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Barre: High School Permaculture

americorps logoKelly Wheeler is the AmeriCorps Service Learning Coordinator at the East Quabbin Land Trust for 2012-2013.

Kelly Wheeler at the greenhouse

When I was in High School, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was too busy balancing friends and work to give it much thought. Although I wasn’t actively looking for my future career, I somehow knew that something would come along and inspire me. Fortunately, during my junior year in High School, inspiration came to me in the form of a greenhouse class. I loved being out of the classroom and in the humid greenhouse in the middle of winter growing plants. I didn’t realize at the time how lucky I was to have this opportunity available at my school and how much this one class would shape who I would become. To make an extremely long story short, I ended up going on to college to get my degree in Sustainable Agriculture.

After graduation, I stumbled upon the Service Learning Coordinator position through Americorps-MassLIFT at the East Quabbin Land Trust. Our first event was a bridge building work day at the Mass Central Rail Trail. As luck would have it, my high school green house teacher was leading the Envirothon Team which joined us in working on the trail that day. We soon began talking about potential projects we could do with her greenhouse class and the topic of permaculture came up. We decided to build an herb spiral, a common element in permaculture design. Along with the building of the herb spiral, she wanted me to create a presentation for her classes on permaculture.

I spent the morning before the project collecting rocks for the herb spiral construction. As I headed to the school with the materials I started getting nervous about teaching high school kids. In high school, it is not cool to be interested in what you learn from your teachers. I started picturing a lot of glazed over, uninterested stares. When I began the presentation, I was so excited about what I was teaching them, the glazed over looks didn’t bother me. I realized that teaching is all about loving what you teach.

My greenhouse teacher truly loves what she teaches and that ended up motivating me to follow a path that I am most passionate about. The students actually got really excited about permaculture and the herb spiral and many of them said they were going to build one at their own homes. It was a great experience to be able to bring my education full circle and have the opportunity to work alongside a teacher who inspired me so much. It is daunting to step out of the comfortable role as student into the role of teacher. But in making that transition, hopefully I can teach someone something that will change their lives for the better.

finished spiral

students begin to build