On April 12th we visited the school in Pachitulul to continue the School Permaculture Gardens Project that was started last year by IMAP. We walked through the school with the teacher to see how the permaculture gardens were doing and to know what the plans were to continue the work with the permaculture gardens, and the best time for us to work alongside the students.
The teacher mentioned that the plan for this year was to continue the permaculture gardens that are on the IMAP site, while also planting permaculture gardens in the school itself and creating a permaculture vegetable garden, since the school has enough space. We decided we will do this work weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays, for one hour a day (from 9 to 10am).
On April 16th we began working with the students, starting off with an introductory presentation in permaculture techniques by Gregorio (IMAP technician), and by getting to know the 16 students assigned by the teacher to lead the school permaculture garden project. Everyone seemed very excited to get started.
We started with some field work in order to decide what design the permaculture flower and vegetable gardens will have. With a simple but effective activity led by Ramiro Tzunún (IMAP technician) the children drew the permaculture design, simulating the work of sompopos (ants) of the forest. They walked around the permaculture garden, leaving a trail of ground limestone around the plants already in the garden, thus marking the walking path of the garden and the design at the same time. The students really enjoyed the activity and at the end took a look at the form they had created. Some said it was a soccer ball while others said it looked like a honeycomb, and so it was – the design ended up being just like a honeycomb. They really enjoyed the result of their teamwork.
We cleaned up the garden area and removed grass that was not going to be used for the gardens. Students, IMAP volunteers and technicians participated.
Today the students, IMAP volunteers and technicians got together to continue designing the permaculture garden. Before moving forward we had to bring the soil we were going to plant in. Since the school’s soil is a bit dry and hard, we figured it would be best to use soil rich in nutrients and microorganisms, to have a fertile soil that would assure us of the growth and development of the flowers and vegetables.
We walked to IMAP with the students to pick up some of the fertile soil we’ve recently harvested from the Banana Circle. This soil is rich in nutrients since the Banana Circle also has earthworms that help with the decomposition process of the organic waste from the IMAP kitchen. The scraps have been transformed into organic fertilizer rich in nutrients for the soil. Throughout our work we explained all this to the students so they would have an understanding of the different ways to treat grey water, reuse organic waste, and how small insects help us have better gardens and planting soil.
Once we had the soil, we gathered around one of the spaces inside the honeycomb in order to design the space around a tree that was already planted. Ramiro explained the forms that already exist that we can use, starting with a line, then a circle, a square, a triangle and other different forms, relating the designs to arithmetic, mathematics and manual arts. Ramiro also showed the students that we can copy and imitate the designs we already find in nature, which is one of the principles of permaculture design. We observed the design of some nearby flowers called “chatia” and the group decided to design the small garden in the shape of a flower with five petals.
We drew on the soil and marked the design of the flower, petal by petal, with ground limestone and then used rocks to mark the outlines of the petals. The space is now ready to start being filled with fertile soil and decide which plants we want to have in our school permaculture garden. In the days to come we will brainstorm with the students the design of the other small spaces that are inside the honeycomb, which will have at least six different shapes.