Partner-in-Crime and I have had the Green School on the brain for some time now. Since seeing John Hardy’s Ted Talk about the unique school – focused on the natural environment, constructed of bamboo, and nestled in the woods of Bali – we’ve harbored a little fantasy about packing up our lives and sending Hushpuppy there for a year or so. It’s mostly fantasy, but as we happened to be in Bali for a holiday, we thought we’d at least have a look. To really make a go of it, we opted to combine our Green School tour with tours of the affiliated Green Village and Bamboo Factory.
I thought I’d find out about a school. What I truly came away with was a new appreciation for the wonder of bamboo construction and beautiful design.
The Green School
The day began at the Green School on a tour with around 25 other curious travelers from all over the world. Students were on term break, so we didn’t see them interacting with the space. The upside of this was that we could take as many photos as we wanted.
The school is located on a sprawling and rustic campus, the buildings and structures made almost entirely of bamboo. Here’s what the Green School has to say about itself:
“Imagine this, a school without walls, a campus which ignites the senses and the natural curiosity of children, a place where innovation, creativity and learning flourish, a community, which has come together from all corners of the globe to share new experiences, a place of joy.”
So, we set off to see.
We hiked down stone stairs and dirt paths through the campus, including stops at the yoga studio and full cycle garden patch/fish ponds.
One of the most iconic structures on the Green School campus is the bamboo bridge over the river. The whole group stood on it, as we learned about its construction (this is the second bridge, as engineering mistakes were made on the first version). To prove the bridge’s worthiness, our guide invited us all to simultaneously jump. It survived us.
Finally, we climbed a fair number of steps to arrive at the main school building, a jaw-dropping structure that must be a marvel to enter everyday. Everything from the structure to the chairs and bookshelves is made of bamboo, and the creativity of the design is beyond anything I’ve seen. Certainly a more inspiring learning environment than the grey cinder blocks I spent most of my education between!
The Green School has been open for 8 years, and its curriculum was designed by the school’s founders. My understanding is that it is both academically rigorous, but also involves a lot of student designed project work, which much meet criteria, including considering nature, wellness, sustainability and economics. All school parents are expected to be part of the school community, as well.
One drawback I noticed was that it would not be at all accessible for students with physical disabilities (I asked our guide about it and he agreed that he didn’t know of any students with physical disabilities). Someone else asked about accreditation, and they have not yet achieved accreditation by recognized boards, so students leaving for university have to use more creative means, like portfolios, to gain admission to their chosen schools.
It’s also cost prohibitive for most Indonesian students, and though their mission was to have 20% of the school population be local students on scholarship, they haven’t raised enough money to do that, so currently only have an 8% local population. Our guide said that they do have other outreach programs to work with local students and the community outside of school hours, as well.
After seeing the school, I was awed, but I wasn’t just racing to get an application to send Hushpuppy there. I think it’s more of a lifestyle for the whole family, and one we’d have to fully consider. But, I do think it’s a pretty stunning and visionary place to be. It seems like they still have some kinks to work out, which makes sense as this grand scale project is really quite young. Still, the lessons from this school must last long beyond a school year.
The Green Village
The houses are various sizes, and are rented out on a per night basis, though at least one house pointed out by our guide had been rented for the year by a family whose four children are attending the Green School.
We learned about the four different types of bamboo used for construction, all based on their size and strength. Foundations are laid with concrete for permanent structures.
The bamboo is grown by farmers in the north part of Bali who had land that wasn’t ideal for other crops. They Hardy family gave them bamboo shoots for free, if they agreed to farm it, and then sell the grown crop back. They use bamboo that has been growing for 3 – 5 years, and that short growing time means that it’s a very sustainable plant to use for construction – a pretty fascinating thing to ponder, especially when you think how long trees take to grow.
The kitchen was my favorite – wide open and just so lush. Hushpuppy found a “tree house,” too.
After the tour, we had an Indonesian lunch in the community area, and Hushpuppy struck up a quick friendship, piling up stones with a couple of French children at the pool. While we were there, Elora Hardy – the designer and daughter of the Green School founders – came up to one of the other women in our group to apologize for the hard time she had booking the tour – I didn’t realize who she was until afterwards, but she did seem very nice!
The Bamboo Factory
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about bamboo production is that up until a few years ago, bamboo construction was not considered feasible, and only very poor people built houses with it because inevitable bug infestation meant that the poles would lose their integrity after just a couple of years. However, they’ve developed a system of treating the bamboo with a borax/boric acid solution, which has solved the insect problem.
We saw how they choose different pieces for projects including flooring, furniture, and fixtures. We heard many times throughout the day about how “the boss” (John Hardy, I assume) hates using glue, but that it’s occasionally a necessary evil (both because it’s not natural and it’s quite costly) – a concern they still have to solve.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the bamboo factory, but based on the enthusiasm of our guide, it seems like they take a lot of pride in working with this material and creating beautiful, usable homes and furnishings.
Bamboo. Who knew? The stuff of dreams, and maybe even our homes of the future.
More on the Green School vision on John Hardy’s Ted Talk:
And, more on the Green Village design on Elora Hardy’s Ted Talk:
If you go:
Tours can be booked separately or as a package for the Green School, Green Village, and Bamboo Factory.
Website: Green School Tours
Location: Location Map (approximately 20 minutes north of Denpasar or 15 minutes south of Ubud)
Phone: +62 361 469 875
Transport: You will need a driver to transport you between locations, if you are not self-driving. Or, pre-book a driver from the Green School for around $2.50 USD per person (call first).
Clothing: Wear comfortable walking shoes. There is significant climbing of stairs at both Green School and Green Village, and may not be accessible for guests with mobility issues.
Children were welcome. Under age 6 are free.
Food is available at the Green Village. Water bottles may be refilled at the Green School and light snacks are provided after the tour.