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Green School Bali: Caring for Students, Connecting with Nature


Green School Bali’s students assemble in the all-bamboo ARC, with its 19-meter (62 ft) arches.
Green School Bali’s students assemble in the all-bamboo ARC, with its 19-meter (62 ft) arches. ©GSB

“Eco” or “green” schools have been around for decades, but an extraordinary international school on the Indonesian island of Bali is breaking new ground for environmentally oriented education. Green School Bali (GSB), founded near Ubud, on the island of Bali, is dedicated to building “a community of learners making our world sustainable.” 


Successful entrepreneur and visionary environmental activist John Hardy founded GSB in 2008 with his wife, Cynthia. Years earlier, he had moved to Bali from Canada to escape the harsh Canadian climate, and in 2006, he sold his shares in his eco-friendly Bali jewelry business.


Cynthia and John Hardy, founders of Green School Bali.
Cynthia and John Hardy, founders of Green School Bali. ©Courtesy of GSB

Hardy’s growing concern with the deterioration of the environment prompted him to take decisive action for the sake of his four children and future grandchildren. As a child, he had disliked school (he had undiagnosed dyslexia), so his vision for Green School Bali was to create a school with a hands-on, interactive, and fun-loving learning environment that would appeal to a wide range of students. 


Green School Bali has won awards and praise. GSB is the “most unique and impressive” school, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said when he visited the school in 2015, according to the Australian publication, The Age. British business billionaire Richard Branson [Virgin Group] also admired the school, saying he had “never been more jealous” of school kids in his life, the same article said.


Spectacular Bamboo Architecture


At first sight, the most striking aspects of GSB are its spectacular architecture and lush jungle environment. Most of the school’s more than fifty buildings are constructed from bamboo treated with boron to prevent insect damage and increase longevity. They showcase ways in which building materials and designs can be both environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing. The classrooms are wall-less, and many have their own permaculture garden attached.


Most of the school’s buildings are constructed from bamboo … [and] showcase ways in which building materials and designs can be both environmentally responsible and aesthetically pleasing.

The Millennium Bridge in Sibang Kaja, Bali, has a span of 23 meters (25 yards) over the Ayung River, which runs through Green School Bali’s campus.
The Millennium Bridge in Sibang Kaja, Bali, has a span of 23 meters (75 ft) over the Ayung River, which runs through Green School Bali’s campus. ©paul prescott/shutterstock

In 2004, Hardy was fortunate to meet Jörg Stamm, a prominent German architect who specializes in building green structures made from bamboo instead of traditional lumber, concrete, or steel. When Hardy decided to open his ecologically oriented school, Stamm assisted him by constructing unique and astonishing structures on the Green School Bali campus. He used parabolic arches to create the largest bamboo bridge in Asia, the Millennium Bridge in Sibang Kaja, Bali. It has a span of 23 meters (25 yards) over the Ayung River, which runs through the school’s campus. He also employed spiral towers to create Heart of School, a stunning central campus building.


Other bamboo masterpieces on GSB’s campus include the Arc, a towering sports and community center; a wall-less and peaceful yoga pavilion next to the river; and a zero-waste Innovation Hub, all designed by Hardy’s eldest child, his daughter Elora, the founder of Ibuku, a futuristic bamboo architectural firm.


Commitment to Energy Efficiency and Waste Reduction


The school’s commitment to energy efficiency is evidenced by its use of solar panels and its giant hydroelectric vortex turbine power plant on the Ayung River. Combined, they provide 100% renewable electric energy.


Solar panels at the Green School Bali.
Solar panels and a hydroelectric turbine produce 100% of the campus' electricity. ©paul prescott/shutterstock

The school’s commitment to go completely for renewable energy won them the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize in 2017. This gave them the funding to complete “The Vortex,” their giant hydro-turbine power plant, and in 2019, they held a ceremony to announce that Green School Bali had gone “100% off the grid,” thanks to 23.7% solar power and 76.3% vortex power.


The school also boasts comprehensive waste reduction and water collecting initiatives. These include organic waste treatment toilets and a robust recycling program—they ingeniously reuse much of the recycled materials through their KemBali Recycling Center, which services the school and the local community.


[The school] ingeniously reuse[s] much of the recycled materials through their KemBali Recycling Center, which services the school and the local community.

GSB says its natural, green campus environment has a profound impact on the health and well-being of both students and teachers. As Principal Sal Gordon has written, “At Green School, a student’s well-being matters more than their grades.” The school believes that when the well-being of students is taken care of, they will function at their best.


Teaching in a wall-less classroom at Green School Bali.
Teaching in a wall-less classroom at Green School Bali. ©Courtesy of GSB

Green Curriculum


The Green School’s curriculum has project-based environmental studies as a core component and integrates them in traditional subjects, such as mathematics, literature, and science. The students gain hands-on learning experiences with permaculture gardening (led by Hardy’s son, Orin, founder of the Kul Kul permaculture farm) and caring for the campus. They also initiated projects, such as the Bye Bye Plastic Bags movement, which is reducing plastic bag use on Bali and in 50 other locations around the world.


This project-based approach ensures that students not only learn about environmental issues but envision and plan meaningful actions to address them. Students are further taught about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and inequality, ensure people’s health, and protect the planet.


[The school’s] project-based approach ensures that students not only learn about environmental issues but envision and plan meaningful actions to address them.

At the end of their schooling, students in the 12th grade undertake and present—in TED-style talks—a capstone project, called Greenstone, which helps them build their resumes. Those in 8th grade graduate after completing a similar year-long Quest project. Research has shown that these types of inquiry-based education are more effective because they engage the children and their interests.


GSB involves parents—many of whom move their families to Bali and work remotely so their children can attend the school—the local community, and indigenous culture in its programs. Students and faculty at GSB have developed the Bio Bus, a large vehicle powered by biodiesel produced from used cooking oil which students collect from restaurants. Three such buses are used to transport local students to and from school, and on weekends, the buses can be used by others in the community. This project provided interdisciplinary process learning for the students. The school also provides after-school programs and activities for students from local schools. Furthermore, they offer scholarships to local students.


As one teacher reports, “Our students aim to raise awareness among their peers outside Green School about the importance of cherishing Mother Earth and caring for our planet.” In a recent project with the Green School Foundation, the students learned “about waste management practices and organic gardening with SD 4 Sibang Gede [a school in Sibang Gede village] students and teachers.”


Students learning about organic gardening.
Students learning about organic gardening. ©Courtesy of GSB

Training for Educators


Green School Bali’s impact and influence extends outside the school’s campus and even beyond Indonesia. The school offers a training program for educators from around the world, the Green Educators Program, enabling them to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to provide students with quality education and a path to sustainability leadership. Also, through The Bridge @ Green School, Green School for Grownups, GSB offers education for parents and other local adults.


Additionally, GSB is becoming a global movement. It has helped sister schools open in New Zealand, South Africa, and Tulum, Mexico (opening in 2026). These schools operate based on the same philosophy of holistic education and the three primary rules of GSB: “Be local, let your environment be your guide, and envisage how your grandchildren will be affected by your actions.”


Dr. Goodall’s Visit


In 2012, esteemed author and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall visited GSB, where she gave the graduation keynote address and released two endangered Bali Starlings in a symbolic gesture of GSB’s efforts to protect wildlife.


Esteemed author and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall (right) gave the 2012 graduation keynote address at Green School Bali.
Esteemed author and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall (right) gave the 2012 graduation keynote address at Green School Bali. ©Courtesy of GSB

“I think all the students here are incredibly lucky, because there is this great atmosphere of learning about the things you care about, interacting with the environment, and learning some of the core values of success in life, which is respect and kindness and understanding,” she said in her address.


I have the impression of a community of people who care about each other and who care about the natural world, and I truly think that when the students graduate from here they will become leaders of the right sort to try and move this troubled world into a new phase which we so desperately need."


Editor’s noteGSB provides insights into their educational programs and vibrant campus through their online Virtual Open Days several times a year.

 

*Marion Warin Miller is a French bilingual researcher, writer, and editor now residing in Northern Virginia. She has master’s degrees in Business and Economics, and International Economics and Economic Development. She has also ministered for community development and world peace. As a grandmother of eight, she cares deeply about environmental stewardship and preserving natural wonders for future generations. She has traveled to many natural sites in countries around the world and now retreats to the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley National Park area whenever time allows.

1 Comment


Guest
Jun 13

When bored in class, think about what things to do when bored in class like doodling or making to-do lists. You can also write a short story or plan your next break. Observing your surroundings or organizing your backpack are good ways to stay busy when you think of what things to do when bored in class.

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