Community Building with Playback Theatre

Playback theatre (PT) is a tool to share personal stories that are performed by PT actors. Audience and stage are at the same level and the link between them is the conductor/facilitator who creates a safe/welcoming atmosphere and invites people to share their stories. Main goal of PT is building community but is can be used also with other aims (therapeutical, problem solving, arising conciousness about a particular issue and so forth). On “stage” there are always coloured scarfs and boxes to be used by actors as props and one or two musicians who, as actors, improvise during the performance of the story to complement the main feeling/atmosphere that the group wants to convey.

I think this is a good method in a permacultural frame to give life to people’s stories or feelings referred to their learning process, group experiences and so forth.

Founder of playback theatre explaining what it is in a TED talk

INTRODUCING PLAYBACK THEATRE – March 2014 :This pdf is a summary of what playback theatre is, main objectives and all the elements that are needed.

Continue reading “Community Building with Playback Theatre”

Teacher Resources: Course Checklist and Participant Questionnaire

A prepared teacher is a happy teacher
A prepared teacher is a happy teacher

Teachers, designing and preparing a course, may find these resources helpful:

Andy Goldring, UK, shares a Checklist for things to prepare / think about for a course (download the PDF), including:

  • Audio / Visual / IT
  • Library & Information
  • Materials & Resources
  • Venue Checklist
  • Personal Stuff
  • Course-Specific
  • Convenor Job Description

Cultivate in Ireland issue a questionnaire (or ‘Training Needs Assessment‘) to participants in order to help facilitate and provide for their needs.  Download the Word doc that has a protected form.  Go to Tools / Unprotect to make it your own.   Protect it again as a ‘form’ so that  your participants only add data.

An Exercise: What is Energy

Shared by Graham Bell, from a recent PDC Handbook.
Most of us have heard at some time in our lives, E=mc2. Some of us know that it’s the basis of Einstein’s theory of special relativity. A lot fewer of us know what that means!  But you don’t need to.

From a permaculture perspective the key point behind the theory is that matter can neither be created, nor destroyed.  And the same is true of energy.  Designing efficient systems is all about how we manage energy.

There are three main kinds of energy we need to be concerned about:

  1. Potential
  2. Kinetic
  3. Entropic

Continue reading “An Exercise: What is Energy”

VAK Learning Styles Self-Assessment Questionnaire

This is a questionnaire for students to self-assess their learning styles. Contributed by Aranya and developed by Victoria Chislett

VAK Learning Styles Self-Assessment Questionnaire

Circle or tick the answer that most represents how you generally behave.

(It’s best to complete the questionnaire before reading the accompanying explanation.)

1. When I operate new equipment I generally:

  1. read the instructions first

  2. listen to an explanation from someone who has used it before

  3. go ahead and have a go, I can figure it out as I use it

2. When I need directions for travelling I usually:

  1. look at a map

  2. ask for spoken directions

  3. follow my nose and maybe use a compass

3. When I cook a new dish, I like to:

  1. follow a written recipe

  2. call a friend for an explanation

  3. follow my instincts, testing as I cook

4. If I am teaching someone something new, I tend to:

  1. write instructions down for them

  2. give them a verbal explanation

  3. demonstrate first and then let them have a go

5. I tend to say:

  1. watch how I do it

  2. listen to me explain

  3. you have a go

6. During my free time I most enjoy:

  1. going to museums and galleries

  2. listening to music and talking to my friends

  3. playing sport or doing DIY

7. When I go shopping for clothes, I tend to:

  1. imagine what they would look like on

  2. discuss them with the shop staff

  3. try them on and test them out

8. When I am choosing a holiday I usually:

  1. read lots of brochures

  2. listen to recommendations from friends

  3. imagine what it would be like to be there

9. If I was buying a new car, I would:

  1. read reviews in newspapers and magazines

  2. discuss what I need with my friends

  3. test-drive lots of different types

10. When I am learning a new skill, I am most comfortable:

  1. watching what the teacher is doing

  2. talking through with the teacher exactly what I’m supposed to do

  3. giving it a try myself and work it out as I go

11. If I am choosing food off a menu, I tend to:

  1. imagine what the food will look like

  2. talk through the options in my head or with my partner

  3. imagine what the food will taste like

12. When I listen to a band, I can’t help:

  1. watching the band members and other people in the audience

  2. listening to the lyrics and the beats

  3. moving in time with the music

13. When I concentrate, I most often:

  1. focus on the words or the pictures in front of me

  2. discuss the problem and the possible solutions in my head

  3. move around a lot, fiddle with pens and pencils and touch things

14. I choose household furnishings because I like:

  1. their colours and how they look

  2. the descriptions the sales-people give me

  3. their textures and what it feels like to touch them

15. My first memory is of:

  1. looking at something

  2. being spoken to

  3. doing something

16. When I am anxious, I:

  1. visualise the worst-case scenarios

  2. talk over in my head what worries me most

  3. can’t sit still, fiddle and move around constantly

17. I feel especially connected to other people because of:

  1. how they look

  2. what they say to me

  3. how they make me feel

18. When I have to revise for an exam, I generally:

  1. write lots of revision notes and diagrams

  2. talk over my notes, alone or with other people

  3. imagine making the movement or creating the formula

19. If I am explaining to someone I tend to:

  1. show them what I mean

  2. explain to them in different ways until they understand

  3. encourage them to try and talk them through my idea as they do it

20. I really love:

  1. watching films, photography, looking at art or people watching

  2. listening to music, the radio or talking to friends

  3. taking part in sporting activities, eating fine foods and wines or dancing

21. Most of my free time is spent:

  1. watching television

  2. talking to friends

  3. doing physical activity or making things

22. When I first contact a new person, I usually:

  1. arrange a face to face meeting

  2. talk to them on the telephone

  3. try to get together whilst doing something else, such as an activity or a meal

23. I first notice how people:

  1. look and dress

  2. sound and speak

  3. stand and move

24. If I am angry, I tend to:

  1. keep replaying in my mind what it is that has upset me

  2. raise my voice and tell people how I feel

  3. stamp about, slam doors and physically demonstrate my anger

25. I find it easiest to remember:

  1. faces

  2. names

  3. things I have done

26. I think that you can tell if someone is lying if:

  1. they avoid looking at you

  2. their voices changes

  3. they give me funny vibes

27. When I meet an old friend:

  1. I say “it’s great to see you!”

  2. I say “it’s great to hear from you!”

  3. I give them a hug or a handshake

28. I remember things best by:

  1. writing notes or keeping printed details

  2. saying them aloud or repeating words and key points in my head

  3. doing and practising the activity or imagining it being done

29. If I have to complain about faulty goods, I am most comfortable:

  1. writing a letter

  2. complaining over the phone

  3. taking the item back to the store or posting it to head office

30. I tend to say:

  1. I see what you mean

  2. I hear what you are saying

  3. I know how you feel

Now add up how many A’s, B’s and C’s you selected.

A’s = B’s = C’s =

If you chose mostly A’s you have a VISUAL learning style.

If you chose mostly B’s you have an AUDITORY learning style.

If you chose mostly C’s you have a KINAESTHETIC learning style.

Some people find that their learning style may be a blend of two or three styles, in this case read about the styles that apply to you in the explanation below.

When you have identified your learning style(s), read the learning styles explanations and consider how this might help you to identify learning and development that best meets your preference(s).

VAK Learning Styles Explanation

The VAK learning styles model suggests that most people can be divided into one of three preferred styles of learning. These three styles are as follows, (and there is no right or wrong learning style):

  • Someone with a Visual learning style has a preference for seen or observed things, including pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, flip-chart, etc. These people will use phrases such as ‘show me’, ‘let’s have a look at that’ and will be best able to perform a new task after reading the instructions or watching someone else do it first. These are the people who will work from lists and written directions and instructions.

  • Someone with an Auditory learning style has a preference for the transfer of information through listening: to the spoken word, of self or others, of sounds and noises. These people will use phrases such as ‘tell me’, ‘let’s talk it over’ and will be best able to perform a new task after listening to instructions from an expert. These are the people who are happy being given spoken instructions over the telephone, and can remember all the words to songs that they hear!

  • Someone with a Kinaesthetic learning style has a preference for physical experience – touching, feeling, holding, doing, practical hands-on experiences. These people will use phrases such as ‘let me try’, ‘how do you feel?’ and will be best able to perform a new task by going ahead and trying it out, learning as they go. These are the people who like to experiment, hands-on, and never look at the instructions first!

People commonly have a main preferred learning style, but this will be part of a blend of all three. Some people have a very strong preference; other people have a more even mixture of two or less commonly, three styles.

When you know your preferred learning style(s) you understand the type of learning that best suits you. This enables you to choose the types of learning that work best for you.

There is no right or wrong learning style. The point is that there are types of learning that are right for your own preferred learning style.

Please note that this is not a scientifically validated testing instrument – it is a free assessment tool designed to give a broad indication of preferred learning style(s).

More information about learning styles, personality, and personal development is at

With acknowledgements to Victoria Chislett for developing this assessment.

Victoria Chislett specialises in performance psychology and its application within organisations, and can be contacted via email: performance_psychologist at

Micro-teach session: Abundance games

This post describes how to teach a game called “Resource Line” (and is a summary of a micro teach session with Mirka by Andrew Zionts at the Barcelona meeting).

The lesson plan is as follows:


  • To discover more about each other’s knowledge and skills.
  • To create more beneficial connections between participants.
  • To explore the abundance paradigm.
  • To build community.

Useful for adults.

Continue reading “Micro-teach session: Abundance games”

A Book Review Exercise: “A Selection of Wise Words”

Joel Rosenberg
Joel Rosenberg

by Joel Rosenberg

Context:  I’ve used this method with master level art & design & architecture students when running an intensive one week workshop called “Foraging and Gardening in the City” in Helsinki, Finland 2011-2013. This method can be used on a PDC too.

Duration:  Part I. 30min. + Part II. 5min./student (12 students = 60min.)

Description:  Before the session the teacher selects a number of books that she/he thinks could be helpful for the students.

Continue reading “A Book Review Exercise: “A Selection of Wise Words””

Permaculture in Brief

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 08.29.35A presentation used as elevator pitch for audiences new to permaculture.

File: Permacultuur in het kort 1

Language: Dutch

Author: Leo Bakx Aardwerk, 2010 (CC: BY-SA)

Time: 15 – 30 minutes plus Q&A time.

Preceded or followed by a practical activity indoors or outdoors.

Finished by pot-luck lunch, morning/afternoon tea or dinner – whatever is appropriate.

Can be used as on-screen presentation or printed on paper and used as flip-over.

Introducing How to Teach Patterns with Kirsty

(Note: This session would be best to give early in a PDC. The session plan for this session can be found at the bottom under “Resources”)

Time needed:  Best as a one-hour session, possibly longer. It can be flexible to fit the time available. Introduce the topic of patterns to the class and state why it is important in Permaculture. Invite the group to step up to the square paper sheets (different sizes) and ask how many times they can fold in half. Keep going until you can’t go further. Ask if there are any common experiences?

Continue reading “Introducing How to Teach Patterns with Kirsty”

Introducing How to Teach Inputs & Outputs with Joe Atkinson

P108 in the Permaculture Teachers Guide has a full class plan for this exercise.

Time needed: Best as a one-hour session, possibly longer. It can be flexible to fit the time available.

This activity can sit in different sessions. This is usually one of the first sessions on a PDC. Good to use to introduce principles and systems in a non-threatening way.

Continue reading “Introducing How to Teach Inputs & Outputs with Joe Atkinson”

Sample Session: Permaculture Ethics

Given on Wed 25 Sept 2013 by Joe Atkinson, UK, at Mas Franch, Spain

A french write-up of this workshop is also live.

Opening question: The teacher asks if the students know the ethics of permaculture, and if they can explain what they mean for them. Afterwards, the teacher summarises the main points, and can add some comments as appropriate.

Method: The teacher draws a circle on the floor (e.g. with chalk or strings) with scales to represent the “Fair Share” ethic. Then two further overlapping circles are added for “Earthcare” and “Peoplecare.” (An object can be used in each case to represent the ethics). This portrays the ethical framework of permaculture, and a brief explanation can be given on how they are related and interconnected. The simplicity and universality of this framework is highlighted, and its uniqueness to permaculture. In general there is no reason for Earthcare nor Peoplecare to be controversial; however “Fairshare” may provoke more debate. The importance is that these ethics offer a set of tools rather than a set of rules to follow.

Continue reading “Sample Session: Permaculture Ethics”

A Teaching Method: Groups

02-Aljaz-giving-Groups-Session Aljaz from Slovenia delivered a micro-teaching session on Wed 25 Sept 2013 at Mas Franch during the Spain EPT Meeting to demonstrate and reflect upon ‘Groups’ as a teaching methodology.


The session opens with the following question: How do you feel about working in groups?

Some possible responses could be:

  • Can be very inspiring
  • Can be difficult if there is a negative ambience
  • Depends a lot on the personailities within the group

Continue reading “A Teaching Method: Groups”