Green School, Bali
A unique school in Bali was awarded ‘Greenest School on Earth’ status in 2012 by the Center for Green Schools. Here, learning about sustainability and green living goes hand in hand with studying more traditional subjects.
Some of the most innovative schools around the world are international schools. New, ambitious projects spring up, then attract interest from parents and pupils from all over the world, creating globally aware, diverse and interesting places of learning.
"Being at one with nature has a huge and positive impact on our students’ learning."
Green School in Bali is a perfect example of this. Some families have moved to Bali specifically so their children can enjoy the unique education Green School offers, while local children make up a proportion of the students and also benefit from the school’s approach.
Established by John and Elora Hardy in 2008, Green School Bali is breath-taking to look at. The school is set in 20 acres of rolling garden, hidden in the jungle, and is bisected by the Ayung River. It consists of two dozen buildings built from giant bamboo poles. There are no walls, and there is no air-conditioning, just gracefully arched roofs, concrete floors and bamboo furniture. There is also, however, a computer lab, a well-stocked library and an array of courses drawn from an internationally-recognised curriculum which is taught in English.
The school caters for nearly 400 children from 32 countries. Pupils study traditional subjects: maths, grammar, science, business studies, drama; but also Bahasa Indonesia, the official language spoken in this country of 240 million people. And from its bamboo swimming pools to its home-grown lunches, every aspect of Green School Bali is a model of sustainability.
John Hardy, a Canadian who moved to Bali in 1975 and established a successful jewellery business there, says he was a very contented man on the brink of retirement when he saw Al Gore’s 2006 documentary film An Inconvenient Truth about the dangers of global warming. “It changed my life,” he says. “Once I had seen that I could not turn my back on the environmental situation. It inspired me to create a more sustainable business model and establish the Green School to change the existing education and environment paradigms.”
The aim of the school, says John, is not only to provide a traditional education to children but to incorporate sustainable and environmental learning as well. “It aims to raise a generation of children who are more aware of the environmental issues we face globally. We encourage green entrepreneurial skills from a young age in both the pupils and local communities.”
Children at Green School are as likely to be learning biology by spending time working in the school garden and looking after the school buffalo, or studying geographical topics on the banks of the river which flows through the campus, as they are to be learning in a classroom using books and paper.
“Being at one with nature has a huge and positive impact on our students’ learning process. It positively affects the quality of their relationships, the way that people conduct themselves and behave with sensitivity to each other, and it helps those youngsters who are easily distracted in conventional classrooms to focus much more on their tasks,” says John.
Among many activities which complement the academic learning at Green School, students get involved in creating community-based solutions to big challenges through the Roots and Shoots programme. This involves the young people mapping their community to identify specific challenges their neighbourhoods face; they then prioritize the problems, develop a plan for a solution to each one, and take action. Projects like this, John believes, are what provide an essential extra strand to the children’s education.
“An education at Green School is preparation for our Green leaders of tomorrow,” says Hardy. “Our students will be the confident generation that wants to, and can, make a difference.”
A Parent's Perspective
Marta Kaltreider has three children currently at Green School. She describes learning more about the school’s programme called Kul-Kul Connection which develops relations with the local community.
“We attended the Kul-Kul Connection Ramah Tamah [welcoming] celebration and found it to be truly inspirational.
Ever since we found out about Green School we have been hearing snippets about Kul-Kul Connection, but it wasn’t until the Ramah Tamah celebration that we realized its importance. Kul-Kul Connection goes beyond providing English lessons and after school activities to Balinese children. It strives to achieve integration between the local community and the Green School community so we can all work cooperatively to turn Sibang Kaja into the greenest village in Bali.
Through learning activities such as plays, field trips, music and involvement in green initiatives in Bali and beyond (Bio Bus, Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Trash Walks and Kul-Kul Farms just to mention a few), Kul-Kul Connection is building a community with strong ties to the environment. It encourages younger generations to be aware of how they can make a difference and solve the challenges of living a sustainable life.
It was empowering and inspiring to see Green School teachers, staff and parents working together and supporting the local kids who so proudly performed, spoke and danced for us, their community, sharing all the lessons that they have learned. Their sense of belonging, the pride of their acquired skills and knowledge and the will to turn Sibang Kaja into a role model of green living was incredibly inspirational.”
Images: Green School, Bali