Teacher – “Good morning class. My name is Mr Buckworth.”
Class – “Good morning, Mr Buckworth.”
Teacher – “Seeing as it’s such a beautiful morning I think it’s time we went on a field trip…”
Class – “Yay!”
Teacher – “…to see a pig get slaughtered.”
Class – (Stunned silence).
While this account is clearly exaggerated, that kind of the raw life field trip actually does happen at Green School in Bali, Indonesia.
Now at first blush, taking children to go and see a pig getting slaughtered might seem extreme. The most challenging field trip my primary school ever sent me on was a visit to the sewage treatment plant – it was enlightening…
But Green School is no ordinary place of learning.
It was named the Greenest School On Earth in 2012 in recognition of its total commitment to making the most environmentally conscious place of learning possible – and actually putting all of its lessons into action. The students learn the unvarnished facts of life, like where meat comes from.
Recycle and be green
There are no plastic bottles allowed in the school. Everything is as natural or recycled as possible – Green School even has its own water driven dynamo down at the river to generate electricity.
Taking care of the environment is not a theory or an aspiration or part of a big to do list. It’s built into the curriculum, and built into the DNA of the school itself.
Touring the Green School
Carmen and I took the opportunity when we were living in Ubud, Bali earlier this year to go and see Green School for ourselves. The school runs a guided tour every day and when we attended there were at least 30 people from all over the world checking the place out while classes were in full swing.
Set in an idyllic jungle river valley 30 minutes outside of Ubud, Green School is a campus of giant bamboo and thatch buildings connected by lava rock paths shaded by tall trees and vines.
The paths are hard to walk on at first, and would be unforgiving if you fell. But the school’s mantra is tough love – walk sensibly and you’ll be fine. I loved that no BS attitude, a stark contrast to the almost ludicrous safety-first environments you can experience in a mainstream school.
We walked (carefully) past a music class being taught inside one of the bamboo classrooms and had a squizz at the mix of free expression and instruction going on in there. Our guide told us that music is a big part of the curriculum – as it should be – along with art, theatre and dance.
Our next stop was the school mud pit – yep, you read that right, a mud pit. The students can wrestle each other in the mud pit for fun, or competition, or as a way to let off some steam and push their own boundaries. Makes a bit of a difference to the usual playground!
Down and down the lava rock path we went, past the school vegetable patch, past the brace of cows munching on waste to make compost, down to the rushing river’s voice burbling through the trees, which parted to reveal this:
The Green School’s bridge is a work of wonder made from bamboo that spans the river and gives the school its heart. It leads students to the riverside pool that they can swim in, and gives a stunning view of the running water beating along.
A few weeks later Carmen and I gave a talk on creative writing and blogging at our grown ups version of the Green School – Hubud – and the first query we fielded in the Q&A was “Do you want to have children, and if so, will they travel with you?”
We weren’t expecting that! But Carmen had the perfect answer.
‘Yes, we do. But we reckon we’ll have to see what they are like before we take them on the road, some may love it and others won’t. But we’d also like to live in Bali with kids and send them to the Green School.”
Raising children who are aware of the world around them
What impressed me about Green School was the emphasis on action, not words. It is one thing to say you recycle and quite another to do it. To say you care for the environment, and to actually give that phrase meaning.
The more we travel the more beauty and wonder we see in the world, yet we also see the extent of the damage being done to it.
Our trip to the Amazon in Ecuador was a stunning glimpse of one of the world’s most pristine environments cut and sullied by the hunt for oil.
The weeks we spent in the Galapagos introduced us to hammerhead sharks and booby birds, and the scourge of trash blown in on the ocean currents.
And just recently our SCUBA diving trip to Nusa Lembongan in Bali took us to amazing coral reefs whose vibrant colours would suddenly chop off and go brown in the places where fishermen had dropped dynamite to save some time.
Perhaps we could all use a little time at Green School.
What you need to know
When to visit: The Green School offers tours every day of the week, except for public holidays. The tour starts at 2:45pm. On Wednesdays the founder, John Hardy, runs the tour.
How to get there: It’s best accessed with a driver or on your scooter. The full directions can be found on the Green School website.
How much it costs: A tour costs 60,000IDR and we recommend booking online here, as it an sell out. The tour fees go to the local scholarship programme.