Images by Michelle Matthews
In the middle of the Balinese jungle, the Green School has been gaining attention for its pioneering efforts to foster academic, experiential, environmental and entrepreneurial learning, in one of the most idyllic settings a kid could hope for. Michelle Matthews visited the campus, which has been certified ‘the greenest school on earth’ by the US Green Building Council.
I knew the Green School was a mid-jungle campus on the Indonesian island of Bali but beyond foliage, I had no real idea about what made it so green. So I, like anyone with good driver, can turn up on a school day at 2.45 and join their tour of the grounds.
It really is a feat to find the place so it’s surprising to arrive and find more than 30 people milling about the three, entryway eateries waiting to get started; the Living Food Lab, FREAK Coffee and a more conventional food outlet. All open-air and mindful.
On the day of my tour I met Alan Wagstaff, the man who conceived of the Green School in his Three Springs manifesto with an idealistic vision of how education could be transformed. John Hardy, a longtime Bali entrepremogul called him up asking where this school was… When told that it didn’t exist he said “well I guess I’ll have to build it then” and so it was done. Five years later and the Green School educates 270 students of all levels from over 50 countries. Some parents even relocate to Bali just to send their kids to this school and certainly by the end of the tour you might feel you were compromising your kids’ future by not sending them here.
So what is going on at the Green School? There are so many big ideas at play here. They grow and harvest their own rice, raise goats, and run facilities such as the hatchery – an aviary that takes threatened Indonesian bird species and attempts to breed them off the endangered list. Already they’ve trebled the population of the beautiful Bali Starling, previously thought to be so rare that only 35 to remained in the wild. The second graders have the task of breeding the mealworms and then feeding them to the birds.
Some of the older children are learning about the medicinal properties of plants. With relatively few doctors on Bali, healthcare is a role filled by the community and the pharmacies. A Javanese nursery has supplied dozens of seedlings for medicinal plants found across the archipelago which will be planted and harvested with the ultimate goal of creating a commercially viable, all natural ‘apotek’ – the local word for pharmacy, revealing its Dutch language influence.
Commercial projects are an important part of the school’s holistic approach to education. There are two parent-built and run businesses on campus. One is a media company that’s building iPhone and Android apps for the Green School, the other a circular, two-story kid’s after-school yoga studio made from reclaimed materials.
The School is indeed super ‘green’, with wet and dry toilets in each cubicle, an actual forest of solar panels, all bamboo construction, minimal air-conditioning, comprehensive use of local, sustainable materials for signage and construction, creation of ‘living’ fences and recycled car windshields as white boards… and it goes on and on.
The majestic Ayung River runs right through the school, the island’s longest and most spiritual river. Spanning the river is a soaring upturned ark-shaped bridge that doubles as a convenient crossing for the local people who walk freely through the grounds as needed. This is part of the contribution to and integration with the community. Part of the Three Springs document talks about it being part of a village and so the Green Village is being built nearby.
At the end of the day the Green School is a school for academic development, albeit whole body and mind-based learning. It’s also a place for kids to play. For this purpose, they’ve thoughtfully installed a mud-wrestling arena. Arguably the greatest draw card a school could have to lure kids to learning…
The Green School
By Michelle Matthews
Founder of Deck of Secrets, part time Bali resident