Planet Schooling with Lucy Legan and Morag Gamble

by | March 10, 2021 | Permaculture Podcast

In this episode of Sense-Making in a Changing World I’d like to introduce Lucy Legan! Lucy, like me, has been a permaculture educator for decades and 25 years at that.


Download this list of 10 of Morag’s favourite books.

Morag’s 4 part introduction to permaculture video series.


Planet Schooling with Lucy Legan and Morag Gamble | Our Permaculture Life

She’s been living in Brazil where she’s co-founded the largest permaculture centre in Latin America with her husband, Andre Soares. It’s called Ecocentro IPEC. Now, Lucy’s passion is education, and particularly with children. At their centre, they ran permaculture as well as for adults, but so many for children, for schools of young people around the region. She also helps schools to start their own gardens and curriculums and stemming from that experience. She’s a qualified teacher, too, and she’s just published a new book, her latest book, Planet Schooling .

How to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard and what a perfect time for a book like this to emerge into the world. So Lucy’s story is incredibly inspirational, and I hope that you enjoy this conversation as much as I did!

Lucy like me lives and breathes a permaculture life and I am so inspired by the work that she has done around the world following her passion for earth care, people care, and fair share. She has implemented permaculture and eco-literacy education programs (planet schooling) in so many contexts – from schools to festivals around the world.

I invite you to join us in this conversation about the many dimensions of planet schooling. It’s a brilliant concept – a platform for schools and homeschoolers alike.

Planet Schooling with Lucy Legan and Morag Gamble | Our Permaculture Life

Particularly as education has been turned on its head this past year, and we need to re-conceptualise what education is for, what is at the core of what we teach, how we share it, and where it happens.

WATCH EPISODE 32 WITH LUCY AND MORAG

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Read the full transcript here.

Morag Gamble:

Welcome to the Sense-making in a Changing World Podcast, where we explore the kind of thinking we need to navigate a positive way forward. I’m your host Morag Gamble.. Permaculture Educator, and Global Ambassador, Filmmaker, Eco villager, Food Forester, Mother, [pr]activist and all-around lover of thinking, communicating and acting regeneratively. For a long time it’s been clear to me that to shift trajectory to a thriving one planet way of life we first need to shift our thinking, the way we perceive ourselves in relation to nature, self, and community is the core. So this is true now more than ever. And even the way change is changing, is changing. Unprecedented changes are happening all around us at a rapid pace. So how do we make sense of this? To know which way to turn, to know what action to focus on? So our efforts are worthwhile and nourishing and are working towards resilience, and reconnection. What better way to make sense than to join together with others in open generative conversation. What better way to make sense than to join together with others in open generative conversation.

In this podcast, I’ll share conversations with my friends and colleagues, people who inspire and challenge me in their ways of thinking, connecting and acting. These wonderful people are thinkers, doers, activists, scholars, writers, leaders, farmers, educators, people whose work informs permaculture and spark the imagination of what a post-COVID, climate-resilient, socially just future could look like. Their ideas and projects help us to make sense in this changing world to compost and digest the ideas and to nurture the fertile ground for new ideas, connections and actions. Together we’ll open up conversations in the world of permaculture design, regenerative thinking community action, earth repair, eco-literacy, and much more. I can’t wait to share these conversations with you.

Over the last three decades of personally making sense of the multiple crises we face I always returned to the practical and positive world of permaculture with its ethics of earth care, people care and fair share. I’ve seen firsthand how adaptable and responsive it can be in all contexts from urban to rural, from refugee camps to suburbs. It helps people make sense of what’s happening around them and to learn accessible design tools, to shape their habitat positively and to contribute to cultural and ecological regeneration.

This is why I’ve created the Permaculture Educators Program to help thousands of people to become permaculture teachers everywhere through an interactive online dual certificate of permaculture design and teaching. We sponsor global Permayouth programs, women’s self help groups in the global South and teens in refugee camps. So anyway, this podcast is sponsored by the Permaculture Education Institute and our Permaculture Educators Program. If you’d like to find more about permaculture, I’ve created a four-part permaculture video series to explain what permaculture is and also how you can make it your livelihood as well as your way of life. We’d love to invite you to join a wonderfully inspiring, friendly and supportive global learning community.

So I welcome you to share each of these conversations, and I’d also like to suggest you create a local conversation circle to explore the ideas shared in each show and discuss together how this makes sense in your local community and environment. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I meet and speak with you today. The Gubbi Gubbi people and pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

I’m joined on the show today by Lucy Legan. Lucy, like me has been a permaculture educator for decades and 25 years at that. She’s been living in Brazil where she’s co-founded the largest permaculture center in Latin America with her husband, Andre Soares. It’s called Ecocentro IPEC. Now, Lucy’s passion is education. And particularly with children. At their center, they ran permaculture as well as for adults, but so many for children, for schools of young people around the region. And she also helps schools to start their own gardens and curriculums and stemming from that experience. And because she’s a qualified teacher, too, she’s just published a new book, her latest book actually, called Planet Schooling. How to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard and what a perfect time for a book like this to emerge into the world. So Lucy’s story is incredibly inspirational, and I hope that you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

Hi everyone. It’s Morag Gamble. And it’s my great pleasure to welcome to the show today, Lucy Legan. And Lucy is based at the moment, just a little bit south of me in the Northern rivers or Byron area.. Where?

Lucy Legan:
Mullumbimby.

Morag Gamble:

Mullumbimby! That’s right. I knew it was around there somewhere. She hasn’t been there for that long. Her world has been over in Brazil for quite some time, doing a lot of incredible work with permaculture education. And Lucy’s book Planet Schooling is about, well, it has hit the shores, but it hasn’t been released. So I’m so excited for you. And to be able to share this with the world, because it’s a remarkable book that you’ve created and it’s going to be so helpful to so many people who wanting to create, like you say, I’m just going to get the right word, how to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard.

Lucy Legan:

That’s right.

Morag Gamble:

So maybe we could just start there with what is Planet Schooling.

Lucy Legan:

So often I often listen to the call of action that comes within me and during the first lockdown when the planet’s locking down a lot of people were writing to me because I have homeschooled my daughter was how do we do this? You know, I don’t know if I like my kid anymore because they were homeschooling. And this new little being came out and it was difficult for parents because parenting is one thing, but homeschooling is another. Because you do have a little bit more structure and you have to teach them certain things. So a lot of parents wrote to me and said, Oh my God, I’m going to kill my kid. What am I doing? So we’re lucky in Australia like say we’re other countries that we do have a backyard. So the idea was that, okay, how can we get the idea of permaculture education back to parents? So during this moment of lockdown or homeschooling, they can actually use their backyard to teach their children. And the children will be calmer because research shows that get kids out to the environment and they learn better and parents will be happier and happiness and love will be restored in the family.

Morag Gamble:

Very noble goal and, and very realistic as well. You know, I homeschool my kids too, but I think what happens too, is there’s a difference, I think, between schooling and home and homeschooling. And so what your Planet Schooling book and all the ideas in that is really trying to steer people towards the homeschooling. Well, beyond that, it’s what the title suggests is that it’s about schooling for us to be living a one planet life, to be caring for the planet, to be staying beyond ourselves, to be seeing beyond our worlds and our homes to see how we connect globally in so many different ways.

Lucy Legan:

That’s right and, you know, we’re really lucky in Australia. Our lockdown has been really subtle, but there’s still other countries like Brazil and America, that they’re still homeschooling. The kids are still at home and they don’t have that luck of having such a large backyard, because that’s also a curiosity for Australians to have such a large backyard. But most of my experience has come from Brazil. I lived 25 years in Brazil. And all the experiences that I share in the book are actually experiences that were created in an economy, a low socioeconomic economy where children don’t have access to many objects. And how could we create amazing things with hardly any money, but still follow permaculture education, and also follow the dream of that creation is possible and that’s what really backs my work.

Morag Gamble:

That’s so brilliant because that means that it’s not just a hobby for people who can afford it. It’s an anybody’s thing. And we’re seeing that in the work that we’re doing with refugee settlements in East Africa that you can create permaculture living laboratories, whatever it is that you’ve got around you. And yeah, it’s fantastic that you’re bringing that and making it so accessible. So just run us through a little bit, what’s in the book. What are people going to see in this book?

Lucy Legan:

It’s actually a mini design course for parents and children. So how do you look at your backyard and how will you create a new design? So you can create, as you know, we basically worked with design one and two and five. So in your backyard, how can you create these zones? Using the space you have using critical theory and creative theory. And from that design, then you can start learning the learning process. So learning process in this book is also for parents because to create a new vision of a backyard or front yard or a side yard, you really, parents have to release that control of having to control the space and allow children to redesign. And I really use the tag of ‘re-design their futures’ because we haven’t done a very good job of it. I noticed that, especially in many public schools in Brazil, the adults did a horrible job of designing the schools. Small play areas, mainly concrete.

So I was really lucky to find some teachers or directors that agreed for the children to redesign that space. So that often meant crashing concrete grounds and creating gardens. So there was some really teachers that believe that students and children could redesign their future. Because as I said, many adults have done a horrible job and it’s not, we need to give them space. So that’s the challenge I suppose for parents is that if they love their lawn, and then the child says, let’s rip this lawn up. And this is part of my design is letting go of that because it’s a learning experience. The way I see it, children intrinsically know how to create nature spots. They understand insects much more profoundly. And we did too as children we did too, but something happening in our education where we lost that contact. And we thought that lawns and concrete, creating concrete jungles was a better idea. And nowadays we know it’s not. So we’re trying to regrow urban areas and regreen our own backyards.

Morag Gamble:

So let’s just take a bit of a step back. There’s two questions I wanted to ask you. Well many, but the first one that jumped out in my mind when you’ve started talking then was you were saying about zone 1 zone 2 and zone 5. Now, most of the people who listening here know what that is, but I’m sure it’s other people who are going to be listening, who maybe don’t know what that means. Can you just unpack that a little bit and then I’ll move into my second question.

Lucy Legan:

So Zone 0 is your center of energy. So in schools, it’s obviously the playground. Your home is your Zone 0. So, Zone 1 is next from zone zero. So it’s the school yard, it’s your backyard. It might be a community kitchen if you’re lucky enough to live in a community. So it’s an area where humans get together. And Zone 1 expands from that and usually it’s intensive gardens. It’s creating habitats for insects, lots of other yummy goodies. And then Zone 2 is stretching from Zone 1. So we’re looking at food forest, maybe hot composting. We’re looking at maybe larger ponds. And this also depends on how large your spaces and how big your school is. And Zone 5 is probably some of the favorite. Many people say it’s their favorite zone. That’s going back to the wild. So it’s you creating a zone where it’s going to be untouched, even get messy, and you’re going to see what nature does with them. And you’ll help nature by planting certain insectary plants in your backyard. So you’ve got the insects and the amphibians and the frogs and lizards all coming back to that space. That was a really quick..

Morag Gamble:

It was brilliant. And also too, the way I often describe it too, is that zone 5 is also just is kind of a layer that is over everything in space into everything that you do. And also about how you really try and make sure that all of these, the inner zones are as compact as possible that we can meet our needs and have smallest footprints so that we can reward as much space as possible.

Lucy Legan:

Exactly yeah. I often tell people that you create your paths and whatever is a path is a garden, Whether it’s a garden for nature or a garden for a kitchen garden, or a garden for pleasure.

Morag Gamble:

I love that flip, because often we see design from beds. There’ll be like a raised bed here and a raised bed there, and all the rest is the path. Whereas I think if you start from the paths, everything else just starts to make sense. Cause you get your flows happens and then everything else is kind. And if one of those little nodes within between paths happens to be a nice little open space of grass that is where you can sit and have your picnic that’s okay. But it’s not the whole thing being grass or the whole thing being big nothingness in between a few beds, I think, just to shift how we interact with the space.

Lucy Legan:

I actually remember having a discussion and almost argument with Bill Mollison with his concept because he was saying, okay, he actually came to visit our project in Brazil. So to date, we were lucky enough to have David Holmgren visit and also a lot of the rockstars of Permaculture. And I remember having that discussion Bill Mollison because he was like “well, this really is just pretty and really pretty things” and I was hmmmm because a part of, I think and this is how permaculture probably changed from being agriculture to something permanent because we really need that prettiness and that art and like in my backyard, I have one area just of succulents. I mean, and what is the use of having succulents my garden. It makes me feel good. It makes me, I look at them and it’s delicate and you see the nature’s patterns and my grandson loves it. And you know, maybe it might not be useful in a permaculture sense but in a culture sense. Definitely. So I think also, and this is where children really get it. Cause they like putting, sometimes it, you might think, well, this is really not, it’s not edible. It doesn’t really fit this. There’s some what, but it’s beautiful. So it stays. And it gives me a sense of peace.

Morag Gamble:
And if you’re going to connect more and your kids are going to connect more, your grandkids are going to connect more. It’s going to get them outside, is going to get them engaged. And then things will start to connect with that. And also the beauty that you created in the buildings at your center in Brazil, I think that that ethic of beauty just emerges from everything.

Lucy Legan:

And I’ve got a couple of slides to share with people. That was the sense of, okay it doesn’t only have to be functional. It has to be aesthetically pleasing. And that was the way I always used to joke and talked to my partner about, you know, we have to make soil look sexy because if it doesn’t people like, no, I want to concrete. So, you know we stretched the boundaries of cement and concrete to make beautiful structures that collected water. But also we, and you’ll see, we use soil and a really beautiful manner that people can’t believe, wow, this is a soil building.

Morag Gamble:

That’s really interesting too, because particularly where you were in Brazil to invite people into a space like that, to see how things could be done differently, you have it has to functionally make sense as well. It needs to touch people atlike at a heart level. So it needs to be practical and beautiful and something so inviting that you want to sort of head towards that because changing from what you’ve got now takes energy. And so it’s gotta be really worthwhile to make that shift. And I think by drawing people out. But my second question that I was alluding to before was I really wanted to ask you to share with us a little bit of your story about how did you actually end up in Brazil in the first place? I mean, you’re obviously Australian, but you’ve spent 25 years in Brazil. How did that happen?

Lucy Legan:

It’s crazy because my partner Andre is Brazilian, but we were living in Australia in central Queensland and he had just opened a small.. After doing a permaculture course withBill Mollison down South, which was in fact, this area. He went back home and he decided to, I was organic gardening so he decided to change the space. And I was actually not very open to permaculture. I was just like, Hey dude, you’re encroaching on my garden. You have your own garden and I’ll have my own garden. And then I was spying on his garden and the difference between organic gardening and permaculture was the design element. And I started picking up on things and, and started enjoying the ideaof doing permaculture design. And then we were like, okay, let’s go visit your family for a year. We’ve been here for seven years or six years. And we went to visit Andre’s family for a year, but ended up living 25 years or 20, maybe 23 years. And of course I was coming back to Australia, but I really took this challenge of creating a permaculture.

First I thought it was just going to be a permaculture space, you know, maybe a household, but then it’s ended up turning into a massive center. And that’s because that time in Brazil, people really needed hope and people really wanted to change from a non-organic diet to an organic. So there’s something like I think the title was like Brazilian people drink about five liters of agrotoxic chemicals a year because of all the stuff. Now I’m not sure what Australians or other cultures are doing, but somebody actually measured that. So looking at their diet and that’s how much each Brazilian is drinking. I’d be curious to know how much we’re drinking in Australia if you don’t have an organic diet? So it was a moment, the first world social forums, we were a part of the forums and it was a moment of excitement in Brazil. So people really they jumped on board. So we had a property and within 10 years we had a massive forest and I’ll show one of the slides the before and after. And that really shows a small group of people can actually create a positive human footprint. Not always negative because you know we have a sense of well eco footprint, but we decided to say, okay, we’ve got a piece of land that has nothing. Let’s reverse that and have something.

Morag Gamble:

Do you want to show us the pictures now?

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. Let’s go to the share screen. So you see here the before and after shot, you can see that? Great. So you can see the land there’s like nothing. And 10 years later, you can see how much forest was rebuilt, just using permaculture agroforestry techniques. Also a bit of centropic techniques. Now our land stops at the green belt, and that’s actually a creek. So it’s so exciting to see the neighbors just from watching grove the neighbors start to change their ways as well. As you can see a lot more green. People started planting forest. It wasn’t the way we plant a forest, but they were still planting.

Morag Gamble:

Can you tell us what IPEC means. Also, just describe the word that you use syntropic. I’m not sure everyone would be familiar with that either.

Lucy Legan:

Right. Syntropic came from a chap called Ernst Götsch , he’s a guy from Switzerland, that’s living in Brazil and he created a methodology of creating forest in a rapid way. There’s a few differences to permaculture, likethey don’t plant on swales where I enjoy planting swales. I like finding nature’s curves and following what nature offers and collecting water and planting forests on the curves. Syntropic has a great way. It’s, it’s a heavy chop and drop. So you plant trees and you radically chop them and then they produce fruit. So there’s a lot of similarities to agroforestry permaculture way, but you know, there’s also some differences. So, you know, because I was in Brazil and people are writing, parts of the forest was syntropic. And I did a plant on swales, which in the end, you know, the result is the same in the end, you have a massive forest in the end, but I suppose for degraded areas syntropic is a really fast way of returning nutrients back to the soil. As you can see, the soil is, is quite degraded. This is similar to savannah it’s in the middle of Brazil and it’s where they grow lots of soil for the planet. So it’s an area that has like in the region we live it’s about 124 waterfalls. So it’s really precious and water. It’s where the birth of the waters of the Amazon starts. So it starts in the Sahara and goes down to some of the Amazon. So it’s a really important place to protect is now classified..spot.

Morag Gamble:

Can you tell me a little bit about what you saw as the impact of soy growing in the area? Both psychologically and socially?

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. It’s enslaves people basically, you know, people are paid nothing, hardly anything to mechanically produce soya and the industrial farming system just sucks all the water out and thank goodness they don’t place pesticides like I’ve seen in America, they don’t have planes in that, in this area. It’s hand pesticide, but it still damages the, the farmer or the worker and the space and the water areas. So, you know..

Morag Gamble:

The headwaters too of the Amazon. Yeah. And I wonder too, whether the.. sorry, just to have this side notes. So the soy that’s growing there too, is that mostly for animal feed?

Lucy Legan:

Eventually. Yeah. It’s for animal it’s for also for paint, believe it or not. The soy ink. So a lot of newspapers we have today that we don’t like, I get a newspaper delivered to me weekly. I don’t want that newspaper delivered to me, but it’s just delivered to me weekly, a local newspaper. And that’s basically, I look at it for a second and throw it straight into the recycling bin. So that’s like soy paint, just going straight to the bin. So there’s some crazy things we have on this planet and that’s one of them sort of planting soya. I understand when it’s food, but not often, is planted for food because Brazilians particularly don’t have, we have soy sauce in Brazil. There’s not much tofu production. Yeah. So it basically goes to cows.

Morag Gamble:

Hmmm. Gosh. Well, thank you for sharing that. Let’s have a look [inaudible].

Lucy Legan:

Inside that forest these are amazing things that you find. So you find we have a lot of students come from all over the place now, but mainly Latin America, we have African students, a few people from the States, not many Australians come because it’s so far away. You see we love working with soil. So you have all these wonderful, crazy structures. And most of our water is collected by water tanks. So yeah, that’s.

Morag Gamble:
Now that you’re here in Australia is there someone over there looking after?

Lucy Legan:

Yeah, we came back to Australia and we were supposed to go back maybe eight months ago. There’s a group of young people and this is when you know, you’re doing your job right. When you can leave accidentally for a long time. And there’s a group of young people that just taken over the space. So they’re still doing courses and they are doing much smaller courses, but you know, they still have volunteers and they follow all the correct protocols. So they learned all about COVID and then they’re doing the same protocols that we have here in Australia. So they work, quite you know, it’s quite beautiful, how they’ve been working. They just create, they just keep creating, which is lovely.

Morag Gamble:

I was going to just let people know who listened to this by audio, that I’m going to share the pictures that we just saw with you because they’re beautiful. And that building that had all the lights on it, tell us what that, what is that?

Lucy Legan:

Yeah, well that is a classroom. It was made with 200,000 hand press bricks. So there’s no firing in the brakes. So we made the brakes from the soil of the area. So it’s actually a bit of a pitch. So we dug out [**inaudible**] it was a perfect circle. Then Andre, my partner, he created this with local builders that had no experience of creating domes and they made a giant compass. It was so beautiful. It was so simple, but it was like a giant compass and the compass kept them intact. So they were able to each time bring the compass into close the dome. And, yeah, we had IPC, I think, seven inside of that, which is the International Permaculture Conference. And this is where we watched the international permaculturers do their thing.

Morag Gamble:

But I’m interested though in what the local people thought about what you were doing there and the gardens and how you saw them respond to what your gardens and building methods were like. What they say.

Lucy Legan:

Well, I actually use Andre’s methodology the same he used on me. So I was like talking about permaculture and they were like, silly green girl. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. So I thought, right, that’s it. So I’m going to create the most beautiful garden, vegetable garden ever seen. And of course my lettuce was way larger and juicier than their lettuces. And I was like, yeah, you know, it’s just the way I garden. Look at my garden here. And slowly, because a lot of the men, the women weren’t so proactive in coming close to me, but the men were like, well, how do you do this? How you do this. And I couldn’t believe I was doing organically. So we have some really beautiful stories about local valley of people that came to work with us and women that came to work with us, how they changed their whole agricultural system. And the most exciting thing, actually, I just got little prickles, was that one of the young people that worked with us for maybe 10 years, he’s now the Secretary of Agriculture. And he organized the whole community to plant organic rice. That on the market is worth about 3 million Real, which is like a million dollars. So they sell most of the brown, organic rice, but they keep a large portion for the local schools because in Brazil, children are fed at schools. They’re not fed at home. They fed a meal at the school. So the kids now eat organic rice in that town.

Morag Gamble:

Fantastic. You know, these stories of how it can ripple and how by inspiring people. And then they take it to wherever they’re going to. So whether you become, you know, a leader in your local community, or you’re a teacher at the local school, or when you’re gardening in someone’s place. Those ideas, once they kind of find a place in you can start to bring change and change at all different levels. So I wanted to just touch a little bit more on your school experience. So you, while you were there, you worked a lot with schools and creating materials for schools and had, I think didn’t you get some curriculum approved by government? How did you manage to take your ideas and rippled them through.

Lucy Legan:

What we did. We opened the center for schools. So any public school could come for free and private schools had to pay a small fee just to pay the person that was guiding them around. It often came up was like, yeah, it’s okay for you. You’re living in this paradise and we’re living out there because people didn’t really see what it was like at the beginning. They just saw the not even the end product, because it is never an end product. It’s an evolving product, an eco center. So they saw this and they were like, yeah, it’s easy for you, what about us? And I was like, right. Call to action. And that’s something I follow often is that when I hear the call to action, I think, yeah. You know, their right, I’m living in a little Alice in Wonderland, a beautiful area. I’m going to see if I can do that in every school. So it’s really listening so that when, you know, if nature gives you that call to action, or if another person’s used to that call to action to really grasp it. And I see that with the PERMAyouth or the group that you’re creating so exciting, but back to the story.

So yeah then I was like, okay, I found a school that was interested in changing, and I have some photographs here that I think are going to blow your mind as well. And I spoke to the students and ask them if they were interested in doing this, project. They loved it. And then we found other Brazilian educators to jump on board because I didn’t want it to come from a gap and that’s really strong in Latin American countries that I am an outside. I will forever be an outsider. Just the fact that I have blue eyes, I will be an outsider. So I accept that. So how I incorporated that. So I’m an outsider. So I need Brazilians on board with me. And then, you know, that was easy because a lot of people believed in the project. And then we changed one school, then another school and another school. We only changed public schools. If private schools wanted us to change their space, they had to pay. We were very clear about that because the difference between a public school and a private school in Brazil is huge. It’s like, you know, the other sides a rainbow, so we were quite definite that private schools needed to pay to support the project. But public schools got this. We found money to help them do this.

Morag Gamble:

So you’ve got some photos to share.

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. So we wanted to encourage a partnership ethic with children, that they will becoming partners with mother nature. So I’m just going to jump to, this is one of the schools you can see, this is their play area. They weren’t allowed to use this area because some builders started a project. And the director didn’t really know why it stopped or what, how this happened. But this was like maybe a few years but the students were looking at this. So we gave them a mini design course, the same but of course the techniques are different. Some kids, they didn’t want to draw the space. They wanted to use clay. And they measured out the space and design the area, tested the soil, just like we would test the soil. So was it good for building was it good for growing. The kids that were running to majoring in mathematics were encouraged to map the space. And so here we go. This is before you remember, now this is one week later. So we had a three day working. Now Brazilian schools are different to Australian, or I think also European American schools as a school is divided up in just three areas. So children arrive at school from seven to 11. They have the lunch and they go home. The middle school starts at the school at one o’clock and it goes until five o’clock. And then some schools have a next class, which are the high school students. And they come in at seven o’clock and finish at 11 o’clock at night. Okay. So that’s a real challenge to try to get a design that each area, each period is happy with. And they won’t destroy the work of the earlier period or later period. So saying that having 600 little hands on the project created this, this is one week later.

Morag Gamble:

Oh my God.

Lucy Legan:

I know. Isn’t that amazing? So what you can see super adobe benches. We fixed the tables. Obviously the famous herb spiral was in the middle, little gardens that we have zone five was where you can see, I think you can see the little plants that we planted in the corner. And then you have the, the aquatic area, a water element, because that was part of this. That could be part of the science. So to connect with teachers, we were like, okay, we can create a beautiful space that you can also have outdoor classroom. And you can see we have pots with larger plants. And these things we access from IPEC, we just grabbed things from home to throw in there.

Morag Gamble:

Wonderful. So those tables were based on the top of the structures that were already there, I’m gathering and right. What did you make the top out of? You said?

Lucy Legan:

So the top is actually in the area there’s a mine. A beautiful area’s being mined for stone. So this is a massive stone. The Adobe bench or the Adobe benches behind that, where the students could sit there and either have lunch or classes. So the teacher was really happy as well because they could take classrooms outside. Now I just want to show you a different school. This school was quite radical for me. It was quite upsetting at first. You can see that there’s a big black spot on the wall. This area was tiny and kids couldn’t use that area because the neighbor kept throwing hot oil out the window. Cause the house is right up against the wall and it would dribble down and it created a disgusting insect infested soil. That was just oil. So we had, we did some critical thinking. The kids called us and they said they wanted to play back in the area. So after the kids wrote to the neighbor, cause teachers approached the neighbor, the neighbor was never really interested in changing her ways. But you know, when you have a hundred kids come up to you, I think it was quite a little bit disturbing for us. So she promised she wouldn’t do it anymore. So the the kids learnt natural building techniques, so they could paint the wall and plaster it. So it would be more beautiful and it was turned into a garden space. So you can see the before, during and after.

So that’s what the kids are playing. You can see they’re painted the walls and create a compost pile and became more dynamic. You can see the window in this photograph and neighbors stopped throwing oil. So there’s a lot of things that happen in countries that we have legislation. So we have legislation and we have maybe laws that protect us as other countries that have great laws because Brazil has amazing environmental laws, but it has a population that’s large and different, you know, this neighbor had different ethics. So it was a challenge for the teacher was really nervous because she knew the person in a private setting. And I was like, okay, let’s keep it, you know. And that created a beautiful area.

Morag Gamble:

You know, the neighbor was probably really happy looking out on this beauitful area now.

Lucy Legan:

And she has a bit more compassion as well because her kids went to the school, but grew up, you know, that was closed. Yeah. Been there, done that, but of course, other children. There were a lot of beautiful repercussions. Cause then as the kids turned in to teenagers, they’re doing their own things now and they’re creating their own projects. And, you know, it’s composting toilets now in the Amazon, which is amazing and the same design that we use. So it’s pretty exciting.

Morag Gamble:

It’s so fantastic. It’s just amazing. And creating an opportunity for young minds to create and design and respond to their situation and work collaboratively to do these things. I mean, they have the skills, you know, it’s the practical skills on the ground. It’s also those skills of the thinking and the imagining and the negotiating. So important.

Lucy Legan:

Consulting and also conflict resolution is a big one. Okay. And this is where I think once again, children are much more open than adults because we come with our baggage and if we’re going to create, and you know, we’ve both teachers of life students. So, you know, you give them a design challenge and sometimes it was like, Whoa.

Morag Gamble:

I’d like to see what you were doing there too, with other children’s designs using, brings it to life. Sometimes in some contexts we understand [inaudible***] has a flatness that comes to life when you can start to model and play. And I think that’s when you’re doing a collaborative design, because everyone can kind of see it and have a play.

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. I think also it’s important for children that you do have all those, you know, say you’re a mom or dad or auntie uncle when you’re going to create this backyard permacultre living laboratory and one child is mathematically inclined and the other one is artistically inclined. You can blend both to your benefit. You help you help the person who’s more creative. Look at it, the logic side of the design and the person that the child is more logical. You look at the creative side. So you get a really beautiful blend and it’s really, I know it’s really difficult for parents because I was trained as a teacher. It’s much easier for me to think that way, because I had five years of training. Parents if they start small and, you know, start from zero and then they go out to day one. Small steps before, you know, you have a beautiful space that children would naturally be attracted to. And I did this with my daughter and my grandson. I throw outside to help me plant greens and he loves eating greens and there’s truth in those who plant greens will eat greens.

Morag Gamble:

On that point of like what to do when you’re out there. In all the homeschooling that I’ve been doing my biggest lesson is to follow where the curiosity is. I may have a certain plan of what I think might be good thing to open the door to them today, but they’re somewhere else. Looking at something else, interested in something else. And so that’s kind of where I go. And I’m also leaving the messy spaces that they can find and dream into and interact with and even the mud play part. There was a section in my garden that was muddy my son was always in, he was always completely covered in mud, had this whole world going. Then finally we finished the decking on the side of the house and his mud section got covered over. Oh my gosh, he was devastated. So we had to go and make another muddy spot just so he can continue to do that because he was working stuff, he had a whole lot of.. yeah. Interesting, really interesting.

Lucy Legan:

Yeah really interesting learning there’s a lot of research behind it. If you’re a homeschooling, you probably see that often a lot as well that you’ll learn. And I think another thing just it popped in my mind is that parents don’t need to know everything. Because my grandson ask me questions. You know, some random, he’s only seven. He’ll come out with some random question and I’ll be like, okay, shall I make it I know or no let’s go find it out. I gave him as a gift, my old dictionary cause nowadays, I just Google it. I gave him my old dictionary. It was like he found a treasure box. He was like Wow you used to look at words like this. He’s like found a piece of treasure and he looks for words. And so it’s, I think if you don’t know the answer, you just find it with them and they can see that you have lifelong learning as well. That you’re not just saying, okay, I’m old now. I know cause I’m older, I know my stuff. No, it’s lifelong learning. We’ll keep learning so much, obviously I need to learn more about how to share slides. **laughter**

Morag Gamble:

I mean, that idea that to not be afraid that you don’t know everything. And also as a permaculture teacher, I think often when you’re just starting out, you’ll think I can’t teach cause I don’t know everything well you’ll never know everything about it, you know enough to hold the space and to enter into that. The same with the homeschooling that when you say, Oh, that’s a really interesting question, let’s go and explore that I think is such an important thing. Particularly when you’re working with young people. It changes that kind of teacher – learner. Oh, well, I’ll always get something from someone that you get something from a community of people. It might go, I don’t know that but I know someone who does, let’s go and talk with them. Let’s go and see what they do. There’s a book on our shelf. Let’s go and have a look at that. Or Mr. Google like there’s all different possibilities of finding out.

Lucy Legan:

I think that too the idea of traditional and indigenous knowledge is really important because, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t, especially for people that are beginning, their permaculture pathway is to look for knowledge that’s already there. So you can Google it, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there. So if you can find local people that understand and take that time to listen. I had an interesting experience. I worked in Patagonia in Argentina and I was working helping a school create this space. And it had many indigenous people in this group, the learning group. And I actually learned a lot. First of all being humble enough to listen. Cause at first, when I arrived, I wasn’t, I could feel I was anxious to speak and anxious to tell them all my knowledge and indigenous people from Patagonia they take a long time to explain something. So it’s sometimes up to one or two hours. And that course really taught me to chill out, Lucy, chill out, listen.

Because he asked a question, but in fact, he’s giving you so much more. And that was I really had to calm my, you know, the way the thought, you know. Is that I was called, I got to teach you something or really, you’re not going to get your money’s worth. So I want to give you what you want, but it was just like, okay, just listen. And it was such a learning process. Cause I had to listen for the hours. And it was, I wasn’t teaching. I was listening. And then I was just like, okay, I get it. I know what they want. So as a pemacultre educator, that’s one thing I would say. Listen to your students, then you actually find out what they want. So the course is not just a permaculture course. A course, that is almost personalized because you can listen to what they need. As a hard lesson.

Morag Gamble:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It is. I totally agree that it’s, it is about the relationships that you form with the people that you’re working with and taking the time to be present. Yeah, yeah. And create the platforms where people can be present with one another because Yeah, like you say, we rush around from this to that and be so busy, but that. The listening and the time I’vew let that down when I was helping to start the Northey Street City Farm that. That was the biggest thing that actually having someone who was in the middle of the city farm who’s whose role really was, was just to listen to what new members who were coming in and wanted to learn about or how they want to connect to what their story was. So then you could find a way to try and weave their story with the story of the project. It was like from the get go, a relationship. Rather than saying, Oh, hi, you’re new. Okay. Will you just pop over, over to the seedling raising area?

Lucy Legan:

Yeah, exactly. And I love that little so much that I use the photos that I use from that farm I’ve been sort of years ago. And yeah, I use examples of community gardening.

Morag Gamble:

Oh I would like to..I mean, we’ve been talking for a long time now, but I do you want to dive into your work with festivals because this is kind of exciting as well, and it’s part of this thing of wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, it’s an opportunity to be sharing permaculture and that everything that we do, we can turn into a lesson about that. So what did you do at festivals and how was that a transformative experience?

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. So what happened in about, I think it was 2005, a Boom Festival in Portugal, which is a festival about 30 to 50,000 people. The owner came over to Brazil and said, and he actually did a course with us. He was very quiet and reserved. And then near the end of the course, he said, can you create an ecological festival? And we were like call to action. Of course! If we can because, Hey, you know, it’s all about creating a scene. He came to the eco center. That was all beautiful. Because he imagined it would be a bit more sterile, a bit more biological, but it was just as creative and biological and permaculture, everything. So we were like, okay, we took the challenge. So in 2006 we worked at Boom festival and we created the first oh not the first composting to us, but the first composting to us where the soil would, we would remain on the land. And that was different. And then in 2008 it was gardens and then it was water systems and then massive large water systems. And we kept the first of all, kept winning awards and then other festivals, the ripple effect was quite amazing.

So, you know, we went to the USA and Australia, we’ve been doing quite a few festivals and the idea is to bring organic food to people, especially for Europe. I looked after about 20,000 square meters of gardens. And it was a space where people that didn’t – because in Europe the economic range is quite wide. So people that were at the festival that jumped the fence or whatever they did they had, they had food available for them because food was quite expensive. So it was the idea of 30,000 people could live in an eco village for a week where the systems, it was a closed loop system. So the soil that the poo would be turned into compost. The human manure. And also the food that was eaten was created was turned into compost. So everything was recycled.

Morag Gamble:

Just lovely systems. I mean, the festival obviously lasted what a week or something?

Lucy Legan:

A week, 10 days. Yeah.

Morag Gamble:

But you get the gardens happening and all the, I mean, that’s a huge undertaking.

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. It’s like in America, it was, I stayed there for four months in Europe around three months, but in the Australian festivals, because I have access to.. Our systems are quite interesting. We have access to all the local farmers and people growing seeds and that, so I can actually just connect with that. Also the like Rainbow Serpent Festival is in Victoria. It’s two hours away from Melbourne. So I have access to a lot of materials, but in these other places I didn’t have access. So I had to connect in other cities with amazing grandmas that were still planting their seeds to buy off. And every two years they knew, they knew I was coming. They knew what I liked. so they would just plant it and I’ll buy it. So the local economy also benefited from having eco systems. And also part of my own personal idea was a lot of young people go to these festivals, they’re in a really fragile state. And if you have a garden, it’s not jus techno and trance or rock and roll, reggae, there’s a space that’s silent, but young people can actually come and reconnect with nature. So at that fragile moment they, they find safety with nature and that sort of embracing. So a lot of my designs were embracing that whoever would come into the garden felt like they were being looked after, hugged by nature.

Morag Gamble:

It’s so amazing. And just the scale of that work. Yeah. The possibilities of creating short term ecovillages or experiences of whole systems, communities. The power of that to touch, like all those thousands of people. They go away with that feeling that, Oh, this is, that was amazing. That was something where I really felt whole. And then to be able to take that back out into their daily life and wonder, well, how can I transform what I’m doing here to bring some of that, or maybe, you know, actually living in community and taking some of those lessons. So I think it’s just such a ground for cultivating new ways of seeing the world. That’s just brilliant.

Lucy Legan:

And it’s a way that adults can enter a young person’s life the way they want you to enter, not the way you want to enter their life. So we created areas where they could do mini courses. We had workshops and speakers and things like that, and they would come and go as they please. So it’s there. We’re here. If you want us come and talk to us, if you don’t okay. Maybe next festival. So it was a way of also, like I said reaching lots of young people and exciting stories of people that either volunteered with me or came to the course where they’re doing amazing things now, all around the world. And they say Boom festival changed my life or rainbow serpent changed my life or strawberry fields. And I had a really funny experience.

I was at the last festival when we had festivals, I was watering the garden and there were two young girls that were like. “You know what, this person’s copying Boom garden, Global Fest or Global Eclipse Garden. The style, because I’ve seen this everywhere.” And I turned around and said, “That’s right! We’re going everywhere!” No, I’m sorry. So I said, no, I’m glad you’ve seen us. This is because each gardener does have a certain style and looking at your gardens, we have a similar style. It’s that wild, natural look that people walk through they accidentally hit Rosemary and go, Oh my God, what’s that smell. Or they accidentally hit something and it’s that wild nature but still safe garden that people feel safe in, but they get little surprises and that’s exactly what’s in festivals. Is that idea of like, Oh my God, what’s that smell? And they don’t realize it’s just a Rosemary. It was just mint.

Morag Gamble:

I think that’s so cool though, that someone recognized in another part of the world, they’d seen something and then come back and then there’s this recognizable pattern, that they noticed.

Lucy Legan:

Yeah. It was really sweet. And she was quite young and I was like, Yeah that’s us!

Morag Gamble:

**laughter** Oh gosh! Well, Lucy, I’m wondering how do people find out about all the work that you do and find out about how to access your book, when it comes on or all the stuff that you’ve got, let us know.

Lucy Legan:

Oh, the slide. Whoops. I did it wrong again. See lifelong learning. I definitely need it. So our beautiful cover of the book. You can contact us at planetschooling.com. So it’s quite simple. And also we have book purchases and the book apparently has arrived in Brisbane for Australian people. And we’re just waiting for it to come out of customs basically.

Morag Gamble:

Yeah. Great. All right. So I’m going to put all those links below and also the website where they can get that and find out more about all the work that you do cause it’s just amazing. Absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to sort unfold your journey through really. I mean, it’s, so there’s so many dimensions to what you do, but what I get from it is that it’s totally coming from the possibilities that can happen when you follow that call to action. When you feel it, you know it don’t you. Like something starts, like it’s almost like a vibration or it’s something like this fire or flame. You feel a bit unsettled maybe until you kind of make the move to follow that. So, you know, you really do.

Lucy Legan:

It’s also trusting your intuition but also trusting when something screams. No, don’t go there you listen to that as well.

Morag Gamble:

Absolutely. I’m glad you mentioned that.

Lucy Legan:

Because it’s not naive and Oh my I’ve been called to action. No, it’s call to action that you take on the action, but then it starts getting a bit like, Oh, this doesn’t feel good. You can step back and reassess and know that if you’re going to keep following that path, or you just got to take a curve and go this way to get where you need. And that’s happened several times with me as well. I haven’t just thrown my arms up joyously. Oh no, because you know, I haven’t been paid jobs. I haven’t. That was a naive call to action. I’ll do it. And then they haven’t supported the project. I’m like, Oh my God, I just worked for three months for free. But you know, that’s the learning processes.

Morag Gamble:

Sometimes about that too, though, as much as like at the start, you feel like, Oh, I didn’t get paid for that. But then the other time I looked back into it and I think actually some of the richest learning experiences I’ve had from doing those kinds of things, like when you’ve thrown yourself into something so fully, it’s really hard to devalue sometimes on a monetary scale, the kind of journeys that it feels like we both kind of have. Yes we also need be paid for the work that we do, but sometimes.. It’s not being philosophical about it. I actually truly mean that some of the most amazing learnings have come from the work that I’ve done as a volunteer, but not when you intend to do it though.

Lucy Legan:

With a perma group if people are expecting a certain outcome, it’s only fair that the other party honors the outcome, especially because we’re working for a beautiful thing, we’re working for nature. We’re working for the, maybe the future generations. A lot of the times we’re not working for our own personal benefit it’s to that ripple effects because we want and this is where my, I suppose my feminist perspective comes in that especially women working in this area should be paid if there was a contract and I get a bit like.

Morag Gamble:

It is a whole nother topic, but maybe it’s in another conversation because a lot of people are asking this, like, yes, I want to work in permaculture. I feel called to action, but how do I actually make a living? How do I get paid for the work that I do and will create a living through doing permaculture? This is kind of what you’ve done throughout your life. That’s what I’ve been doing throughout my life. So maybe that’s, maybe we’ve just created a segue to another conversation.

Lucy Legan:

I think so. And it might be interesting to get other women from other.

Morag Gamble:

A panel of people who work on permaculture.

Lucy Legan:

Not to exclude men because you know, you may have a sister, a daughter or a mother that’s struggling with this too, so we can give hints on how to, especially for women to branch out.

Morag Gamble:

So stay tuned, everyone. You heard what’s coming up soon. Well, thank you again, Lucy. I enjoyed spending the morning with you chatting and I know that everyone who’s listening, there’s just so many aha moments and insights there. And I encourage everyone to get ahold of Lucy’s book becauseit’s not only so full of practical ideas, but it’s also just a beautiful book that whether you have kids or not, I think it’s going to be really helpful.

Lucy Legan:

That’s right. Great. Thank you so much!

Morag Gamble:

So that’s all for today. Thanks so much for joining us, head on over to my YouTube channel, the link’s below, and then you’ll be able to watch this conversation, but also make sure that you subscribe, because that way you’d be notified of all new films that come out and also you’ll get notified of all the new interviews and conversations that come out. So thanks again for joining us, have a great week and I’ll see you next time.


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Take a look at my free 4 part permaculture series or Our Permaculture Life Youtube and my permaculture blog too. For an introduction to permaculture online course, I recommend The Incredible Edible Garden course. I also offer an online Permaculture Educators Program (Permaculture Design Certificate and Permaculture Teacher Certificate) and involve young people in permaculture through Permayouth (11-17yos). Please kindly support our registered permaculture charity, the Ethos Foundation, supporting refugee youth with free permaculture education, women’s community farms and more.

Thank you.

I acknowledge the Traditional owners of the land from which I am broadcasting, the Gubbi Gubbi people, and pay my respects to their elders past present and emerging.

Thank you Rhiannon Gamble for audio editing.

Thank you to Kim Kirkman (Harp) and Mick Thatcher (Guitar) for donating this piece from their album Spirit Rider.

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