Learning Pathways
By Delvin Solkinson

The best decision I ever made was to take a Diploma in Permaculture Design after completing my Permaculture Design Course (PDC). This process has inspired me to continue the adventure of learning and applying permaculture to my own life and work.

The Diploma was first established at the Permaculture Institute in Australia and was met with great support by PDC graduates around the world. The Permaculture Diploma was created to support people for the 2-5 years following receiving their PDC as they honed their practical skills and applied permaculture design directly to their own lives and landscapes, and to certify their command of permaculture knowledge. In 1997, Bill Mollison and Scott Pittman established the Permaculture Institute in the United States. Pittman regards the Diploma as a way to “understand what you are doing. If you are practicing, then document it, figure out how it applies permaculturally. Find those permaculture practitioners that you admire, sit with them, and document that experience. The beginning process of your Diploma is documentation, the start of your own self-designed thesis.

The Diploma provides structure with a learning plan. The documentation allows the student to take a deeper examination of permaculture, what actions they took, and what they learned. This helps create an impressive CV and resume. Taking time to analyze the teaching techniques shared in the diploma program helps build a strong foundation for those thinking of teaching permaculture.

Long-time permaculture teacher, Larry Santoyo, notes “doing a Diploma is a great way to have a sounding board, somebody with experience that can help and give a critical review of your work and direction. The Diploma program helps you define your direction. Working with mentors, you create your own self directed programming.”

Understandably, a powerful way to strengthen the permaculture movement is to have more people participate in a Permaculture Diploma program!


Permaculture Design Master Class and Teacher Training on O’ahu. photo by Rob Herring


Why complete a Diploma in Permaculture Design ?

• No number of books or videos can offer the hands on, holistic education that a PDC offers, while a diploma program provides many additional lessons through embedded learning.

• You receive structure and direction to apply permaculture directly to your garden, home, and work.

• You learn learn additional techniques and skills to help address your own needs.

• Glean more learning from what you are doing by documenting your work and unlocking key lessons.

• Understand everything you do is important, its all part of a larger holistic design process.

• Have a learning plan and stay organized.

• Create feedback loops and guidance by having a mentor to learn with.

• Drive designs and decisions for creating regenerative systems for home, garden, farm, community, parks, and wild landscapes.

• Be a more active participant of the global permaculture movement and help carry the message into the world.

• Gain recognition for your work in permaculture.

• Earn a resume and CV enhancement with the formal certification showing you have taken permaculture into a professional level.



One of the adventures, my diploma process recently led me on, was to Hawaii for a permaculture teacher training. Arriving to O’ahu at sunset, with the scent of flowers filling the air, I sensed right away – that nothing would ever be the same again. It was my first visit to Hawaii. The endless sunshine and brief, vitalizing rains that seem to come from nowhere, were accented by bird songs. Nature serenaded our shaded outdoor classroom overlooking stunning tropical rainforest, as an exceptional group of people gathered to live, study, and have fun. All this was to be part of a “Permaculture Design Master Class and Teacher Training,” masterminded by Elijah Santoyo and led by Scott Pittman and Larry Santoyo.

Elijah organized the program to “create an intense intellectual environment in a pressurized situation. We were given permission to engage as our best selves and receive inspiration and lessons from the top minds actively working in permaculture today.One of the curriculum methodologies explored during the course was discussing the “Best of Yesterday each morning, as a driver for dialogues that deepened and emphasized core lessons. Inspired by this teaching technique, this article intends to share some of the best wisdom, inspiration, and creativity from that life changing program.

Connecting with the island climate, we explored the beaches of the the famous North Shore of O’ahu, including the epic 27-acres of forest-gardens at Wahaiwa Botanical Garden. Checking out tropical permaculture in-action, we ventured to Waihuena Farm to meet Mele Judd-Cox who toured us through a tropical farm producing forest gardens, coconuts, bananas, goats and chickens. In this permaculture design system, vegetable production is backed up by a durable edible landscape, including hearty perennials like wingbean, chayote, and chaya. The farm delivers streams of income from a community volunteer supported agriculture membership program, on site temporary and long term rental homes, as well as a multiuse field for hosting events.

Exploring a successful working model of a tropical permaculture garden, farm, and food forest provided tangible examples that grounded many of the lessons throughout the course. It was inspiring!

Larry Santoyo guided the exploration of what a design course is, and why a design course is important. He taught how we could help our students become better learners, and help our teachers to become better teachers. e learned to look for feedback loops to monitor and understand what people heard and whether it was the same thing as what the person speaking intended. Larry encouraged us to become responsible for both what we say and what people hear us say. He reminded us that we can use the permaculture principles to understand why things work well and advised us to default to permaculture’s protocols of design when making decisions. In his teaching, Larry demonstrated that storytelling reaches every learning style.

Scott Pittman asked us to explore what drives us at a personal level, what kind of community we wanted, and what it would take for that community to thrive. He guided us with exercises for designing our own minds and reminded us that permaculture is a rediscovery of the ancient wisdom of indigenous peoples. Using stories on the history of permaculture, he led us through the permaculture foundations, including the 3 core Ethics and key Principles, including how to Set Limits to Consumption and Population, Design for Surplus, and Re-invest in the future. Scott encouraged us to be courageous enough to teach, face the challenge of being in front of a group of strangers, and yet still be ourselves. Over the course of the week, he demonstrated that good teachers have to give something of themselves and their passion for teaching.

As I consider the ‘Bests’ of my life, there are many important life lessons and transformative learnings that happened during the advanced permaculture course and my Diploma journey that seemingly reach every aspect of my life. Deepening my applied understanding of permaculture design through the Diploma program has helped me to live a meaningful life and feel great about it. This is a path I encourage others to explore.


Elijah and Larry Santoyo with Scott Pitman teach advanced permaculture on O’ahu


Links and Resources:

Permaculture Institute Permaculture.org

Permaculture Academy PermacultureAcademy.com

New Media by Rob Herring TheNeedToGrow.com

Teaching Matters by Rosemary Morrow


Learning and Teaching Tools: https://www.dewpermaculture.com/tools


Here is the original article, as seen in Issue 08.

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