Your NameCatarina Soares
TRP Cohort AssignmentEurope Summer-Fall 2023, Cohort 1
Study Cohort Members

The Potentialists: John Ennis, Catarina Soares, Niels Devissher, Teja Rot, Nuno Cruz

Working Title of The Project (which we will use to refer to it throughout the series)

School on a Farm - identifying the gaps towards regenerative development in a context of a fast-growing school

Project Location

Oeiras, Portugal

Nature of The Project (e.g. building, new community, economic development, etc.)


A non-profit international school, on a farm, with the purpose of “nurturing a learning community, to shape a sustainable world”

Why do you think this project is appropriate for the course assignment?

It meets the project criteria
• Located in your community or region - The project is located near Catarina’s home, and her children go to school there.

• Completed or in final stages of completion -The school was founded 12 years ago and is fully operational.

• Working to bring some whole into being, not just to solve a problem - The school was designed initially with some level of green or sustainability aspiration, and it is meant to be a vehicle for community development, rooted in the values of Service, Respect, Integrity, Growth, and Excellence.

The school was established inherently with sustainable thinking: children have gardening classes, access to a farm, and interaction with animals. Children can, for example, take cooking classes, and pick and cook with their own fruits and vegetables. The school canteen offers vegetarian and vegan options and wellbeing is a central part of decision making.

There is interaction with the community, namely the elderly home who are the recipients of the veggies for their daily soup and the eggs for their meals, and monthly donations, but it is one-sided and the potential of learning from the neighboring community is lost.

• A contact person who is connected to the project and is not only willing to be interviewed about the thinking that went into it, but also has some interest in what you are learning. Ideally, s/he would appreciate and invite reflections from you after you have completed the scenario - The school Principal is interested in participating in the interviews and the process and we will have full access to the facilities, plus the Principal is also keen on receiving our insights and findings at the end of the course; that being said we have clarified that we won’t be prescribing anything and that the nature of this project is to support the learning of our study group and not consulting or lecturing the school and its leadership team.

It has nested potential and can create higher-order value:

Education is the quintessential gift that keeps on giving! Education of children affects parents, educators, and their families, and here we can have learners creating ecological awareness and new ways of collaboration and action, rooted in the heart. An international school, in this case, with families from dozens of cultures, nested within a fragile community (Barcarena) in the vicinity of Lisbon, within Portugal, with all its richness and potential.

Each of our study group members has identified aspects of this project that can bring synergies, ideas, and insights to our future work:

Catarina - I am passionate about education and see a school as a rich ecosystem and anchor for the regenerative development of a community; as the children learn and grow, they themselves become motors of development for their families and communities around the world. I have been sensing that I will be involved in founding a new school in the countryside, perhaps in the Alentejo coast region, and this project will be an incredible opportunity for growth for me, for my family, and hopefully, one day, for a whole region. I was also a founder of this school (the one under the project study), and my children currently attend this school, and all beneficial insights and learnings that may positively affect the school and its community will positively affect me, my family, and my communities. As a teacher myself of international Masters students and executives, all this will also transpose positively to my learners and their communities.

Teja: I worked in an environmental education project in the past and school in sustainable and social architecture and so I am very curious and eager to embark on a learning journey where we shall be imagineering better futures in the field of education. I have some experience in social entrepreneurship and organising empowerment training for vulnerable groups in developing countries like Kenya and Morocco. I am urban innovator and architect of peace and otherwise not engaged in educational sector but I believe that this project will provide many insights and learnings for my field of practice as well.

John - I am currently engaged in developing an Outdoor Classroom programme in an inner city school in Edinburgh, aimed at engaging 10-year-olds; we are using flax fibre and its processing to linen as a potent focus for discussion on ecology and regenerative textiles. My wider interests in construction and community development are also well-served. As a group, we have enjoyed uncovering our individual regenerative perspectives, swiftly focusing on Education as a shared interest as we grow together. We harbour hopes that the wider Class Cohort can share in our group journey from a number of perspectives, given the ‘school on a farm’ location near Lisbon, including some expertise with our group in communicating the regenerative.

Niels - I volunteered as a youth movement mentor for 4 years, and have always been fascinated by how children and adolescents see the world, and created activities that engaged them through imagination and play. I believe that looking at a school through a regenerative lens, assessing the thinking underpinning their curriculum and activities can be transformational for us, and potentially also for the teachers and students. How we educate children has abundant nested potential: Parents and the extended family are also influenced and learn from children. The potential is even bigger when we can empower them to generate ideas and co-develop life-affirming projects for their community. I’m interested in thinking about the ways a school can serve as a learning hub, where parents and members of the community co-create and engage in learning — a process that has already started in our project but that can be improved and expanded upon. I’m also co-founding a community learning platform for communicators wanting to embrace regeneration in their work, and I’m sure the learnings will inspire the shapings of the platform and the different approaches to sharing and developing knowledge.


Date CreatedSeptember 26, 2023