Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Introducing the Marvellous Minnies Eco Fiction for 6-8 year olds.

The Marvellous Minnies
Goblin Woods Adventure

Words by William Stephens
Pictures by Emily Stephens

The Minnies

Maisie Minnie (Mum)

Is tall and strong. She spends a lot of time explaining to her husband why his latest invention won’t make them rich. The best mum in the world.

Arthur Minnie (Dad)

A not-very-successful inventor of amazing energy saving devices. Small and lively likes to sing, grow vegetables and have adventurous journeys with his family.

Little George

At 2 years old, the youngest member of the family. He is always cheerful and makes everyone laugh when he gets his words mixed up.


Is seven years old and quite small for her age but she is a fearless adventurer who relies on her magic goblin stone to guide her.


11 years old and tall like his Mum he is the oldest of the Minnie children.
Theo loves the outdoors, building ‘survival shelters’ and exploring new places.

Chapter 1. Holidays

‘Boom-boom-chika -chika boom-boom!’
‘Oh no! Not again.’ Minny was standing at the school gates when she heard the noise in the distance.

Soon she caught sight of a white helmet glinting in the afternoon sun, bobbing up and down amongst the other parents heading towards the school gates.
People stopped and stared, as the white hatted figure in silver cape and goggles moved jerkily along the road on a large electric scooter.
Music was blaring from a large speaker on the back of the scooter
‘Everybody get on the floor ! Everybody do the dinosaur !’

Minny covered her eyes and groaned.
‘Is that your Dad Minny ?’ asked Maddie her best friend.
‘Um….yes,’ muttered Minny.
‘I like his cape.’ Maddie said kindly.
‘Yes it’s something to do with reflecting heat,’ said Minny, feeling a little embarrassed.
There was a sudden crash.
Dad’s head had disappeared from sight.

Minny and Maddie ran down the crowded path. They found Dad in a heap on the pavement underneath the scooter next to an upturned wheely bin. Someone was helping him up and Dad was saying

‘Oh yes these goggles do steam up terribly you know.’
Dad’s scooter was just one of many solar power vehicles that he had created.
They needed sunlight to make them work.
The scooter was one Dad had got from a man who used the scooter to advertise his bagel bar. The huge speaker on the back automatically played loud music whenever you turned the scooter on. You couldn’t turn it off. At least Dad hadn’t worked out how to turn it off.

‘Well darling are you excited about the holiday tomorrow?’
beamed Dad as they walked home (the scooter wouldn’t go after the accident)
Minny nodded and thought about the family trip.
Every year they had some kind of adventure.

One year they didn’t make it home for two months because there was not enough sun to make the solar van go. Dad had got a temporary job as a cave guide. A goblin cave guide.

This year’s trip was to the Enormous Green Gathering or EGG as Mum and Dad kept calling it. The EGG was a big festival that happened every summer where people camped together, went to see bands, plays, made stuff, learnt things about looking after the environment, played games and rolled around in mud.

It was a lot of fun remembered Minny. George, Minny’s little brother was two.
He kept asking ‘Going EGG mummy?’ which Minny thought was hilarious. George had woken up several times recently shouting ‘No! don’t like eggs!’ as his little mind dreamt up pictures of him and Minny being forced to sit in an enormous egg shaped tent eating boiled eggs all holiday.
At home Mum and George were sitting together on a large scruffy rucksack.

‘It won’t work, theres no way that will all fit in there,’ Mum was sighing to Dad as they entered the room.
‘Ah, but they will, stand back !’ smiled Dad.

Mum and George stood well back. They knew that when Dad had that look on his face you never knew what was going to happen.
Removing his cape, Dad leapt onto the kitchen table.

‘Careful Daddy!’ shouted George in a worried voice. Mum raised her eyebrows and sighed.
‘Hoo-yaaah!’ screamed Dad as he jumped into the air and landed feet first into the open rucksack. The rucksack slid onto it’s side taking Dad with it. He looked up from under a tea towel and grinned ‘There we are-much more room in there now.’

In her room, Minny packed her bag. Some shorts, tee-shirts, dresses, one nightie, swimming costume, knickers, vests, books, puzzles, a few dolls, writing pad, pencils, felt tips, goblin stone.
The goblin stone was a small shiny green stone shaped like a head with a pointy nose and ears. Minny had had it since two summers ago when Dad was a goblin cave guide.

He told Minny that the stone was a magic stone that he had found deep in the goblin cave and that it would bring you good luck.

That was when Minny was just 6.Now, nearly 8, Minny thought it probably wasn’t really magic but she was not sure. She ran the cool smooth stone between her fingers.

As the pink glow of the summer evening shone through the window it made the stone a beautiful shiny purple colour.

Minny went to bed with the stone under her pillow. She closed her eyes, next thing she knew Mum was kissing her forehead and saying ‘Time to get up darling.’

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Permaculture in half an hour..

Dumb idea really.Why oh why did i choose to do a half hour lesson on Permaculture in an introduction to adult teaching course?
I was curious to know if i could manage to get a group of uninitiated and possible uninterested people to get the message in...half an hour.
But, what is the message then ?
'I liked it because it was not too, you know eco-warrior-ish' one of my fellow students kindly pondered in the post teach analysis.
'You're not one of them eco warriors are you?' Another asked.
Luckily someone else chipped in then so I didn't have to reveal that, yes, my path to permaculture started in chaotic Earth First ! meetings in the early 90s.
I planned way too much and lost some of the group early in an ambitious attempt to introduce the idea of beneficial relationships in ecosystems as the key element in permaculture design principles, as in the attempt or desire to emulate these in permaculture design.

But what i did learn was that with little or no introduction, a group can start to use pc design principles to do a bit of basic design on a simple garden plan.
I gave them a plan of my front garden and asked them to spend 10 minutes using some PC principles to improve it.And they did.Despite of and not because of my over-complicated possibly quite pompous 10 minute talk beforehand.

For what its worth, details of session are below.I think the aims and outcomes were realistic but the amount of material I planned to get there was too much-by about 50%.
I reckon the session would work with the design exercise at the start rather than the end of the session, if its any use to anyone, feel free to use as you wish.Theres also a 20 powerpoint slides (yeah-sorry I know...) to go with it.
Microteach Aims

Aim 1.
To explain what the term permaculture does / does not mean

• Students will be able to write a few lines / say a few sentences about what permaculture is

Aim 2.
To explain some of the key reasons behind the development of permaculture

• Students will be able to explain where the term permaculture originates from
• Students will be able to describe one or two factors that have led to the creation of permaculture

Aim 3.
To provide some examples of the actual and potential application of permaculture to real life situations

• Students will be able to describe one or two examples of a situation or environment where permaculture design has been used

• Students will be able to describe one or two situations where there is the potential for permaculture design to be used

Introduction (5mins)
• Introduction-connections between the rabbit, corn and tree
• An ecological design system
• Founders :Mollison & Holmgren
• What is an ecosystem /beneficial relationship?
• Explanation of beneficial relationships in ecosystems-mirroring these-making connections
• Why ? -desire for sustainable living
• Oil based economy

Some principles (5mins)
• Stacking
• Work with nature -no dig-low maintenance
• Relative location-network of beneficial relationships
• Diversity
• 3 functions for every element

Examples of application (5mins)
• Garden
• Farm
• Urban (Bed Zed)

Practical design exercise in pairs with garden plan (10 mins)

• Use at least two of the five permaculture design principles to improve the garden on the plan

Summary (5mins)
Link to objects introduced at start of session

Questions (if time)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New shoes

January weekday.1723 London to Eastbourne service.

Floor rucsac guy: ‘Yeah man, I LOVE the rain. Yeah. LOVE IT.Iwon’t lie to to you I’ve had a nightmare journey but I’m here now and yeah man, hey, you know what?
I haven’t got any shoes…..yeah, well I HAD shoes, but you know, well I took off my shoes and socks to relax a bit and….they were gone.’

Seat suit: ‘Yeah, hi, just on my way back from London. Well, to be honest, he was bit weak, its like he couldn’t be bothered. No, nothing I couldn’t have learnt a couple of hours reading it on my own. But if going all the way to London for 3 days is what Dave wants…. well theres only four of us and a MUPPET. Yeah and theres this Colin character. Muppet.I don’t like to say it but I think he’s a bit (pauses) slow.I normally would get to know new people in the lunch break but with him I just couldn’t be bothered- just went for a walk on my own. If you have to say something you have to say it a hundred times. I can tell you if he’s on my team, its going to be a very short probation, know what I mean?’

Floor rucsac guy: ‘Hi MAN. Yeah its me.Yeah I’m on the train to Eastbourne.I’ve got no shoes man. Coming to you like Jesus! Like JESUS.’

At Eastbourne I wait behind rucsac guy to get off. He has a pair of boots tied to the back of his rucsac.