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.

Preparation – A large sheet of paper folded in half with a list of elements listed on the left hand and right hand side of the sheet. It is good to have cartoon pictures of the elements as well as the text.

Start by stating to the group that we will be looking at systems from a practical perspective, which everyone should be able to relate to. Split the group into groups of three, give each group a folded sheet with and invite them to discuss the following elements:

  • House
  • Pond
  • Garden
  • Compost Heap
  • Chicken
  • Orchard

First ask the groups to explore the outputs. What comes out of each element? What is produced? This part of the session can be short or more in depth depending on what time you have available.

Once each group has at least two or three outputs from each element ask them to flip the sheet over to the same list, and ask them to now list the inputs to each element.

Again once the group has two or there inputs ask them to open up the sheet and match up the outputs and inputs of each. Look at where there are links and draw a line between a need or a output from other elements.

Once there is a lot of connections and lines between the two lists of elements invite the whole group to reflect on what they see.

Note that the more we can link the outputs from one element to an input to another element we can have less waste and a stronger system.

Discuss in simple terms:

  • Connections
  • Web of relationships
  • Resilience
  • Less waste
  • Closed loops

Ask for other reflections. What happens with nutrients, how they are circling around the system?

  • Introduce Relative Location
  • How can we minimise the amount of work by placing elements carefully?
  • Introduce Multiple Function
  • Some of the elements are creating several outputs; why is that beneficial?

If you have an element it has a certain footprint the more functions or benefits it can provide maximises the amount of functions we can get into our designs. The more relationships the more resilient, less waste, increases edges, and builds a stronger more complex web of relationships. Each function should be supported by multiple elements and each element should be have a number of functions.

  • Introduce Nutrient Cycling
  • Introduce how this can be used in the design process as an input output analysis.