Naturally Smart Places spreading to more Catholic schools

February 18, 2016

The Naturally Smart Places project run by Pop Up Foundation has been in development for over 10 years and has worked with schools all over the world.  The program has now connected with a third of the Catholic schools in South Australia and will go further later this year when a new network group will be formed there. The programme is also extending with training to groups of school principals in the northwest UK (three 3-day workshops) this spring 2016.  The UK Catholic schools involved expressed that this was their first meeting together on considering the encyclical in the context of their school communities.  One program will be held in a large Catholic secondary / high school (11-18 years), with the participation of teachers from various elementary feeder schools and this will be one of three new networks in the UK starting in the net few months.

Naturally Smart Schools have used a permaculture design approach adapted to school environments, which has now been used from kindergarten through to University level.  Built upon the research of Professor Paul Clarke from St Marys University London the programme adopts the idea is that intelligence is not ours alone, but a property of the earth and its systems, in which we are immersed.  Each terrain has its own intelligence and order, as the popes have noted.  How do we become naturally smart and share what we learn to enhance well-being for people and planet? This is the basis of the enquiry and practice of the school communities as they take Laudato Si into their daily lives.

The work focuses on the relationship between the Place as a natural ecosystem, and the people as a part of that living Place and how specific aspects of daily life can be first audited such as energy, water use, waste generation, food service procurement, and health and well-being implications, together with a detailed analysis of the location, the geolocation, landscape, tree varieties, plant and insect studies, etc.  These serve as a backdrop to design projects that consider the ways that this school community can begin to actively engage in this environment to regenerate and enhance the ecosystem function as part of their response to the exhortations of Laudato Si’.  The approach takes a local view of the big picture agenda of climate change and ecological degradation, via guided engagement and stimulus to respond to people’s own places.  The network of schools pursuing similarly configured but locally nuanced responses builds a powerful set of examples and illustrative interventions to inform and nurture new learning and encourage others to begin to participate.  Initial findings will be presented at the UK national Catholic schools education gatherings in October 2016 and through St Marys University events.  In time, the Naturally Smart places are intended to serve as bases for community development, providing teaching, resources and new opportunities to innovate and create local examples of transformation and ecological conversion.

Naturally Smart Places were initiated and further developed in France, where the first such location is Chateau de Millemont near Paris, the operational base of Pop Up Foundation. Naturally Smart places demonstrate in a range of ways how to live sustainably through their activity, relationship to land, generating new jobs and work environment and creating the spirit of place through a powerful relationship with nature in all aspects of our human action.  See

The Naturally Smart resources have been put in a an open source 4 share-alike license, so anyone using the template will have freedom to innovate, but they must report their work back to the growing network, to promote sharing and networking and accelerate solutions.  Together the network is creating a “strong, systemic response to the challenge of shifting ecological consciousness,” says Professor Paul Clarke of the Pop-Up Foundation.

Naturally Smart Place projects are underway in schools in BC Canada, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Essex and Lancashire in the UK, Adelaide and Tasmania, Australia and the approach will be presented in a TEDx presentation in Bergen, Norway, at  OuiShare in Paris in spring 2016, and Darwin Australia and Sau Paulo Brasil later in the year.

Pop-up classroom 3 Adelaide

The Naturally Smart program in action in Adelaide, Australia