January 17, 2011- By Jen Noelken
John Hardy and his wife Cynthia planned to retire quietly from their jewelry business until Al Gore ruined John’s life. After watching the former U.S. vice president’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” Mr. Hardy decided he didn’t want to simply retire. Instead, the movie propelled the couple to take an active role in doing their part for the environment. In 2007, John and Cynthia sold their jewelry business and started building the Green School in Bali, Indonesia.
Green School was a concept idea come to fruition by the Hardy’s strong belief in doing your part for society and the environment. The focus of Green School is not new – to change the way young people act toward the environment, but the school’s approach is unique. According to Hardy and the school’s teachers, Green School “is unique in that it completely immerses children in a world of sustainable practices throughout the school day.”
Embedded in the lush vegetation of the Ubud region of Bali, Hardy used bamboo to construct virtually every aspect of the school. The school’s structure, but also many of the school’s furnishings, such as desks, chairs, and chalkboards were constructed from bamboo. The school is free of walls and air conditioning, relying instead on jungle breezes. With two dozen buildings for teaching, bamboo bridges extend to allow easy access from one area to another. Surrounding green space offers a soccer field with bamboo goalposts, a grassy playground area, vegetable patches, and a streaming river.
Green School’s beautiful façade is just a bonus to the work done under the bamboo roofs. Sustainability is at the forefront of lessons. With a strong belief in stimulating young people to consider what needs to be done to save the earth, curriculum was developed based on the four intelligences. Cynthia explains that Green School is not only based on IQ, it also focuses on KQ, which is the physical, EQ, which is the emotional, and SQ, which is the spiritual. Through the four intelligences learning is done through active doing.
With around 200 children, from 40 countries, Green School has the resources to teach grades kindergarten through tenth. Within the next year (by 2012) they hope to expand through grades eleven and twelve. Classroom curriculum focuses on three main objectives: Essential Studies, Green Studies, and Creative Arts. Essential Studies include English, Mathematics, and Science. Green Studies offers hands-on lessons which progress as the children age to Nature Studies, Study of Ecology, Environmental Studies, and Studies of Sustainability. Creative Arts includes art, crafts, music, drama, and story-telling to name a few.
John and Cynthia said it is necessary to teach kids fundamental courses, but it is also vital to teach kids the practice behind everyday sustainability. For example, students are taught how to harvest their own food to open awareness and appreciation of the effort used to produce food. The students are also taught mind-body exercises, like yoga, to help teach discipline, self-awareness, and the concept fit body / fit mind.
The school emphasizes and practices sustainability, but a computer lab and fully functional library is available. Courses are based off an internationally recognized curriculum allowing kids to transition into any number of colleges or universities. According to the Green School homepage, the school “provide(s) a curriculum that combines holistic, hands-on experiential learning with academic rigour.”
John and Cynthia feel the school has been successful, but they feel there is still a long road ahead. They said the classes are too small with little or no choice on subject content. The couple says success will be reached when a waiting list is needed, but more so, when everyone involved in the school is happy and complaining for the right reasons.