrhizal and bacterial associations
Fertility factors
Erosion–a natural process: plus and minus
Indicator species and dynamic accumulators

5.2 Water
A minimum of 4 of the following topics should be covered in detail and all of them mentioned:
Water availability
The hydrological cycle
Rainwater harvesting
Retention in the landscape (e.g. soils, swales, key line planning etc). Dryland vs temperate.
Water use in the home and at work and domestic water saving
Water as an energy store

5.3 Plants/trees
A minimum of 5 of the following topics should be covered in detail and all of them mentioned:

Tree species, native & exotic, and uses
Energy transactions of trees
Forest gardening
Windbreaks & shelterbelts
Riparian buffers
Grassland management; holistic management
Plant communities / Indicator plants
Sustainable woodland management
Guilds and other ways of looking at plant cooperation

5.4 Growing your own food
A minimum of 4 of the following topics should be covered in detail and all ofthem mentioned:
polycultures–why & how
permaculture and organic gardening
bed creation
seasonal planning
food preservation
field scale strategies
designing broadscale agriculture
hugelkultur and Sepp Holzer’s work
livestock / animals in the system

5.5 Built environment
A minimum of 3 of the following topics should be covered in detail and all of them mentioned:

Recommended topics:
Ecological buildings and structure (e.g. local materials, U value, thermal mass)
Buildings & the home
A Pattern Language & the Timeless Way of Building
Energy Management & the Spiral of intervention
Urban permaculture
Transport priorities
Renewable energy sources and management
Energy efficient planning in the urban context (zones, sectors, elevation etc).
The planning process

5.6 Resource use:
◦ecological footprints,
◦resource choices
◦Personal asset assessment–knowing your own value
◦Setting future learning–recognise where you can strengthen your design capability

5.7 Social
A minimum of 5 of the following topics should be covered in detail and all of them mentioned:

Zone 00: personal resilience e.g.(e.g. Non violent communication, Work that Reconnects,healthy diet, Herbal Medicine, Conflict Resolution)
The importance of vibrant, well connected community (4 generations model, transition towns etc.)
Health & wellbeing*
Finance & Economics (e.g. real wealth, money and alternatives,)
Land Tenure & Community Governance*
Culture & Education* (including learning from nature)
Communication skills
Decision making (e.g. consensus) & Sociocracy

5.8 Visit site(s) which exemplify permaculture principles.

6. Next Steps & Further Information
Introduction to the Permaculture Association (Britain) and why/how to become a member.
Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design
Establishing/linking with local groups
Further learning goals
Identifying allies
Setting up action learning guilds/peer support groups next steps in the permaculture pathway

See Holmgren: Permaculture Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability, (in the preface) for topic breakdown.

7. Feedback
Course participants should be given opportunity to give feedback about the course to the tutors.


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