A little over a year ago, while still enrolled in a self-directed learning program, my son, 11 at the time, came to me with a very profound realization and question:
"The people we know that unschool and forest school know all about a self-directed education. And those people are all about the planet, and recycling, and growing food, and project based learning and kids having agency and all that stuff we talk about. But none of those kids live in this neighborhood. The kids in this neighborhood all go to public school and know about regular school stuff and that's it. All the other things we talk about ,that you've taught me matter, that I get to do...they don't get. Like, none of it mom. They know classes, and taking their tests, and getting their grades. It's nothing like the way I get to learn. My friends aren't doing apprenticeships. But they're my friends. So...like learning about nature, and building their learning portfolios, and doing meaningful work, and nature journaling...where do they get that? Do they just never get it? Where do they get forest school if they can't go to forest school or time in nature or project learning? Is that just it. My friends here, just don't get those things?"
Six weeks later, the world shut down due to covid19.
Several weeks after that, the public trails in GA also closed temporarily. Our yard became our refuge and our forest school.
And then, out of this need, and many conversations about our relationship to the planet later and idea was born.
What if we could turn our backyard into a permaculture installation and food forest and use it as a space to share the power of forest schooling, permaculture, and a self directed education to the people in OUR neighborhood and community? What if we COULD just show parents the benefits of nature and place based learning by creating the space for our neighborhood children and invite them to see the work for itself? What if the older children in our neighborhood did have a place to apprentice and all children had a open ended, nature place to ...play...and work?
This the essence and vision of our Liberatorium. It is more than a permaculture installation or a neighborhood garden. It is a neighborhood forest school. It is a place where children can and will come to experience an outdoor space in a community with little to no outdoor spaces within walking distance, to understand and see how what open ended outdoor learning looks like, to learn about restorative gardening and our role in it. It is place where a peaceful, liberation centered education can be modeled. A place to grow food. A place for children and adults alike to experience the power of mixed age learning. A place where neighbors can see themselves as teachers and offer their gifts to the youth. A place where children could come and work in the rain and all types of weather. To just ... experience it.
It is all the things I have managed to gift my two children, 4 and 12, now expanded to the children in my community and other locals looking to replicate the model in their communities. A place for propagate native, medicinal, and perennial plants and teach this community how to go home and do that also. To drop off leaves and food scraps. To volunteer. To play. To have conversations about self-sufficiency. To give preschoolers and teenagers alike something to contribute. A place. To decolonize learning. To graft a tree. To sketch a leaf. To hear the songs of birds and learn their names. A place...right in...the middle of a predominantly Black neighborhood (see stats here) and say..."As a community...we too, with dogs in our yards, a mechanic up the road with 5 cars in the driveway, and all of the things that often have us overlooked...and marginalized from these conversations, have too managed to be learn and live sustainability practices, and self-directed learning, and unschooling, and forest schooling, and agency, and mindfulness. It too is ours." A place.
Our plans have been drawn by a professional permaculture firm and the work has begun, the children have already begun learning but, I am funding this all all on my own and collecting no fees from parents. I build out the project's elements funding allows me to. But...we could have it all in place by the end of the summer with your assistance!
The main permaculture elements of the installation are:
This is such a beautiful vision to build and one that this community would not have access to see and learn from otherwise.
Your contribution today, in any amount, will make it a reality sooner. Because childhood...is an urgent matter.
I would like to note that $47k though seemingly a high number is does not account for the entire project and none of this includes my labor. I have already spent well into 15k out of my own money and I am currently structuring things legally (read legal fees) and purchasing a pick up truck to make this happen (read more money). This budget is baseline budget of what I need to get things going by the Fall. So yeah, it's a lot. But, it's necessary.
The beautiful things however, is that your contribution is a long term investment. While many community based programs are often shut down due to location costs, rent/mortgage, and/or dependent on on-going funding challenges, the Liberatorium is designed to be here for decades to come. The installation plans have been designed so that plants are 85% perennial (will keep coming back each year) and interdependent (the beauty of permaculture). Over time, the plant life of the forest will be low to self-sustaining. Food harvesting will pay for the insurance annually. The rain harvesting and irrigation and solar tower will further the sufficiency of the project. Additionally the property is owned free and clear and I am in the process of placing it in a trust stating it cannot be mortgaged over 50% or sold for next 15 years. I am committed to being an anchoring presence in this community and have design the project to be a lasting and impactful one.
I cannot say it enough...if you are here...thank you.