Learning at Ridgedale is different, it feels natural and easy, Never do I wonder what time it is when learning here and I attribute that to several factors.
On the first day of the Permaculture design course when we gathered for the first time as a group of 20 strangers in the teaching Gur (similar structure to a yurt) we sat in a circle and Richard said some organizational things. After that we went around the circle each saying our name, where we are from and what three things we are most excited about. This could be anything and didn’t have to do with farming, although most things where about farming.
It was a nice way to get something to connect the name to other than the face and place.
After everyone was finished, Richard went around and had already remembered every ones names and he then asked if anyone else wanted to try and repeat every ones names. Some people tried and it went surprisingly well. About five people went around saying the names out loud and each time every other person in the room was following them.
Then we played two quick name games to make sure we heard all the names several times. One was with a hot potato ball where you had to throw the ball to someone quickly after catching it but announce their name first.
It was amazing to see how easy 20 strangers learned each others names in about 15 minutes.
Richard kept saying how important it is to know each others names when learning in a group but only in the last couple of days have I realized how much of an impact it made on our learning. The period of being a stranger to each other was drastically shortened, because we could relate to one another with our names and that awkward period where you had to ask someone their name or where unsure about it was just cut away and we could focus on actually meeting each other. Here the three interests we said was a good starting point.
Other than the social ease I feel here for being connected to the people quickly by being able to relate to them the structure of our surroundings has a great impact on our learning.
The main classroom is a 9m diameter Gur which is a round tent covered by cloth with a wooden floor. It has an opening in the middle which is usually tied down, but can be opened on hot days for a chimney effect.
The nature of the structure lends itself to learning by not having corners, with natural light and some air coming through and the thin cloth walls that keep enough connection to the outside without interfering with the class.
There are no rules for how our bodies have to be organized in this room as long as there is no interference with others. There are chairs arranged in a circular fashion, but also rugs on the floor and even the wood floor has a nice feel to it. We take our shoes of when we enter and get comfortable. And it is not limited to the students, Richard lays on the floor sometimes or kneels or whatever is convenient at the moment. This freedom to be however we want to or need to be gives an intimacy which I have not found in many classrooms.
Between theoretical classes in the Gur we go outside whenever we can and are shown in the field whatever we are learning about. This way our minds and bodies stay active and learning is not tiring at all.