PSU Permaculture Garden
Penn State University
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The MorningStar Permaculture Learning Centre is situated around the MorningStar Solar Home, a net-zero energy research facility located on the Penn State University Park campus. According to Penn State the MorningStar Permaculture Learning Centre at Penn State strives to provide an immersive experience in permaculture landscape design through student, faculty and community hands-on, active, skill building workshops. The challenge was to develop diverse landscape settings within the garden that support these engagements and evolve as the Centre does.
The solution incorporated ways to integrate “design thinking” as a framework for real-world permaculture applications. Areas of the garden were developed to include content-centered design challenges such as keyhole gardens, polyculture plantings, and hügelkultur berms. The gardens, plantings and berms were sited to support learning from what doesn’t work. Because they are living landscape features, one groups solutions are intermediate or potential starting points for another group, allowing for the reinterpretation of problems and the coevolution of the problem and solution. Why is one garden more successful than the next? What will we plant next? How can we improve the berm?
An outdoor classroom gathering space was also proposed to allow users to focus on single steps of the process including specific permaculture instruction, brainstorming, and prototyping. Fencing helps keep critters out, but the Centre is an unlocked, open learning environment where students, faculty, and local community members can gain deep user insights from each other to become lifelong learners. The understanding is that the annual design / build process of the permaculture features and systems is an experiential approach that people can use in the transformation of their own gardens into productive, regenerative permaculture landscapes.
On February 8, 2017 the Penn State Permaculture Club held a formation and organization meeting. According Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, the role of the club is to provide students and community members with an opportunity to learn about and participate in the practice of permaculture. Members will steward the new Permaculture garden at Penn State’s MorningStar Solar Home through an annual cycle of planning, planting, caring, harvesting and celebration.
“Penn State offers a wide variety of ways to get involved with health and local food and agriculture systems. Our goal for the Permaculture club will be to compliment and expand upon these opportunities by creating a space where students and community members alike can learn about and implement permaculture practices in a tangible way.”
Penn State University