Two years ago luxury jewelry designers Cynthia and John Hardy began to turn a vision into a reality, by selling their business and building a school, made of bamboo, in Bali that educates children about the environment.
Green School opened just outside of Ubud in September 2008, taking in more than 100 students from the age of 5 to 16.
“We established a green school because the world needs to pay attention to climate change,” Cynthia Hardy said. “Our classroom has no walls and minimal carbon footprint.”
The couple spoke at “Building With Bamboo: Lessons From the First Green School in Bali,” a talk that was held at Singapore House in Jakarta on Wednesday. They addressed a crowd of green enthusiasts and environmentalists, including locals and expatriates, about the construction of the school, which prioritizes using natural materials to create an eco-friendly environment. Roads are made out of volcanic rock, solar power and biogas are used as alternative energy sources, toilet waste is turned into compost and the buildings are made from natural and sustainable materials: mud floors, alang alang (reed) roofs and, most crucially, bamboo.
Bamboo was used as the primary building material and as an eco-friendly alternative to timber, as it is known for its resilience and ability to help minimize carbon dioxide gasses.
Balinese artists and Javanese engineers used bamboo in the classrooms, administrative offices and kitchen of the eight-hectare campus, as well as to craft functional and aesthetic designs for the desks, chairs and blackboards.
Due to the great demand the school has for bamboo they also set up a community bamboo program, which will distribute 50,000 bamboo seedlings to the local community free of charge and then buy back the mature bamboo after four years.
This also means the school will not have to import its bamboo, further minimizing its carbon footprint.
The Canadian-American couple, who have lived in Bali for more than 20 years, have incorporated a unique curriculum into the school for its international students. Subjects taught include English, mathematics and science, including ecology, the environment and sustainability, as well as the creative arts.
“Our aim is to achieve a balance,” said Ronald Stones, director of the school. “So our students can gain access to good universities around the world but are embedded as stewards of the environment and creativity.”
According to Stones, the unique architectural features of the school are both an asset and a liability for schoolteachers.
“With an open classroom so close to nature, there are distractions. A dragonfly flies to a desk and a student’s attention will avert to it,” he said. “To teach in that environment is a challenge, but I see levels of creativity I’ve never seen before in traditional international education. You can’t sit there and not be inspired.”
Gouri Mirpuro, the wife of the Singaporean ambassador, said, “A lot of us think of how we can change the world but these are two people who are actively living out their vision for a better world.”
A member of the audience, Gera Klinjnsma from the Netherlands, summed up her feelings about the Green School and its affect on younger generations.
“It is very inspiring and unlike anything I have ever heard of,” Klinjnsma said. “For me it may be too late. I do my own bit, such as composting, but the green school is raising environmentally-aware children, who are the future.”
The Hardys hope to open more green schools in the future, starting with countries on the tropical band, where bamboo can be found in abundance.