Bhoomi College is located just outside Bangalore, a city known as the high-tech capital of India; yet Bhoomi represents something very different. On its lush campus, Bhoomi has brought together an impressive array of thinkers and practitioners in fields like local food and farming, holistic and place-based education, green energy, trade policy, sustainable water systems, and more. They offer year-long graduate degree programs in Sustainable Living and Holistic Education, as well as a large number of shorter courses. They also offer internships, host a farmers market and repair cafe, and maintain a full calendar of events, lectures, and conferences — from talks about carbon alternatives to tree plantings and monsoon celebrations. They also issue the Bhoomi Award for Localisation, “Established to celebrate the spirit and honour the work of individuals, organisations and communities in India that have made outstanding contributions towards economic localisation and/or community based local ecological projects.” To learn more, visit http://bhoomicollege.org. Photo by Bhoomi College (CC BY-NC 2.0)
This unique school, located beside a lake in the Northwest Territories of Canada, was founded to reverse the process of disconnection from lands, families, languages, spiritual traditions, and history imposed on the young people of Canada’s Indigenous First Nations. To learn more about Dechinta, visit:http://dechinta.ca.Photo by Dave Bezaire (CC BY-SA 2.0)/ Drying Salmon
In 1966, at Rabun County High School in rural Appalachia, an English teacher and his students decided to drop their standard curriculum and instead create a magazine to share local folklore and practical knowledge of living close to the land. Since then, students have spent classroom time interviewing elders in their communities, writing articles about the living traditions and heritage of Appalachia, and publishing a biennial magazine. Learn more on the Foxfire website.
The Homeless Garden Project explains, “In the soil of our urban farm and garden, people find the tools they need to build a home in the world.” The project works toward creating a thriving inclusive community, workforce, and local food system by providing job training, transitional employment, and support services to people who are homeless in Santa Cruz, California. They also run a local food and flower shop and CSA, which offers scholarships for community members unable to afford shares. To learn more, visit:http://www.homelessgardenproject.org/index.php.
At Iowa BIG, students learn by working with more than 100 local organizations on identifying ways to improve their communities and executing interdisciplinary projects. Students follow a normal school curriculum for half the day and spend the other half working solo or in teams on projects such as a coffee shop that employs the homeless, a composting system for a nearby college, and a community seed library. Assessment is provided not through test scores, but through regular meetings where students, community partners, and teachers evaluate the students’ progress and dedication to their goals. Learn more about the program model and current projects on the Iowa BIG website and in this TED Ideas article about the program.
Jo-Jikum, which means “your home” in Marshallese, is an educational organization that aims to help young Marshall Islanders respond to climate change by organizing island-wide cleanups, climate change workshops, community movie nights and other activities. The group has also established a Climate Disaster Relief Fund to help families on the islands recover from damage caused by climate change. To learn more, read this article about the poet and activist who founded Jo-Jikum, this piece from the Marshall Islands Journal, or these ‘climate poems’ written by high school students at Jo-Jikum’s first Climate Change Arts Camp.
LandWorks, at the Dartington Estate in rural Devon, England, is a training center that helps former inmates develop a foundation to transition back into their communities after release. The center, largely built by the trainees, provides job training in food production, woodworking, landscaping, and construction, as well as soft skills in human interaction and home economics. LandWorks works closely with the government and employers to provide social services and job placements, and above all prioritizes cultivating a sense of self-worth, responsibility, and ownership for the trainees – reducing recidivism rates twelve-fold. Visit the LandWorks website to learn more. Photo by Antoine Taveneaux, CC BY-SA 3.0.
Arun Venkataraman, the founder of Marudam Farm School, explains: “Marudam (farmland in Tamil) was born out of a need to provide a space for ‘learning by doing’ academics, nature and ‘unstructured time.'” Marudam follows a principle of democratic learning, with two things given highest priority: students’ freedom to pursue their interests and time spent outside learning about the land. The students at Marudam grow up to 85% of the food consumed at the school. This aligns them well with the mission of The Forest Way, the non-profit trust that partly supports the school. Marudam is an integral part of their mission to restore wild lands near Thiruvannamalai and grow food according to nature’s ways. To learn more, visit Marudam and The Forest Way’s websites, or read Schooling for curiosity.Photo by Edu Cavalcanti
The Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture, or MESA, is a cross-cultural network of farmers, elders, and educators, who share ancestral knowledge and practical skills with each other to build ecologically sound food systems. The list of their projects is lengthy, but perhaps the most unique is an on-site training program in Oakland, California, geared towards immigrants, refugees, and former prisoners who aspire to be farmers. They also have a two-way exchange program which allows farmers outside the US and inside the US to cross paths and learn from each other’s traditions. MESA’s extensive work can be explored at https://mesaprogram.org/.
One year after Timor Leste’s independence, Timorese student activists and permaculture facilitators teamed up to rehabilitate the country’s war-torn landscapes and to encourage food sovereignty through permaculture principles and traditional agricultural practices. Today, Permatil promotes regenerative agriculture through several avenues, including a national farmers’ network; the inclusion of place-based agricultural education and school gardens into the national school curriculum; guidebooks and media; and theater performances on environmental and social justice issues – all in Tetum, the local language. Read the story of Permatil’s genesis here and learn more about the national permaculture curriculum here.Photo credit: AusTimorFN (CC-BY 2.0)