“Green School”, Bali, Indonesia ~ showcasing bamboo in a grand way

Anyone who has dipped their toe in bamboo world quickly learns about “The Green School”.  There is an aura of reverence about this bamboo architectural achievement that spreads well beyond Indonesia’s shores and Peta had long been wanting to see this school.  Besides the famed architecture, this Bali Green School has earned a reputation for being a fully integrated “green curriculum” that is pushing the boundaries of education.

In fact, the Green School was THE original reason Peta got interested in and wanted to come to Bali, long before I (Ben) had any intentions of visiting Bali.  At no point did I envision that Ubud, Bali, might make it in the top tier of our potential homes.

So with this as back story, we take a trip to visit and get a tour of the famed Bali Green School.  We are not disappointed.

From a bamboo architecture point of view, it is simply breathtaking both in terms of the grand architecture of several of the buildings, but also in the ubiquitous use of bamboo, as shown in the photographs below.

John Hardy, the visionary and founder of the school, was motivated to create an alternative learning approach and a school which would have an environmental and sustainability curriculum at its core.  He  has done remarkable work ~ bringing to fruition a green vision. Beyond the green architecture, there is a holistic, hands on approach to learning that is practical and innovative. The schools goal is to prepare youth for being future environmental leaders.

Bamboo has the capacity to SOAR.. One sees that very clearly here at the center of the largest central construction which is 3 stories high.
The 3 levels are used as classrooms, with the ground floor for group gatherings and lunch.
There are no straight lines at Green School. Only innovative curvy ones. This group work space is close to the ground, so kids can sit on the floor and move around without being confined in chairs. All the classrooms are open air. Surrounded not by concrete but by bamboo. Everywhere.
Close up of the bamboo poles, placed in a cluster, replicating the cluster formation of how bamboo grows in the wild.
Offices for staff are individual bamboo bungalows with bamboo flooring, furniture and swivel glass doors.

Since the Green School opened 6 years ago, attendance has grown quickly, from 150 students in year one, to 330 students in 2013.  The Dean expects attendance to be around 400 students in 2014 and to top out at 450 the following year.  As attendance grows, so does the need to build more classrooms, to hire more teachers, and to juggle a growing student body in the shared infrastructure, from dining room area to music rooms and theater.  Of the 330 students, 10% are Balinese, all on 99% scholarship.  For the rest, tuition is, well, in line with US and European private schools.

Core to the Green School’s approach is a “curriculum” anchored on three axes, which are 1) an Experiential Pillar (i.e. experiencing the building of a room in bamboo, experiencing the rice harvest cycle etc…), 2) a Thematic Pillar (i.e. Music, Sustainability…) and 3) a Knowledge Pillar (i.e. being able to meet math, science or language requirements to be competitive when applying to University).

With only 6 years under their belt, and 3 years of a 4 year “accreditation process” completed, it is premature to have a verdict on the students’ preparedness to balance their obviously strong sustainability experience with the core academic pursuit of traditional schools.  However, of the first graduating class of high school seniors of 13 students, 9 got into their “first choice”  university schools, which is a very high achievement indeed.  Apparently, university acceptance staff have been buzzing around the Green School for a couple of years, valuing the diversity elements that they feel could be provided by students from this alternative school.

A Green school learning area within the classroom.  Round tables, round circles, flowing and fun.
Open air structure used for theatre, music, drama, singing….
Solar panel field on bamboo poles, which provides power to the school as well as providing instruction on solar energy, as part of the green curriculum.
The school has its own organic garden where students learn about permaculture and growing organic food. The garden also supplies food for the school meals. Here you see a few charts made by students in 2nd grade about sustainable foods. Not quite the (faulty) food pyramid chart most of us grew up learning from.
Creating gold.. I mean um compost. How many of us learnt how to make compost at our elementary school?
All the furniture is made from bamboo and is fun and creative. You want to sit on the benches and use the tables!
The Begawan Foundation has an atrium at the school for a species of  Balinese bird which is almost extinct. Here they breed them and eventually they released into the wild. The students have the opportunity to learn first hand about the birds and help with the program.
Soccer goals made from bamboo, with bamboo play structure behind (orange canvas shade coverings) and outdoor covered gym area.
Woven bamboo walls and doors and even the actual toilet is made from bamboo.
Not your usual cafeteria lunch! Fresh spring rolls, sesame seed balls and fresh organic green salad.
A huge table made from bamboo cut in half, exposed and covered with glass.
A showcase bamboo bridge over the river at the bottom of the property.
The school swimming pool adjacent to the river.

Well our kids did not get to attend this school, but maybe our grandchildren will one day. Who knows?

15 thoughts on ““Green School”, Bali, Indonesia ~ showcasing bamboo in a grand way

  1. JB

    This is really amazing. What an education!!!! The bridge is a masterpiece!!!! and I love the furniture…
    More, more, more!!!!!

    1. Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell

      An education which not only includes a “green” (permaculture, solar, sustainability, organic) curriculum, but highlights it! Makes complete sense.
      Yes the bridge is awesome! We believe it was designed by Jorg Stamm, a German bamboosero who lives in Colombia ~ we met with him when we were there a few years ago. The one at Green School is a mini version of his grander, larger one in Colombia which we walked over! (There are pictures of it in one of the blog entries on Colombia from a few years ago.)

  2. Anonymous

    Wow! This is incredibly cool. I never imagined that so many neat things could be done with bamboo, and so beautifully!
    Thanks for posting it,

    1. Peta Kaplan and Ben Sandzer-Bell

      Oh you would be amazed at the gorgeous constructions made from bamboo. Especially in Colombia by the very famous Simon Velez. Do google his name and see the images of his famed bamboo cathedral, houses and more. Bamboo is not only beautiful, but also incredibly strong and flexible as well as sustainable in a way that trees are obviously not.

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