A bamboo bubble of education tucked away in the jungles of Bali, Green School in Abiansemal is a non-profit, private and international pre-kindergarten to high school parked along the Ayung River.
With sustainability at its core, a connection to nature and a huge investment in student imaginations, learners at Green School are taught to think openly, to thrive with purpose and to become a green leader of tomorrow.
Through purposeful learning programmes, a passionate community of learners and a wall-less learning environment, nature becomes the classroom.
Instead of blocking children’s creative bursts behind concrete walls, Green School creates systems thinkers and eradicates piercing shadows of doubt with seeping sunlight, encouraging students to learn, rather than discouraging them.
Embarking on an educational discovery of my own, I caught up with Glenn Chickering, Head of Faculty at Green School Bali at BETT Asia 2019 to find out how his school is disrupting the global education scene.
A founding faculty member, Glenn brings with him a wealth of experience about sustainability in education and has gained perspectives on the needs of the student, teacher, and parent from different vantage points.
Playing a key role in the creation of Green School’s experiential and place-based learning programmes, he is always focused on educating for sustainability and connecting students to their communities through real-world projects.
SI: You’re an integral part of a school that’s based on sustainability and notably develops real-world solutions, so how have these solutions impacted your surrounding communities and the wider world?
Glenn: The ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ movement is one that went global. Green school students Melati and Isabel started a worldwide campaign to end the plastic problem on the beautiful island of Bali which resulted in the Governor of Bali committing to rid the island of plastic bags by 2020. And the smartest thing we did as a school is to not get in their way.
Other initiatives we have include is the bio-bus, powered by cooking oil. It aims to create zero waste and inspire green transportation around the world. And Operation Rain or Shine, where we want to develop a new and improved model of renewable energy production and storage for the school and local community that is resilient and reliable throughout the year.
Plus, our diving clubs are raising a lot of coral-reef awareness, so people are starting to realise the importance of the health of our reefs and the conservation of sharks.
SI: These projects sound amazing! Do they involve learners from local communities?
Glenn: Of course – we try to get everyone involved! In fact, we have the Kul Kul Connection initiative that links the international community of Green School with the local community of Sibangkaja.
So, Kul Kul is a word in Balinese culture that signifies ‘bringing the community together’ and there’s an actual bamboo sound maker called Kul Kul that they traditionally pound when they need to bring everyone together for a community meeting.
We have about 300+ local students that come to our campus everyday for English language lessons. They embed into our Jalan-Jalan programmes, we’ll sometimes take Kul Kul students to Model United Nations and there are scholarships on offer for local learners. Sustainability through unity is an important factor of Green School.
SI: Kul Kul seems like a cool initiative where anyone has the chance to learn. But we’d like to know, what have you learnt from your 11 years at Green School so far?
Glenn: Well, I’ve learnt to slow down. Traditional schooling is often guilty of rushing their curriculum and pressuring students to know it all and not wait for other learners to catch up. But for me, content is a great vehicle for developing skills, and to do that, we need to slow down, make mistakes and reflect on them!
And another thing I’ve learned about sustainability is that if we really want our world to become sustainable, we have to become systems thinkers. Education is so inherently complex, so its important for children to adopt a holistic approach to learning in order to better the world.
SI: So systems thinking is a key cog in the wheel of education at Green School, we are excited to see where your journey will take you!
Glenn: And so are we! In 2020 we are opening up a Green School in New Zealand – so watch out for that!
— Emily Devonald (@emdevonald) March 13, 2019
Aiming to allocate 20 percent of its places to scholarship students from Bali and other Indonesian islands and always on the hunt for proactive sustainability projects, Green School is a liberating learning environment where students become systems thinkers.
Bulldozing the restricted frameworks of education and teaching students in a natural classroom climate has not only transformed the way learners think, but also has the potential to change the way the whole world thinks.
And as Glenn concludes for readers of Study International, “Green School is going to help children know themselves, trust themselves and know how they can best engage with the world.”
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Green School acts locally first; we immerse learning in our immediate surroundings, culture, and community and then we think global. How do we do that? In this drama class, for example, our High School students learn and practice together with students from a local school in Bali. #thisisgreenschool