Spiralling bamboo architecture, open air classrooms and lessons in sustainable agriculture are just a few of the elements that make Green School a visionary establishment that promises to inspire the way we teach in the future. While in Bali this January, I had the fortunate opportunity to tour the eco institute, which I had heard about through John Hardy’s TED Talk (see below). Exploring the grounds in person was incredible. I was blown away by his vision and more importantly, by his ability to transform his daring dream into reality.
John Hardy’s drive to build the school came after he watched An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary that moved him so deeply that he knew he had to take action, and in 2007, he sold his jewelry business to make Green School a reality. With an emphasis on being environmentally-friendly, Hardy and his wife Cynthia built Green School in such a way that it peacefully integrates into its surrounding bamboo forest. Based in Bali, Indonesia, this pre-K to grade 10 school currently educates 231 students, 20% of which are local Balinese children there on scholarship.
The school is bursting with creative green features, from whiteboards made of recycled windshields, to livestock that act as lawnmowers, to composting toilets. Light is taken care of by the architecture, as all the classrooms are open-air, lacking windows and doors. Bali’s annual temperatures average around 31 degrees Celsius, or 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit, and with humidity levels between 60-85%, it can start to feel pretty sticky — not exactly an environment conducive to studying. To solve that problem and escape the heat of the Balinese jungle, each classroom offers little “cooling caves” or inflatable room-within-a-room concepts that serve as air-conditioned retreats on hotter days.
Green School was opened in 2008 and has since become known for its incredible bamboo architecture, in fact, some say the Heart Centre might be the largest bamboo building in the world. Even more impressive is that it was built in just three months, by 80 workers.
The school’s curriculum includes a “Green Study” program that applies theories on sustainable living. This incorporates everything from farming on the grounds, to the construction of what our guide called a “clubhouse made by teenage architects.”
“We had been home schooling for three years, because we were travelling to and from New York,” Cynthia Hardy said in an interview. “It was required that we had to have a home schooling teacher. And when we no longer needed to do home schooling, we looked at the schools in Bali and felt that it would be a beautiful contribution for us to leave something really important behind for future generations.”
Not far from the town of Ubud, Green School is currently running a boarding pilot project. According to our guide, the boarding program is set to launch officially in August 2011 to welcome global students whose parents may not be able to relocate to Bali.
I see Green School as the haute couture of education. In the world of fashion, the couture shows serve as inspiration for future collections by designers across the world — couture shows often set the key trends. They influence the industry. Unless you have thousands of dollars to blow on fashion, are passionate about the pinnacle of sartorial eccentricity, or you’re wanting to get married in the most exquisite kind of gown, you wouldn’t buy from these shows. Directly off the runway, these pieces cannot serve the masses, yet their influences are integral to the fashion industry. My hope is that Green School can serve as the same sort of pivotal inspiration in the world of education.