One of the most rewarding experiences at Urban Hijau is being able to host groups of children, often accompanied by theirs parents or teachers. We enjoy witnessing their wide-eyed curiosity as they venture around the farm for the first time. They often ends up running around and treating the space as their own personal green playground.
During our tours of the site, we encourage these youngsters to observe their surroundings and actively ask questions. The goal is to develop a deep appreciation for Nature in their fresh minds and, more importantly, to get them to know where their daily diet of veggies and fruits actually comes from. A number of kids nowadays sadly are blissfully unaware that their food comes from the Earth rather than the grocery store.
A crucial lesson that we try to impart to children as they experience our site is that there is a wider, interconnected (eco)system that is at play at the farm. While they may recognize aesthetically appealing elements such as flowers, we try to explain how these flowers play a functional role in helping other plants and especially insects.
The approach we employ with younger visitors is to encourage them to view reality in a wider lens. This is based on a principle in permaculture called ‘Design from Pattern to Details’. Noticing the subtle and sometimes obvious rhythms of Nature is a skill that will bring dividends to children later in life.
Why Patterns Matter in Life and Nature
The first principle of permaculture is to observe and interact. This is more of a ‘zoom-in’ principles that allows us to pay attention to details that would escape our notice at first glance. The principle design from patterns is one that is ‘zoom-out’ and asks us to take the opposite approach and look at the forest, not the frees.
Our existence is filled with patterns, both of a spatial and temporal nature. Our life cycle is a pattern. The rise of civilizations, the outbreak of diseases, the start of wars and conflicts, can fall into certain patterns as well.
Nature is filled with patterns, from the seasons to the structure of a spider’s cobweb. The cycles plant of growth and fruiting are based both on time and certain availability of soil and Sun. Patterns inform structures that emerge in natural and human systems. Pattern require the repetition of certain observable activities that over time lead to results that can be anticipated and planned for.
When it comes to site design in permaculture, identifying patterns is very helpful to ensure resources are not squandered and we are working with rather than against the element present in the site. A classic example is look from a holistic perspective at the contours and undulations over a landscape, and see how the forces of gravity produce certain effects such as downflow of water or soil erosion.
Once we recognize a pattern, we are able to design for its effects to be harnessed.
Pattern-Learning for Kids
Why is it very useful for our children to learn patterns? Because it opens up their perspective to look at the whole rather than part of the whole. Sadly, much of modern education system propagates a very reductionist view of the world, one that focuses on individual components more than the sum of the parts. Children learn precious little about the systems in which we live and thrive, from our cities to our natural habitats. Instead, they learn various details concerning biology and geography and history that are often memorized in a by-rote fashion, completely decontextualized.
Instead, we should move our education towards creating ‘big picture’ thinkers who will question and push the boundaries of the limitations of the systems they are in. A good first step towards this is to understand simple patterns that emerge from the environment, and how these patterns lend towards a more harmonious ecosystem. We want children to learn the interconnectedness of different elements of a farm or garden, and then apply this type of thinking to capture the patterns that appear in human systems.
(We welcome parents and teachers to explore the educational value of Nature through a permaculture view. If you are interested to arrange a kids group to visit our farm for a unique five-senses learning experience, please contact us.)