EVERYONE walks. There are no walls. There are no cars. Welcome to the world of Bali’s Green School.
It takes you back to Nature. Not “zoo” nature, not “theme park” nature. It’s the “Nature” nature kind.
The lessons taught here are to co-exist with Nature. It is essential and imperative somebody remembers how.
To survive, we need to be connected with our environment. Today we also need to disconnect with the Net, at least for a reasonable period. Or it will drive us all mad.
From its gateway to the Minang Bridge, a suspension across Ayung River, the scene looks like a page out of Swiss Family Robinson.
But there was nothing shipwrecked about its construction. It is probably the biggest and best Green School of its kind anywhere in the world.
Protected by forest and rugged hills, the huge estate in rural Ubud exudes an air of tranquility that inspires learning and creativity.
The children appear excited about learning how to grow crops and keep livestock. A small goat is tied to a pole. It is part of the curriculum.
The compound shows we need not use environmental harmful methods to develop. It is a revolt against the old world ways of burning carbon fuels and electronics overkill.
Its builders use bamboo as a substitute for cement, steel and glass, all of which, can have a negative impact on our surroundings.
The giant roof of the Minang Bridge, for instance, is about 12 meters tall, more than three floors high.
Its curvature is based on the Sulawesi style, one of the major islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, and is one of the magnificent forms.
There are more than 400 students, 80 per cent of them from expat families.
The remaining 20 per cent are locals. So why has the Green School become such a success?
Clearly, more parents today fear their children are growing up ignorant about nature and their planet.
Urban societies have a tendency to spoil youth with electronic gadgets that reduce them to pod-like existence.
The Internet culture overemphasizes and overuses mobile devises. So much so that many children lose touch with reality.
How many children today know how to grow their own food or survive in a forest?
The architects of the school wanted to rebalance such a culture by returning them to an earthy environment where real things exist.
The Green School offers students classes to grow individual garden patches as well as look after livestock.
No pupil uses electronic devices here until 3pm, when they go home.
Rules like these make the school a hit with parents seeking to save their young from a mindless world.
Here they can feel the earth, understand the richness in rivers and vegetation that brings life to eco systems that we depend on for our survival.
All buildings are made of natural bamboo, rock and sometimes the occasional need for modern construction materials such as plastic and cement.
The school was founded by John and Cynthia Hardy in September 2008 with 98 students, with a mission to provide children with an holistic education with sustainability at its core.
The Hardys conceived Green School in 2006 after reading Alan Wagstaff’s “Three Springs” concept document for an educational village community.
By 2010, The Green School had 245 students aged 3–16, and in 2011 enrolment was over 300.
The school’s buildings are cooled and powered by renewable energy sources including micro-hydro power, from a “hydroelectric vortex,” solar power, and bio-diesel.
Its setting in Ubud is also helpful. It is the romantic town which Julia Roberts made famous in “Eat, Pray, Love.” The movie has drawn many tourists here in search of what Julia sought, love and happiness.
Despite early intentions to live off the grid, as of 2014 the school’s 70 plus buildings are not off the grid.
Transportation to the campus is by private car, with some carpooling.
The “Heart of the School,” is a 60-meter long stilt-structure constructed with 2,500 bamboo poles. The school also utilizes renewable building materials for some of its other needs.
Although senior students are required to use laptops, the school “prepares students to be stewards of the environment, teaching them to be critical and creative thinkers, who champion the sustainability of the world and the environment.”
It is one of Bali’s most popular new attractions.
Not so much the new airport terminal that costs US$250 million. Or the airport toll-way to the capital at Denpasar costing $230 million.
It is this school that is the new show-stopper, costing a mere fraction of big infrastructure prices.
TOP: The remarkable Minang Bridge at the Green School in Ubud.
INSET: Green School’s classrooms have no walls.
BELOW: An all-bamboo entrance to the Green School.
FURTHER DOWN: The Green school campus
By Cimi Suchontan