Permaculture Utopia

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As my final, I’ve created a permaculture utopia for South Anchorage High School.

The plan includes: communication changes, outdoor classrooms, and a continual feedback loop from students, staff, and the community.

What would your ideal high school look like? Thanks for taking a moment to check out mine. Feedback is always welcome!

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Finding a special place

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Winding Trails

We live in a nifty little house that was built in the 20s and has lots of character. We can walk or bike to the store, the kids’ school, the library, and many parks and playgrounds. We could have afforded a more expensive home, but wanted one that was less expensive so that we can still afford to travel and head out on family adventures. I think it’s beneficial for the kids to get out and see our country’s natural wonders–the Black Hills, Arches National Park, Acadia, Mammoth Cave, etc. However, I also believe it’s equally important for kids to get out and explore the local environment on a regular basis. I connect my love of nature to two sources: family camping road trips around the country, and many long summers spent building forts and playing in the woods and stream behind my childhood home.

Thus, the only downside to…

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Camping and clamming – with kids

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Last weekend Laura and I took all four kids south to the Kenai Peninsula to go clamming and camping. We didn’t get any clams but we did have a great time camping with the kids. The kids had a great time with each other, playing In the field where we camped, watching king salmon in the Anchor River, playing on the beach in Deep Creek, and visiting a couple of places I’ll write more about later.

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Free Play & Summer Camps

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When I was a kid we spent the summers outside playing with the neighborhood kids. We climbed trees, built forts, had picnics, and organized group games such as kick the can and capture the flag. While I’m sure our parents were around somewhere, we were pretty much left to play and explore the neighborhood on our own. Our play was imaginative kid-directed play–our parents weren’t out there directing us, entertaining us, or hovering over us making sure we were constantly safe. We were also left to work out our own problems on our own–an effective way to learn social skills!

With the summer almost half-way over we’ve done quite a bit of hiking, camping, and playing outside (not as much as we’d like–the local heat wave and drought have put a damper on things). Unfortunately, my kids have not had the same opportunities for free play outside with the neighborhood kids. For one, our neighborhood doesn’t have too many kids their age. Second, many of the kids their age are spending their summers in various summer camps and aren’t around during the day. While I’m all for an occasional camp, what I find sad is how more and more kids are being shuffled from one camp to the next, continuously moving from one adult-directed activity to the next. There’s no time for free play and self-discovery (how can a kid discover what they really love to do with no time to explore and play on their own?).

There’s a ton of research out there on the importance of free play, especially in nature. (The Children and Nature Network is a great place to start if you’re interested in more information). And while I’m fortunate that my kids play pretty well together, I would still like them to have other kids to play with on a regular basis. Thus, I’d like to introduce an idea that has been bouncing around in my head for quite some time. I would like to create an outdoor playscape for the kids in our area (see the link to the article below of an example of a natural playscape that opened in Ohio). I can’t decide if it would be more of a park where parents could bring their kids to play for the afternoon, or more of a summer camp or after school program (or perhaps a natural preschool?). Besides providing a place for kids to play outside building forts, climbing trees, and getting dirty, I could also hold sessions on everything from baby wearing to camping with babies and young children.

What are your thoughts?  Would you send your kids to outdoor play camp? Or would you prefer a park to take your kids for the day?

A PLACE TO PLAY: A Pioneering Design for Future Play Spaces : The New Nature Movement.

via A PLACE TO PLAY: A Pioneering Design for Future Play Spaces : The New Nature Movement.

Nature Play as an Everyday Joy of Childhood? For Kids, Frequency Requires Proximity

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Nature Play as an Everyday Joy of Childhood? For Kids, Frequency Requires Proximity – C&NN Connect.

via Nature Play as an Everyday Joy of Childhood? For Kids, Frequency Requires Proximity – C&NN Connect.

Boys fishing off of Grandpa’s pier

Yesterday we returned from a week in northern Wisconsin at my parents’ cabin. The entire time we are there they are engaged in some sort of outdoor activity: fishing, exploring the woods, watching the ducks and loons on the lake, swimming, throwing rocks into the water, climbing trees, and keeping the campfire lit. Every evening they crash, completely exhausted from a day spent exploring outside.

Now that we’re home our tiny yard doesn’t have the pull that the wooded lakeshore has. We have a few recently planted tiny trees, and a number of flower gardens (the wildflowers are the only ones that survived our 5 day absence–we’re in the middle of a drought). My husband and I are considering what to do with the shriveled plants that weren’t able to withstand the 100 degree heat and lack of water. Our current plan is to start designing a natural playscape in our back yard–places where the kids can dig, build, and explore. In August we’ll be heading out on a 3 week road trip to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, and so whatever we do with the yard it’ll have to be able to withstand three weeks of neglect. I think a playscape is the way to go–the above article has a few ideas–I’d love to hear any other suggestions you may have.

Our back yard. We haven’t had significant rain in well over a month–the green patch of lawn is from the kids’ sprinkler and kiddie pool.

The small section of yard behind our garage includes our rain barrel, compost bins, clothesline, and sandbox-turned-raised garden.