5 Ways to Create a Kid-Friendly Garden | Kris Edler

5 Ways to Create a Kid-Friendly Garden

In a culture of video games, Pokemon Go, and fast foods – we desperately need to get kids and teenagers back outside.  Getting your children in the garden is easy, as long as you recognize they are not going to “enjoy” merely pulling the weeds or dead-heading flowers.  However, there are some really creative ways to create kid-friendly garden that will encourage activity, creativity, and connections with nature.

As a teacher at The Daniel Academy, a Pre-K through 12th grade private school in south Kansas City, I work with students and families on a daily basis.  Getting these kids outside to explore and imagine is truly one of my passions.

Before I share any of the tools and tips, it’s important to stress here that the overarching idea is that YOU GO OUTSIDE WITH THEM.  No toy, decoration, or tool is a replacement for spending actual time with you kids.  There is not a replacement for laughing with them, getting dirt under your nails together, and talking with them.  Regardless of age, quality time is the goal and the garden is just a place to make that happen.

That being said…Here are a few tips that are easy to integrate in your urban or suburban backyard.

1 – Literature directional signs from their favorite books

It isn’t hard to get kids to enjoy reading, as long as you make it fun.  Making these directional signs are a great way to keep the family busy on rainy days or weekends.  We painted these with our students this summer using acrylic paint and then added a clear polyurethane varnish to seal them.  You can hang them on posts, trees, or on the side of your shed.  Now, of course, you can always do signs from movies or TV shows, but I think we can agree that encouraging reading is a better practice.  Check out mine here (IMG_7679IMG_7680…)

hobbit garden2 – Hobbit / fairy furniture to spark imagination

The boys generally aren’t going to be real impressed with a fairy garden, but give them a place to rock their action figures and they are all set.  Use sticks to create fences or have the kids help you make your own furniture from popsicle sticks or wire.  I have a few of these around the school and one in my backyard, which the neighborhood kids helped me design.

 

 

backyard chickens kansas city3 – Involve animals

Whether you create a place for your dogs or get a few backyard chickens, there is always room for animals.  Kids love working with animals, especially when it’s outside.  In our gardening class at the school, my students will argue about which group gets to feed and play with the chickens.  They would rather be in the group with the birds than eating and picking berries or tomatoes;  when kids turn down food – you know it’s a big deal.  We have purposely selected a lot of heritage chicken breeds that have “cool hair” or have personalities that are more social.  The rock star rooster in the picture is Cogswell, he’s a favorite of our students and loves all the attention he can get.  The kindergarten classes even wave to him on their way past multiple times a day!

bird watching in Kansas city4 – Birdhouses, feeders, and watering stations

Attracting wildlife to your property or backyard engages the kiddos whether they are inside or out.  In the middle of winter, it gives that extra bit of interest looking out the window.  I still remember being a kid at my parents house in Millington, Michigan and watching the birds out the window.  My mom always did well at keeping the bird feeders full, so there was never a dull moment out the front living room window.  It was a collection of simple acts (mostly from my parents), like filling the bird feeders, that helped cultivate a love of nature that has lasted into my adult years.

outdoor fitness kansas city5 – Interactive fitness areas

Now it gets fun!  Start thinking beyond a basketball hoop or volleyball net, though those are a great start.  This summer at our school, we added pull-up bars for the gymnasts and a cool tire-run section using old tires from the side of the road.  You can hit two birds with one stone and not only help get kids moving, but also give them a lesson in repurposing and recycling as well.  With Pinterest out there, we have no excuse for up-cycling with our kids and finding creative ways to get them moving.

If you have enjoyed one of these tips, please share this with some friends on your favorite social media network.  Enjoy your afternoon – and GO OUTSIDE and take a few kids with you.

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5 Keys to Healthy Building | Kris Edler

food forest wood chip pile

One of the biggest pitfalls for educators, permaculturists, and business folks alike is the subject of overcommitting themselves.  Like Bilbo Baggins, we often tend to spread ourselves too thin, like butter over too much bread.  When we are building (both projects, land, and people), this tendency of overcommitting often results in half-finished projects, burned out brains, and enough stress to go around.  Not even a dirt ninja can overcommit on projects for an extended period of time.  It always results in burnout.  Always.  In addition, the lack of finished and excellent projects often result in a system that is not sustainable, producing at maximum capacity, or supplying for the people maintaining it.  This is where the 5 keys to healthy building take us from burn out to abundant living.

Before we begin, let’s be honest.  These five keys to healthy building are ones that I have learned, am learning, and will continue to learn.  Every good leader is a going to face the temptation to become unbalanced in these areas, but by revisiting them with frequency, we really can keep our commitments in check.  I am the king of overcommitting, so I am essentially an expert on this subject due to repeated and frequent trial and error.

Half Started Projects

food forest wood chip pileFor the urban gardener or dirt ninja, we tend to start new vegetable gardens, fruit tree guilds, and hugelkultur swales, but all too many times, get sidetracked from focusing on one project only to start another one.  On most permaculture worksites, you can walk around a see 10-15 (or more) projects that are started, but yet to be successfully completed.  On these worksites, one dynamic which often follows is the systems are not maintained, managed, or allowed to yield at their fullest potential.  Not to mention the unpleasant side-effect, which includes ugly properties with piles of “stuff”.  When managed well, a permaculture system should both create successful yield, and provide beauty for the eye.

Whether you are examining the habit of overcommitting from a business management, leadership, or permaculture perspective, the keys to overcoming this trap are the same.  The five keys to healthy building allow the leaders to both grow themselves, their business, and the people around them.  This system of personal and professional development involves healthy levels of input (e.g. learning) resulting in vigorous levels of output (e.g. the project, growth, or fruit produced).

One Thing – Just One

The key number to remember is ONE.  One commitment for every one area.  No more, no less.  This simple rule helps keep leaders healthy in their minds, bodies, and spirits.  By remaining focused on one area at at time, using these five outlets, we keep the diversity needed to prevent boredom, while retaining the focus needed for success.  Keep the first things first and remember – one.  Just one.

5 Keys to Healthy Building

In each of the following five areas, the leader should choose a single project or focus at a time, in order to maintain a peaceful and productive balance.  Obviously not all leaders are created equal.  Some focus better with multiple plates spinning at once, while others can only focus on one thing at a time.  The beauty of using these five keys is that they allow for multiple expressions, while still helping balance various types of commitment.   The following are the 5 keys to healthy building:gallery_15.jpg

  1. Learning:  This input helps maintain personal growth and development.  The learning input includes reading, listening to podcasts, taking classes, or other tasks that aid in personal growth.  As productive and flourishing human beings, we should continually give ourselves to personal growth.  Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we are curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  At the same time, too much of this key commitment (learning) can result in become knowledge fat with little productivity.  Some of the greatest thinkers will never be known, because they spent too much time thinking and not enough creating.
  2. Giving:  This is the output / outcome that helps keep a balanced leadership lifestyle.  This key of building focuses on sowing back into others through volunteerism, tithe, serving the poor, etc.  Within every human being is the innate need to give back and make an impact on the community around them.  In permaculture, the foundational value is on “people care”, which gives back to the community at large.  Overextending our ability to give, however, can result in an unbalanced income or profit, which goes against the third principle of permaculture – fair share.
  3. Brainstorming:  This type of key commitment is the vision-forming stage of the building process.  By committing to one brainstorming project at a time, we keep our eyes forward on the future.  Looking ahead gives a builder hope that new things are on the horizon and inspiration in the creative process.  In regards to permaculture, Geoff  Lawton says, “Spend 10 hours of observing and thinking for every one hour of action.” However, at the same time, too much dreaming and brainstorming often results in little action.  Great ideas with lack of follow-through are not productive elements in a system and result in brain clutter.
  4. Building:  The building commitments are often the ones that need most of your time and attention, because these are ones that leaders are actively creating.   They are new systems that have just come out of the planning phase.  Even with the best planning, leaders who over commit to building get burned out, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted.  The danger is building more than one project at once is that most of the time, we do not realize we are overcommitted until it’s too late.  There is, however, productive abundance when we build from a peaceful and focused place.  This is the opportune phase to be hands on, active, and committed.  Stay focused here and do not try to build more than one area at a time, otherwise your permaculture property will have handfuls of half-started projects that never reach their potential.  Just because you are should do the project one day does not mean you should do it today.  Just because it is a good idea, does not mean it’s a great idea.  Just because someone should do it, doesn’t mean it should be use.  Instead of taking it all on yourself, use this time to train others for the final key of healthy building.
  5. Maintaining:  In this final key commitment type, we make the decision of what others are capable of in order to create the best system for maintenance.  We now examine whether the end justifies the means; we decide if the system is producing enough to keep active.  If a system is not sustainable, it will eventually become unbalanced and fall into chaos.  Fred Elliott, a business man and church leader from Clermont, FL, once said, “You need to determine first if the project is a priority that needs to be done right now or if you should wait.  Secondly, determine if it’s something you should train others to manage, or thirdly, decide if it’s something you need to maintain yourself.”  Once you figure out maintenance, you are freed up to build the next project and begin the building process anew.

permaculture kansas cityWhen we actively engage in a permaculture creative process, these 5 keys to healthy building help us live from a peaceful, balanced, and productive place.  In order to experience the power of a focused life, it’s important to revisit these five keys and ask ourselves a few questions.  First, “What am I committed to in each of these areas right now?”  The second question is “How do I limited myself to ONE commitment per area?” Finally, “Am I overcommitted and lying to myself about what I can responsibly accomplish?”

By following these healthy habits, we are able to be managers of productive and abundant systems, businesses, and families.

Action Item

permaculture projects in kansas city Make a list of these five areas and what you are currently doing in each.  Narrow it down to five projects total (one for each area) and practice it for 2-weeks with intentional focus.  Do not waver and do not take on any other commitments.  Revisit after two weeks and examine the fruit of your labor and how you feel as a person.

Leave your thoughts in the comment area below and tell us what you think.

 

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Permaculture Test Site and Case Study | The Daniel Academy

permaculture test site

The Daniel Academy (TDA), a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade private school in South Kansas City, is an active permaculture test site and case study.  This site began using permaculture design methods to transition their existing commercial landscape around 2010, and has been on a fast-track course to pioneering the use of permaculture in midwest education.

Permaculture at The Daniel Academy

ji garden 2As a permaculture test site, TDA has been hosting yearly gardening courses for 7-12th grade students, and in 2016 hosted its first Permaculture Design Certification Course (PDC).  As a test site, there are several models of permaculture related designs taking place on one property.  Each of these has a direct connection to the students, classrooms, and families that the school serves.

The downloadable document below gives an example of a permaculture design project focused on the educational sphere.  This design was developed by Kris Edler in 2014 and presented to the school for adaptation and implementation.  It gives a historical summary of the 18.5 acre property, a current site analysis, and a few project ideas to launch them into 3, 5, and 20 year planning.  The project proposal includes everything from the use of late spring foliar spray methods to long-term building proposals and capital investments.

Download the FREE PDC Proposal Below

This permaculture test site and case study is a great way to find out what works in Kansas City with our extreme weather fluctuations, as well as provide inspiration for other local projects.  For those interested in implementing permaculture into education, it serves as an excellent case study to use for adaptation in your own systems.  Finally, the document below is one possible approach to how to do a permaculture design project for your own PDC.  If you know of other test sites for permaculture in Kansas City, or would like your own site to be featured our website, please email permaculturekc@gmail.com

 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD The Daniel Academy Permaculture Design Proposal

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