Taking lessons at Bali’s Green School

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.

Green school Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

The heart of the Green School

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.Green school building  design Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

Recycle and be green

When a child attends Green School, they don’t just learn how to recycle. They do it, whether it’s making their own compost or feeding kitchen scraps to the cows tied up near the gardening shed.Green school cowBali Double-Barrelled Travel

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.

Fairy house Green school Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

The fairy house the students built

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.Green school sign Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

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.

Green school classroom Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

Our tour group in one of the classrooms

Bamboo beauty

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.

Green school music room Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

The music room

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!Green school flower Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

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:Green school bridge Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

Green architecture

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.”

I couldn’t agree more. It’d be great to send our kids somewhere that teaches them practical ways to change the world for the better.Green school father and son Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

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.

Have you been to the Green School? What did you think?Green school building Bali Double-Barrelled Travel

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.

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About the author

Dave is the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel and has been nomadic since May 2013. When he's not busily working on a novel, he can be found exploring a war museum, sailing a yacht (unfortunately not his own), or hiking up a mountain.

3 comments on “Taking lessons at Bali’s Green School”

  1. John Reply

    Through a good friend, I have had regular contact with a Green School student for just over a year now.

    I realize it’s not the responsibility of a school to raise children, but in this teenager (who has been going to Green School for 2 years) there are so many things I’ve witnessed in day to day life that are so far from ‘GREEN’ that it’s beyond ironic and bordering on insanity.

    Here is a small list.

    1. X can’t cook and shows no interest in it, and thinks it is normal to eat out for every meal.
    2. X is not interested in preparing and taking food to school because ‘no one else does’ and ‘it’s easier to BUY food at school’.
    3. X won’t walk anywhere and insists on being picked up and dropped off in a petrol powered vehicle, even to the shortest distances.
    4. X doesn’t recycle, nor is interested. When told that the rubbish gets dumped in a local river, the response was ‘who cares, everyone else does it’.
    5. X often puts a small bit of rubbish into a plastic bag, then throws the entire bag out.
    6. X accepts plastic bags from the grocery store, even if carrying a cloth bag or school bag. X says she needs to collect bags for the rubbish. So much for the useless ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ campaign!
    7. X washes the dishes on a daily basis (reluctantly), but keeps the tap running constantly (wasting liters of water), and uses so much (non-green) detergent that a new bottle is purchased on a weekly basis. There is never a question of where the detergent goes (in the rice fields in this case), or what damage detergent does in the environment.
    8. X spends most of the time scrolling internet for mindless garbage, ridiculous meme type images and reading gossip columns. X has little or no homework and spends most of the time BORED.
    9. X has no interest in sustainability or organic food and refuses to eat most fruits and vegetables.
    10. X doesn’t care about anything ‘GREEN’.

    I was wondering, does Green School actually teach or encourage any of these topics?
    If it does, the lessons must be so dry and tedious that nothing is actually entering the brain of this student.
    Maybe the lessons need to be more interesting and real.
    How about showing an experiment where you squirt detergent into a fish tank and see how long it takes for the fish to die?
    How about a lesson on the effects of pesticides on the immune system?
    How about cooking lessons or compulsory volunteering in the school kitchen?
    How about a trip to the river to see all the rubbish in it?
    How about some interesting and exciting home projects that enthuse and not bore?

    I am actually starting to believe the Green School is just a fantastical IDEA to draw in wealthy parents that think they can hand over their trendy ‘Green Responsibility’ to an over priced educational system that doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job.

  2. Shaun Easthope Reply

    This is such a naive post. So you know one student and you make this judgement. Somehow i think this is not genuine.

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