An Innovative Learning Environment
Green School campus, an institution with a curriculum emphasizing Green Education and ecology, sits in the lush Indonesian jungle on Bali and is bisected by the Ayung River. Bali’s terrain ranges from volcanoes and jungles to reefs, rivers and the ocean, making the school an amazing ecological classroom. The large open-air structures were created from local, natural, renewable material, primarily bamboo, and the remaining open space has been planted with organic fruit, vegetable gardens and rice paddies.
With its cultural diversity, the island and people of Bali distinguish and enrich the school. Sustainable agriculture and traditional irrigation practices provide a link between the past and the future.
Three Springs Concept
John and Cynthia Hardy conceived of Green School in 2006 following their excitement at reading Alan Wagstaff’s Three Springs concept document for an educational village community. The school opened in September 2008 with just 100 students and a tailor-made campus that had recently emerged from the jungle and rice paddies. The entire campus is a productive organic farm. As part of the curriculum, students take an active role in developing and maintaining the production of the land.
Nearly 300 students, aged 3 to 16 years old, from all over the world, attend Green School, including a small percentage of Balinese children who are supported by a scholarship program.
The curriculum teaches carbon footprint analysis, water studies, organic farming and gardening, with each student allocated a vegetable patch; each class has its own flower/vegetable garden, which students design, prepare, tend, harvest, cook, and eat. These are layered in with traditional academic subjects (math, English, science) along with creative arts and sustainability studies.
A New Learning Paradigm
Since it opened, it has grown both in size and in student numbers. As Hardy explained, “We are building Green School to create a new paradigm for learning. We want children to cultivate physical sensibilities that will enable them to adapt and be capable in the world. We want children to develop spiritual awareness and emotional intuition, and to encourage them to be in awe of life’s possibilities.”
Green School Bali has gained notice and acclaim from educators, environmentalists, architects, and media all over the world, for combining traditional academic education with sustainable practices.
The classes are Pre-kindergarten through 11 (this year it will have its first 12th grade). Surprisingly, nine families moved to Bali, with the school unseen, to allow their children to attend Green School. Along with learning academic subjects in classrooms, students step out into the campus to learn experientially and environmentally through many different projects. Green School’s goal is that students will leave with the academic skills they will need, wherever they are going, but that they also will expand their sense of being globally aware and responsible world citizens, taking with them ideas of possible ways to continue developing the planet in sustainable ways.
Green School is pioneering in combining sustainability within education. The school prepares students to be stewards of the environment, teaching them to be critical and creative thinkers, who champion the sustainability of the world and the environment. It strives to inspire their thirst to know more, equip them with appropriate and relevant knowledge, and nurture their passion to influence change in the way this planet is managed.
Preparing students for life through experiential opportunities and real-life applications is a key component of Green School’s philosophy. Whether it is sustainable agriculture, social ventures or small business, students get the opportunity to apply their skills through hands-on projects that count. There is even a bird-breeding program, designed, built and run by the students, to help save four species of endangered birds, including the Balinese Starling.
According to Ben Macrory, Director of Admissions, the students seem happier, are more compassionate, with virtually no disciplinary problems. “Although we have these open air classrooms in the jungle, with many potential distractions, our students, for the most part, appear to be highly engaged and focused. The other thing people notice here is the way the kids treat each other. We’ve had a couple of kids come in midyear with pretty significant special needs and at the schools I taught at in New York City, these kids would have been eaten alive. But here, they were totally embraced.”
Concerned about the depletion of the world’s resources, the Hardys became advocates for the use of bamboo and wanted to create a project that offered a strong alternative to rain forest timber as a building material, while participating in the fight against climate change and poverty.
They decided to build a school to demonstrate how to build with sustainable materials, inspire and educate children to live sustainably and motivate communities to fight climate change and poverty.
To build such a project, three entities were created: Green School (the architectural project), PT Bamboo (bamboo factory) and the Bamboo Community Project that work hand in hand.
- Structures are built from renewably, locally sourced bamboo, from the roof and walls to the blackboards and chairs. Roofs are made of alang-alang thatch.
- Working towards using 100 percent renewable energy, using photovoltaic panels, a micro-hydro-powered vortex generator, and bio-gas (methane extracted from animal manure) instead of bio-diesel.
- Bamboo sawdust is used to power the water heating and cooking systems.
- Walking paths are constructed with stones, rather than materials with a higher ecological impact on the site, such as cement or asphalt surfaces. The roads are volcanic rock and walkways are gravel.
Currently, Green School also has summer and holiday camps on its schedule, with groups coming from all over the world, but primarily Asia, Hong Kong and Australia. It is also the subject of a study being done called The Green School Effect: An Exploration of the Influence of Place, Space and Environment on Teaching and Learning at Green School, Bali, Indonesia by Powers of Place Initiative. The results are already apparent. “At Green School, the integral nature of the natural environment, built environment, and human community appears to be having a significant impact on the learning and development that occurs there.”
All images courtesy Green School