It’s been a while since my visit to Bali, but I wanted to share with you a gem of a school I was able to tour there.
With only two extra days in Bali that I had on my own in December outside of the retreat I attended, I decided to dedicate one day to visiting the Green School. I had heard about the Green School from my mentors, who recommended a visit due to my interest in alternative education.
How can I even begin to describe the Green School? It’s like an educational oasis with nature as the students’ classroom and playground. Here are a few highlights from my visit:
Heart of School
Above is the visual the school is most known for: the intricate bamboo structure on campus called the “Heart of School”, which houses administrative units, the library as well as some classrooms. This structure was built by local Balinese builders, and amazingly, was completed without exact measurements.
Model of the Heart of School
Among what impressed me about the school were its environmental consciousness and integration of nature into its curriculum.
The school encourages the use of reusable water bottles vs. plastic bottles, and has its own water filtration system. They have a waste management system where they work with dozens of homes around the school and allow local children to attend afterschool activities in exchange for bags of trash that are then sorted and recycled. The school is partially powered by solar panels, and partially by a vortex which converts river flow/force into energy. It’s not completely off the grid but is already a notch above others. Students came up with the idea of a “bio bus”, which takes them to and from school, and runs on biodiesel/used cooking oil. The school kitchen has banned the use of palm oil – the production of which, as you know, is very harmful to the environment, especially in Indonesia.
The vortex that generates a portion of the school’s electricity Stand selling fresh produce at the school. I love it!
In terms of the instruction, I liked the idea that students were able to use the school campus and surrounding nature (river, farming plots) to help in their learning. Early on in their education they start interacting with and learning about the environment around them, which I feel was lacking in my own education, growing up in a big city. Fourth graders had projects where they had to figure out how to sell chicken eggs at a profit, and how to make living conditions ideal for the chicken to lay eggs. Second graders learned how to harvest “liquid gold” worm juice from red worms munching on kitchen compost.
The school’s compost station Second graders’ “liquid gold” harvesting project There are garden plots scattered around the school. Here are some chili plants
What I was a little concerned about was the quality of education for the older kids. From my visit I learned that as kids get older and progress through school, classes become age-neutral and a high school class can contain kids from each grade. It seemed classes were interdisciplinary – for example, we saw kids in English class incorporating photography into their project. I can appreciate that, but I wasn’t sure how rigorous the academics were for them. Not that academic rigor is a prerequisite for a fulfilled adult life, but I do believe some intellectual stimulation is necessary. Either way, I saw how happy the students were. Having classrooms without walls would perhaps subconsciously plant in their heads that there are no limits to what they can do. I do also believe that children who grow up with a strong connection to the Earth become well-adjusted, wholesome adults.
A typical classroom The school’s yoga studio Mud pit for mud wrestling
In the end, I know no school is perfect. I appreciate the bold stance of the Green School and am in awe of how they’ve managed to create a green space that brings together a wonderful school community, while at the same time being mindful of their responsibility to the broader Balinese community. Perhaps more schools can take a page from their book and incorporate more gardening, nature, and sustainability into children’s education. In an era of gadgets and electronic everything, I think it’s much needed.