Sustainable Studies: The Green School in Bali, Indonesia

Indonesia's serene island of Bali is celebrated for its lush landscapes, vibrant culture, and now, an educational revolution. Amidst the dense jungles and sprawling rice fields, an extraordinary school is redefining the traditional norms of education. Welcome to Green School Bali, an international pre-kindergarten to high school that is as green as it is innovative. This radically different learning institute is dedicated to nurturing a new generation of changemakers equipped to tackle global issues like climate change.

(Ted blog)

Founded by John and Cynthia Hardy in 2008, Green School Bali was a dream carved out of bamboo and hope. The Hardys, after reading Alan Wagstaff's Three Springs concept document for an educational village community, envisioned a school that emerged from the jungle and rice fields. The school opened its doors to 90 students, and today, it has bloomed into a bustling education hub with more than 400 students.

Green School's campus is a testament to the potential of sustainable architecture. Over 70 buildings, constructed primarily from renewable resources like bamboo, local grass, and traditional mud walls, dot the school grounds. The "Heart of the School," a striking 60-meter-long stilt-structure constructed with 2500 bamboo poles, serves as the nucleus of this jungle campus. This stunning campus seamlessly blends with nature, emerging organically from the surrounding jungle.

Bamboo isn’t just an architectural choice; it's a symbol of the school's commitment to renewable resources. The campus also uses renewable energy sources like micro-hydro power from a hydroelectric vortex and solar power.

Green School Bali's curriculum is as unique as its architecture. Education is holistic and community-integrated, with a curriculum that balances traditional subjects with green studies, environmental science, entrepreneurial learning, and the creative arts. The school operates on a principle it calls 'R.E.A.L.' learning, which stands for Relational, Experiential, Action-oriented, and Local to global. These principles are woven into the fabric of the school's teaching, encouraging students to learn in relation to their environment, through hands-on experiences, and in a way that promotes proactive engagement with the world.

At the Green School, learning doesn't stop at the classroom door. It spills over into the school's organic gardens, the innovative Bio Bus project that uses biodiesel made from used cooking oil, and the community-focused Kul Kul Connection program. Students at Green School are not just learning from textbooks; they're learning from life.

For example, students might study bamboo construction methods by actually building campus structures. Or learn about business by launching upcycled craft initiatives at the local farmer's market. The goal is to cultivate thinkers who can connect with global issues and take meaningful action. 16-year-old Clover Hogan recalls how building a real bridge over the Ayung River taught her about geometry and engineering in a way no textbook could. Other students learn DJing, chocolate-making or martial arts as part of the curriculum.

Green School's unconventional curriculum extends beyond academics to include a vibrant array of extracurricular activities. The Kul Kul Connection, a community program founded in 2016, hosts over 210 local students focusing on English language and sustainability.

The school's governance structure includes faculty, parents, and local community members, reflecting its commitment to collective decision-making and progress. This innovative model earned Green School the prestigious "Greenest School on Earth" award by the U.S. Green Building Council in 2012.

The school's alumni have gone on to make impressive impacts in their own right. Take sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen who launched the Bye Bye Plastics Bags initiative at ages 10 and 12. Their determined efforts led to Bali implementing a island-wide ban on plastic bags. Alumni like Clover Hogan, Shiina Tsuyuki, and Harry Rostron have gone on to start youth organizations, give TED talks, and attend top universities - all fueled by their Green School experience.

According to Green School parent Janet Hogan, the most telling indicator of the success of the Green School is how excited students are to attend school. Her daughter Clover "loved every minute and was upset if she ever had to miss a day."

For the youth, the Green School stands as a shining example of what education can and perhaps should be in an era of climate change. It proves that schools can function as living laboratories for sustainability, cultivating not just academic prowess but also the virtues of ecological citizenship. It is an inspiring reminder that each of us has the power to contribute to the healing of our planet, and that education can be a powerful catalyst for environmental change.

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