Summer 2016

80 hour Permaculture Design Certificate Course

A for credit course offered by Greenfield Community College.

Dates:Mid July – August 2016,

Instructor: Mary Johnson, co-founder of Terra Genesis International, will teach a Permaculture Design Certificate Course, with college credit.  The course will be offered through  Greenfield Community College which is located in Greenfield, MA.

Reserve your Space Now – for credit

Reserve your Space Now – non-credit continuing Education (approx. $700)

This certified Permaculture Design Certificate Course (PDC) organized by experienced international designer and trainer Mary Johnson will be offered through GCC’s Farm and Food Systems Certificate Program.  The course will incorporate field trips to local farms, and guest appearances from other renowned permaculture teachers.

Classes will likely meet Wednesdays through Fridays from 1:00pm to 5:00pm for seven weeks.

Mary, certified in permaculture design by Geoff Lawton, has been teaching and working internationally for many years, and brings strong practical experience to her permaculture design perspective that is grounded in farm business planning and holistic management.

See photos from the 2011 PDC at

The official dates for the 2016 course along with registration instructions can be found on GCC’s website.

This 80 hour course offers 4 college credits and covers the full 72-hour certified Permaculture Design Course internationally recognized curriculum.  It will be held at the Greenfield Community College campus, located in the foothills of the Berkshires, where you will be surrounded by abundant opportunities for nature immersion and recreation. You will work on your own designs, learning skills to transform your own property and make life-long connections with other students through numerous hands-on practical skill building sessions.

The natural beauty and powerful spirit of the sites visited will form the basis of this experiential course. This site is ripe with learning opportunities, with a backdrop of amazing sunrises, and gorgeous vistas great for inspiration, spiritual renewal and creative nature design. Located within easy reach and accessible by public transportation, it is an easy commuting distance from New York City (3.5 hour drive), Boston (2 hour drive), and Washington D.C. (1.5 hour flight). It is an ideal place to retreat from the stressful human built city environment, to renew and revive yourself and help you remember your true path.

The course will consist of a broad range of topics applicable to life anywhere on this planet, yet will be tailored to the needs of the students present as well as the location at hand. Participants will help to co-create the design of multi-species food forests, permaculture-style gardens that integrate food, wildlife habitat, flowers and medicinal herbs, as well as livestock, natural buildings, aquaculture and aqua-ponic gardens. One of the field sites that will be used for hands-on activities was part of a large grass based dairy operation.  It has several hand-dug wells and a natural mountain top bog that will inspire us as we design water catchments and irrigation systems that will help familiarize you with aspects of Australian keyline design, French swales and earthen dams. This course will also offer plenty of opportunity for fun and community building. Space is limited to offer a chance for participants to really get to know each other.

The course will be conducted to cover the internationally accepted content.

The 72 hours of course work required to receive a Permaculture Design Certificate, will be covered over half-day sessions, mixing hands-on activities with plenty of in classroom studies and videos, journaling, and self-directed research and group assignments. There will be plenty of self-study resources that will meet the needs of the most voracious learner. All students are required to be present for the full 72 hours of instruction if they wish to receive the certificate. Permaculture courses are fairly standardized as far as content. We will cover every major topic in Bill Mollisons’ Permaculture: a Designers Manual.

1. Philosophies and Ethics underlying permaculture.

2. Basic permaculture principals.

3. Patterns in Nature and how to use that in design.

4. Methods of design. How to go from a damaged piece of land to designing a restoration plan.

5. Climactic factors. We will cover all the major climates and how to work with them.

6. Trees, forests and why we want to mimic their systems.

7. Water: catchment, usage, importance, and conservation.

8. Soil, minerals, microorganisms, building new soil and preventing erosion.

9. Earthworks: how to shape the land to help it achieve the goals we are aiming for. We will also cover how this can aid with preparing for climate change impacts like increasing droughts and floods

10. Aquaculture

11. Natural Building

12. Alternative systems: community living and other ways of choosing to live differently that works well for people and the planet. Each of these categories has subcategories and each teacher also has their own additions and certain topics that are stressed over others so no two courses will be exactly the same. ——————————————————————————

Costs: The PDC course (72 hours) follows the Greenfield Community College Fee schedule

Instructor Evaluation from 2015 GCC PDC:



To:                   Mary Johnson

From:               Teresa Jones, Science Co-Chair

Date:               September 16, 2015


Please find attached the student evaluation data report(s) for the following term and course(s):

Summer II 2015: SCI 137 2 ( 4.72)

In the student evaluations, most responses were in the Excellent and Very Good columns with a preponderance of Excellent ratings. You received a score of 4.72 out of a maximum score of 5 in the student evaluation. Students responded to all questions with an average rating of 4.0 or better. Students most appreciated: instructor’s grasp of the subject matter (5), opportunity for students to participate actively in class (4.89), instructor’s ability to help students when requested (4.78), effectiveness of instructor (4.78), how well the instructor explained the material (4.78), opportunity for student questions (4.78).

When asked if they would take another course from this instructor in the future, 7 said yes and 0 said no.



Continuing Education

 Instructor’s Name: Mary Johnson

Evaluator’s Name and Title: Teresa B. Jones, Science dept. co-chair

Course Name and #: SCI 137, Permaculture Design

College Campus: Main


Date: 8/13/15

Time: 1:00 p.m.

 Part One:       Assessment of instructor’s teaching effectiveness with regard to content mastery, content organization, methodology of delivery, relevancy of material to course being taught, and use of technology and other teaching aids if applicable.

 The permaculture design course is, very appropriately, taught in the context of the design process and ongoing student design projects. Mary’s depth of knowledge as a professional in the field was evident throughout the discussion, as she referenced specific job examples and offered students tangible suggestions in their work. After providing an opening bringing together activity (a starting circle), she reviewed what had been done in the past class. After giving an overview of the day’s plan, she offered a 15-minute background PowerPoint about trees as part of design. This presentation was informative, interesting and scientifically sound. She had many venues for teaching and learning – video, conversation, design work, individual student interactions, outdoor lab activities and journal writing. Students had brought plant cuttings to the class for the lab activity, which was intended to build student skills in plant propagation with natural plant hormones (willow cuttings). Student questions had been gathered into a ‘parking lot’ chart that hung near the door. Mary asked if anyone had pursued answering these questions, and several students had. She was clearly asking students to take responsibility for their learning, and they were stepping up to do so.

 Mary offered insightful guidance to students on how to navigate the volumes of potential reading material so that it would best serve their needs. She directed them to parts of the chapter that would focus their understanding, and then point them to sections they might want to explore more. Especially given the four days/week schedule, this is extremely helpful to students trying to get the most from a condensed course.

 Students worked every day in their design teams, which I was able to witness and participate in, moving from group to group. I was impressed with the focus they brought to one another’s projects; the attention they offered to the most nuanced questions that one team member might care about. No one seemed to worry that one project might get more attention than another, and they made meaningful suggestions to one another that no doubt improved the final product.

 Part Two:       Assessment of instructor’s teaching effectiveness with regard to the ability to provide clear feedback to student questions and the ability to motivate and stimulate student thought and discussion in the classroom.

 The design process was modelled in the process of the class. The classroom walls were covered with maps, notes, diagrams and other kinds of student works-in-progress. Everyone contributed to the learning environment. Mary continually offered the bigger-picture perspective of what the field of permaculture is about, and how it related to the work they were doing. “Permaculture is about finding solutions to problems.” She was very effective at creating an atmosphere where all input was welcomes, and all students offered input. She also allowed them opportunities to step back and reflect on the very process they were engaged in. I have never seen such mastery of ‘flipping the classroom’ – really asking the students to be teachers and allowing the teacher to be student.

This was a summer course taught in an intensive schedule of three hours / day of class. Yet, the students seemed vigorously engaged throughout the time. I did not stay for the whole three hours but witnessed the class toward the end of their time working outside on the plant cuttings. They were as fresh and enthusiastic as they had been at 1 p.m. Mary’s ability to create diverse learning activities was no doubt crucial in keeping students energized.

Classroom Observation Overall Teaching Effectiveness:

 Mary was clearly deeply knowledgeable about a wide range of topics, including many of the botanical and environmental sciences that I know well. She also spoke to a level of legal/contractual issues that reflects her professional experience in a way that students are unlikely to get except from someone with such extensive background. I felt like my time in her class was a professional development workshop for me as she put my previous knowledge into new contexts and asked me different kinds of questions. But what struck me most was her genuine, authentic presence as a teacher. Her honoring of each student shone through every moment in the class. Her philosophy that each student’s questions add richness to the learning of all is embodied in every aspect of the course, from the syllabus to the details of how the classroom functions.

 I was inspired and deeply moved by my time in Mary’s class. GCC and the students in her class are very fortunate to have her talent, passion and warmth as part of our faculty. This course adds depth, rigor and scientific background to the Farm and Food program. I hope that she continues to bring her unique skills and background to GCC and that she might consider offering a workshop for those of us who aspire to flip our classrooms in a similar way.