The Green School

The Green School
February 28, 2018 Christina Mullin

The Green School is located in the jungle in south central Bali. Begun a decade ago by John and Cynthia Hardy, it was intended to do nothing less than create a future generation of “green leaders,” even as it would defy — in form and function — what we know as school itself. Today, its student body (consisting of 435 students, from pre-K to high school, across 35 nationalities) has more than quadrupled from its original size. The school has become a sort of bamboo beacon, a pilgrimage site for progressive educators, a stop for TED-circuit global luminaries from Ban Ki-moon to Jane Goodall.

Its popularity offers the provocative suggestion that the next generation of leaders requires not necessarily math or literature or history — though Green School teaches those too — but a wider set of tools, ranging from adaptability to teamwork to the sort of problem-solving that flourishes under conditions of constraint, which will prove useful in a world whose resources will only continue to diminish. It is a prep school meant to do more than merely prepare students for college, but also equip them with survival skills for an unknown new world, in which proficiency with alternative fuels and sustainable building practices — and the experience of living in a nontraditional, unpredictable environment — might be more useful benchmarks than SAT scores.

At the Green School, all the structures are made of bamboo, even the blackboards. Kids might show up in used-cooking-oil-fueled Bio Buses (another project led by students, one of whom recently represented Indonesia at the 2017 Miss World pageant). School lunch is cooked with sawdust fuel from a local bamboo farm, and served on ingka, or straw baskets with a compostable banana-leaf lining. There is a menagerie of rabbits, pigs and chickens. (The fourth-graders took out a loan to buy the chickens, and now raise them and sell their eggs, in a typically immersive Green School introduction to economics.) There’s a food-generating aquaponics facility, and an aviary for the endangered Bali starling.

On sunny days, surplus solar power will pump river water up to a holding tank. On cloudy days, that water will be released downhill, powering a turbine. Green School’s students scuba dive with CoralWatch and spend summers as oil-rig hounding “kayaktivists” and attend U.N. climate conferences; they start fashion companies like Nalu (which dedicates a portion of sales to help children buy school uniforms in India and Indonesia) and lobby the Balinese government to reduce the scourge of plastic bags on the island. “They really do want kids to go off and change the world, as clichéd as that sounds.”

Watch a video about The Green School: