The Little Captain and the Great Sea

Lightning flashed, thunder cracked and rain poured from the sky. The boat rocked dangerously as huge storm waves splashed on the deck. The little captain took a deep belly breath to steady himself and calm the fast beating of his heart so that he could thinking clearly. He held the steering wheel firmly in his hands and guided the boat through the terrible thunderstorm to quieter waters. He loved being in charge of his ship, he enjoyed knowing exactly what to do. The dark clouds had dispersed and a few stars shone brightly in the sky. The waves were calm and gentle, and so was his breathing, now that the danger had passed. Looking out over the peaceful sea at night, with the light of the moon dancing across the ripples, he relaxed and smiled.

What is it?

ISSA members Sardes (the Netherlands) and the Neohumanist Education Association (AEN, Romania) developed this Peer Learning Activity (PLA) as a 2-day joint learning activity about the role of yoga and meditation techniques in stimulating young children’s Executive Function and Self-Regulation. The starting point is The Little Captain, developed by Sardes as a professional development package that helps preschool teachers to stimulate children’s Executive Function and Self-Regulation.

What is Executive Function?

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CiP Peer Learning in Scotland!

The Children in Permaculture partners met in Scotland, in September 2017 for a practical peer-to-peer learning experience. Each partner organised a learning experience in the outdoors for children from the local schools of Gatehouse and Twynholm.  It was an opportunity to test out activities designed within the “Children in Permaculture” curriculum and receive feedback from peers, teachers and most importantly, the children.

Activities organised by the CiP team included creating a rainwater catchment system on a greenhouse, learning about birds, storytelling and play in the forest, puppet play, making a wormery and many more. Many of the successful activities will be included in the teacher’s manual that the team is busy editing.

The event was covered by the local newspaper:

cip news article

aen CIP erasmus plus logos


Video: Children in Permaculture Romania trip “It was the chance of a lifetime!”

As the group of 19 Scottish school children from the “Children in Permaculture” (CiP) project, all wearing matching green baseball hats, waited in the Otopeni airport in Bucharest for their delayed flight home, they decided to use the opportunity to interview each other about their experience over the previous five days in Romania.

“It was the chance of a lifetime,” enthused one of the boys, “I hope to come back, and meet all my friends again.”

“I really loved the Romania trip” another girl said, then proceeding to list her favorite memories of the trip.

“I got to learn a lot about permaculture and the ethics and principles. It was great fun!”

“I hope to come back with my family, because I think they would really like it too.”

What made the experience so memorable?

Every day was packed with learning through novel adventures, exploration and hands-on outdoor activities in nature.  It was not your typical touristic trip, visiting monuments and museums. Rather, the children had an experience from the “inside”, playing alongside Romanian children their own age at the “Fountain of Hope” afterschool center in Panatau, a small rural village in the mountains of Buzau county.

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Article about Romanian Scottish School Trip in Green Report

From May 15- 19, the Neohumanist Education Association hosted an exchange experience for 30 children from Gatehouse and Tynholm Scotland, to learn more about permaculture and experience Romanian traditions and agriculture. The project was part of the “Children in Permaculture” project, funded by Erasmus Plus.

Ana Racheleanu published an article about the experience in Green Report.

aen CIP erasmus plus logos


YiP: Youth in Permaculture begins

Youth In Permacultue (YIP) is a new initiative to support and empower young people to create resilient, fulfilling and fun lives inspired by permaculture.  Didi represented AEN at the first visioning meeting in Spain with organisations from many different countries in Europe and beyond.

Encouraged by Children in Permaculture (CIP), young people involved in permaculture and leaders from the permaculture community gathered, creating a team from over eight countries to begin this exciting project.

We have a web page with resources, tools, opportunities, networks, youth projects and voices. We’ve begun the planning stage of organizing events, activities, workshops and exchange programs and will send out surveys to people interested in supporting this project. For more information visit

What is sociocracy?

Sociocracy is an easy to learn, systematic process for facilitating group dynamics that encourages full participation, shared responsibility and greater efficiency in decision making.  It is based on the idea that each of us has a valuable perspective, and that the best decisions find ways to include everyone in the process, thus drawing on the collective wisdom of the whole group. Sociocracy has been effectively utilized to run everything from international Erasmus projects, to eco-villages to an electric engineering company. Find out more here.


Children from an Afterschool in Buzau county Romania share agricultural traditions with 19 Scottish School Children

On May 14th, 19 school children aged 11-12 from the Gatehouse School in Scotland will be boarding an airplane to meet the children of Fountain of Hope Afterschool Center, in Panatau, Buzau county. The Romanian children will introduce the Scottish students to Romanian village life and have a chance to share their specialized knowledge about traditional agriculture and sustainable practices that has been forgotten about in countries used to industrialized agriculture. The exchange experience is organised on the Romanian level by Asociatia Educatie Neoumanista, one of 5 international partner organisations within the “Children in Permaculture” Project, an Erasmus plus Strategic Project financed by the EU.

The visiting children will have the opportunity to experience and appreciate the beautiful richness of Romanian rural life. This is all the more relevant at a time when many young people all over the world are leaving rural villages that have maintained a more sustainable eco-friendly lifestyle for hundreds of years and are migrating to industrialized cities. The exchange aims to help both the Romanian and Scottish children to value rural lifestyle. Permaculture is a design system that is inspired by traditional agricultural practices that respect nature, and is attracting a new, younger generation all over the world towards sustainable rural living. It is guided by three main ethics: People care, Earth care and Fair share. The Children in Permaculture project is designing curriculum, and practical resources to bring ecological education to life in schools and support the new generation in developing a holistic connection and deep love and appreciation for nature. This is essential for creating hopeful futures in face of increasing environmental crisis.

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Sociocracy: innovative method of group leadership


Do you want to: 

  • – Work more effectively in groups?
  • – Make better decisions together without wasting time in long unproductive meetings?
  • – Enjoy successful collaborations and partnership projects?
  • – Know your voice is valued and listened to?
  • – Involve and empower the people you work with?
  • – Get your business / NGO / community ready for a rapidly changing world?

Discover Sociocracy ~ the elegant and effective way to dynamically manage organisations ~ with international expert Rakesh Rak.


What is Sociocracy?

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AEN participates in conference “Early Childhood in Times of Rapid Change”

by Didi Devapriya Deshaies

In October, the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) organized a conference for early childhood professionals with the theme “Early Childhood in Times of Rapid Change” that took place this October in Vilnius, Lithuania. The conference explored four main strands – Meaningful Learning for Children, Meaningful Preparation for the Workforce, Meaningful Support for Families, Meaningful Use of Technology. The conference sought to address the experience of rapid changes facing societies around the world, bringing together experts, researchers, practioners, policy makers and NGOs to discuss these themes in a variety of interactive sessions. There was a particular emphasis on the refugee crisis and several presentations shared strategies on addressing the needs of children and families affected by displacement and the traumas of war, natural disasters or economic crisis.

I was invited to present two Neohumanist Education projects: The “Pathways to Education” project for Syrian refugee children run by AMURT Lebanon, and the “We all have a Story” project promoting inclusivity in early childhood education that took place in Romania. I was able to participate, thanks to support from the Zonnelicht school. It was an excellent opportunity for Neohumanist Education approaches to gain visibility amongst leaders in the field, as well as to learn about innovative new developments in ECE and create new networking connections with like-minded organizations and people. A Dutch organization was particularly interested in exploring collaborations in working with refugees. Connections were also made for developing further projects in the integration of severely marginalized Roma communities.

A new term that was repeatedly used in the conference was “Generation Touch” referring to the impact of touch screen technology on children who are growing up in a world where they expect every object to perform like a screen, responding instantaneously to touch. This phenomenon was explored in several of the presentations I attended. Generally, there was a consensus that technology should scaffold and support, rather than replace other types of educational interventions, and that its use should be very limited in the earliest years of a child’s life, as it can affect neurological development. In her keynote speech, Professor Liz Goodman who teaches “Inclusive Design” in Dublin, also described innovations in the use of technology to support the inclusion of special needs children, such as an innovation that allows paralyzed people to move a mouse with their eye movements. She talked about how technology can assist in personalization of services as “one size fits one”.

I particularly enjoyed a lively peer debate on the appropriate use of technology in early childhood education. I was expecting to listen to a panel of experts debating the pros and cons of technology, so I was quite taken aback when I walked in through the door and the moderator asked me whether I was for or against the use of technology in Early Childhood education – I answered “It depends…” but we had to all choose a stand and then go through a formal debate process. I ended up on the anti-tech side and argued that the most important piece of technology we must teach children to master is our own body, heart and mind. However, in reality – I recognized that technology is very difficult to avoid, and it is simply a fact that we must learn to deal with in appropriate ways. Another conclusion that was also mentioned several times in the course of the conference, is that the increase in screen time, needs to be balanced by increased conscientious attention on developing empathy and relationships.

Another keynote presentation, by Nicholas Burnett, introduced the Lancet Series, which Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale. The journal is a prestigious medical and scientific journal, which has gathered evidence to quantify the impact of early childhood education. The study shows that “children who are not nurtured properly in the early years may forfeit a quarter of their earning capacity as adults. The Series provides a roadmap to successful interventions in early childhood, along with evidence that such interventions contribute directly to ending extreme poverty, boosting shared prosperity, promoting healthy lives and learning, reducing inequalities, and maintaining peaceful societies.” The findings from the Lancet series emphasize “‘nurturing care’, especially for children below three years of age: multi-sectoral interventions starting with health – which can make a profound impact on families and young children through health and nutrition.” Dr. Burnett made a comparison with climate change – that a change in our individual behavior will not to seem to have any impact in the short term, but unless we take actions now, we will all be in much worse problems in the future.

Indeed, the Lancet series evidence has already proven useful in convincing policy makers to include investments in Early Childhood Education as part of the UN Millenium Development Goals and on more local levels. The conference concluded with the screening of a new documentary video “The Beginning of Life” which similarly can be very useful in supporting efforts to convince parents, policy makers etc about the importance of investing in early childhood education.