By Lily Tekseng
(All photos © The Green School)
Many believe that the Green School in Bali, Indonesia, is the Greenest School in the World, and rightly so
The Green School has become an architectural monument of sustainability and a conceptual model for progressive education. It brings together seemingly disparate ideas such as imparting quality education in an environment friendly surroundings, in pioneering, novel ways.
For decades founders John Hardy and his wife Cynthia had been operating a very lucrative jewellery business out of Bali— the place where they’d first met and fallen in love with each other. Sometime in 2006, Cynthia dragged John to watch a movie called An Inconvenient Truth, now considered a seminal movie on global warming. By this time, both John and Cynthia had taken an early retirement, and had a happy brood of four to take care of. “I realised that even if a part of what Al Gore said in An Inconvenient Truth was true, my children wouldn’t have the life I did. So I decided to dedicate my life to improving their possibilities,” says J Hardy.
John’s own encounters with educational institutions were far from utopic. As a child he wanted to be a fire fighter but failed the entry test because of his dyslexia. After reading Alan Wagstaff’s Three Springs, a book about an educational concept that conceives learning as a small village with three thrust areas— educational, social and commercial— the founding couple’s conviction to start a school became stronger than ever. In August 2006, they decided to build the Green School. Wagstaff, the author of the book that so impressed Hardy, currently serves as the learning manager and concept designer for Green School.
One of the many wall-less classrooms in Green School
The classrooms feature no walls and abundant natural light streams in freely, the blackboards are made of bamboo, the compost toilets are water-saving. Plastic bags are absent on campus, and its 20-acre expanse is solar powered and self sustaining. The school boasts the second ever hydro powered vortex generator built in the world, producing 800 watts of electricity
The word of Green School spread like wildfire and they were soon flooded by extremely diverse and interesting sets of people willing to join their community. However, their journey to today’s stability wasn’t meteoric and comfortable. In October 2008, the global financial crisis hit and suddenly, the flow of funds for the building of Green School came to a halt. On another stormy night in 2010, the Ayung River that navigates around the school flooded and washed away the iconic Kul-Kul bamboo bridge. But these became minor aberrations that embellished the story of the school’s conception and growth.
Green School was awarded the ‘2012 Greenest School on Earth’ by the US Green Building Council (USGGBC) Centre for Green Schools. In 2010, it was a finalist for the AGA Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA), a prestigious architectural prize awarded to architectural concepts that improve the environment and contribute to community development in Islamic societies.
The architectural design of the Green School is undoubtedly the most attractive feature of the initiative. In line with their creative impulses, John and Cynthia engaged an eclectic team of designers, artists and architects to build the school instead of hiring a conventional architecture firm.
The school was established alongside the Meranggi Foundation, a non profit that develops bamboo plantations by giving seedlings to local farmers. The architectural firm PT Bamboo Pure, established by John to specialise in bamboo architecture, built large parts of the school; ie, the four classrooms, the drop-off centre, faculty housing, offices, cafes, bathrooms, a gym, the Kul-Kul Bridge that spans 22 metres across the Ayung River, and the heart of the school.
The classrooms have no walls but abundant natural light, the blackboards are made of bamboo, the compost toilets are water-conserving, there are no plastic bags on campus, and its 20-acre expanse is solar powered and self sustaining. It has the second ever hydro powered vortex generator built in the world, which produces 800 watts of electricity with just a small drop of two-and-a-half metre in the river. Overall, the school is off the grid and has carbon negative footprint.
The campus also includes an organic garden and utilises other forms of renewable energy, such as a bamboo sawdust hot water and cooking system (no gas), and solar panels. Other inhabitants of the school include a cow, buffalo, and endangered Bali pigs. The Green Studies Programme engages students in environmental stewardship and the Food Programme ensures that students run gardens, care for animals, and participate in the onsite kitchen. To make every child’s dream comes true, the school even has its very own chocolate factory!
A Green Education
Yayasan Kul Kul, a non profit foundation, governs the Green School and is responsible for ensuring the school’s legal compliance and social harmony. In accordance with the school’s principle to be truly local, the Yayasan follows a uniquely Indonesian legal structure and coordinates between the Indonesian government, the school and the eight banjars (ethnic communities) skirting the establishment’s premises.
The academy is a pioneer in introducing sustainability (environmental, systems oriented, financial, cultural and social) to education in an imaginative and purposeful way. It stresses on the difference between curriculum and pedagogy, the former being the ‘what’ of the syllabus and the latter being the ‘how’ of teaching. Drawing from Wagstaff’s progressive educational model, the pedagogical method followed rests on three frames of learning, ie, the Integral Frame, the Instructional Frame and the Experiential Frame.
In all the three frames, the Big Four of intellectual quotient (IQ), physical or active quotient (PQ), expressive or creative quotient (XQ) and emotional quotient (EQ), are emphasised. The Integral frame is the key area for teaching values, attitudes, habits and critical thinking skills. The instructional frame emphasises on proficiency in key learning areas of English, Math and other subjects. The experiential frame focuses on the practical aspects of teaching concepts. This includes the subjects of Green Studies and Enterprise education.
Notable Visitors & Alliances
Green School has garnered attention and appreciation from many prominent personalities such as the eco feminist Vandana Shiva, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, UN Peace Messenger Jane Goodall, supermodel Tyra Banks, and poet and activist Michael Frantic.
Its partnerships include the Green Camp and Kul Kul Farm. Green Camp offers children’s camps, family camps, corporate building programmes and school programmes with the objective of teaching sustainable leadership through outdoor experiential learning. The environment friendly seminary has partnered with United World College, Singapore; Lycee Francais, New Delhi; the Ivanhoe Grammar School in Australia, and iCAN School, Cambodia. It has also partnered with the Green Institute, an institute launched by Green Camp last year, to offer courses to adults on green leadership, sustainable architecture and agriculture.
The future is very bright for The Green School. It has plans to build schools in more countries using the same model. Fore!
THE GREEN SCHOOL IN A CAPSULE
Year of Establishment: 2008
Awards Received: 2012 Greenest School on Earth, Centre for Green Schools, USA
Boarding Facility: Available
Annual Fee (excluding additional fees): Junior School: 87,064,761 IDR to 165,264,407 IDR (approx Rs 3,99,035– Rs 7,57,439); Middle School:183,701,180 IDR (approx Rs 8,41,938); High School: 194,579,276 IDR (approx Rs 8,91,794)
Green Features: Carbon negative footprint, off grid, organic garden, green building, solar and hydro powered, bamboo construction, compost toilets, plastic free campus
This article appeared in the October 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India