Green School International is a radical new approach to schooling where traditional school subjects are cast aside in favor of a holistic learning program. The emphasis is more on how things are taught, and the environment is positioned at the center of learning.
Families are asked to relocate and become part of the community on campus instead of sending their children away alone (customary of boarding schools). The school provides a space (co-learning hub) for parents – often digital nomads or remote workers – to work.
The first establishment to open was Green School Bali in Indonesia, which attracted support from Richard Branson, Jane Goodall, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The second was Green School New Zealand, nestled at Mount Taranaki’s base on an old dairy farm. Two more are expected to open, one in Mexico and the other in South Africa – however, those plans were disturbed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. European branches will likely follow, and a few locations are already under review.
Green School New Zealand’s CEO, Chris Edward, is an educator with over three decades of experience. He strives to provide a space where everyone is moving towards a more climate-conscious life. He explained:
I didn’t want anyone at Green School NZ to ever stand on a pedestal of dogma and start preaching to other people because, with a venture like this, the accusation of hypocrisy travels with you every second of the day.
Edward hopes to instill a sense of empathy in an era when people can be quick to pounce on others to call out any hint of double standards. It’s most likely to happen in a movement as complex as environmentalism. Edwards explained by giving an example he uses with students:
Let’s say someone rocks up in a Ferrari. You don’t know that that person hasn’t just sold a fleet of private jets and 10 Aston Martins and just kept their favorite car. And what an incredible journey they’ve been on! We are in no position to start pointing fingers at such a person and begin preaching. It’s about your trajectory and your direction.
I want Green School learners to be able to walk in other people’s shoes. We’re in a binary age, where things are polarized, and there’s a lot of mudslingings. We need to be able to get back to civilized debate. That doesn’t mean you can’t be radical, you can be radical, but you need to know what you’re talking about.
But what’s exceptionally different here from traditional institutions is the architecture. The Bali site is built from locally-sourced bamboo. The New Zealand site also uses organic materials, and the classrooms are housed in a bunch of pod-like buildings spread out across a field of green. However, most of the learning takes place outdoors.
The majority of our time is spent outside… it’s experiential; it’s action-orientated: working with the community, with animals, with plants, creating.
Students are taught through hands-on projects. Edwards gave the example of a primary-level maths lesson:
…right guys, it’s 10 meters by 10 meters, there are 15 of you. How many pumpkins can we grow? How much space does it need? Do the multiplication, work it out on a grid.
It’s a math lesson, but what it feels like is growing pumpkins and eating them. Then they might have a cookery lesson using the pumpkins, possibly in German because our cookery teacher speaks German and French.
The focus is always ‘how’ to teach something, not ‘what’ to teach. And environmentalism is infused into as many lessons as possible, regardless of the subject.
Other schools incorporate sustainability within their curriculums, like in Italy, where the government made climate change a compulsory subject. But they can do more. Edwards believes the Green School values can be applied to different contexts. He explained:
There’s no way in the middle of Mumbai, or a major mega-tropolis, you can wrap up Green School NZ – this place is sublimely beautiful and fresh and inspirational as a landscape. But what you can do is take aspects of the curriculum and shake things up.
Put the United Nations sustainable development goals at the heart of your curriculum. Allow people to have a real-world understanding of things from a young age – and throw more problem-solving at them at an earlier age too!
The Green School movement is undoubtedly a fantastic idea. The students are sure to have more fun learning. And that’s important because the more they enjoy learning, the more quickly they’ll absorb the knowledge. And while not every location can hold classes outdoors, they can adopt the interactive learning approach that makes the school so exciting.
Source: Intelligent Living Co / Image from Green School New Zealand