As a NGO with Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), Peace Boat is committed to doing its part to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs consist of 17 goals that we, both as individuals and as a society, can strive towards in order to address the most pressing economic, environmental and social issues of our times. Last week, Peace Boat arrived in Bali and raised awareness of the importance of sustainability by organizing a visit to Green School, a one-of-a-kind educational institution seamlessly aligned with its natural surroundings and focused on inspiring students to become global change-makers.
Amidst a lush and verdant rainforest, Green School spans across 20 hectares of land on both sides of the Ayung River. Green School was founded by John and Cynthia Hardy, a couple who felt inspired to take action after watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary that discusses the ramifications of global warming and paints a bleak picture for future generations based on our present-day actions. The school is what the name suggests - green, in every way possible. The school buildings, in large part, are constructed of bamboo, a sustainable and versatile construction material. Additionally, the school relies heavily on various renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, which generates approximately 30% of the school's electricity.
In addition to guiding the design of the school, the theme of sustainability serves as a foundation on which students are taught. As such, the school is governed by the following three principles: be local; let your environment guide you; envisage how your grandchildren will be affected by your actions. These principles, in conjunction with the school's emphasis on hands-on, collaborative and experiential learning, enable students to think critically and flex their creative muscles. For example, when presented with the task of tending to the chickens, the grade 4 students realized that they could start their own enterprise. They submitted a proposal to apply for microfinancing from the school bank to build a space for the chickens. They then harvested the eggs from the chickens to sell at a local farmer's market, all whilst coming up with a solution to replace the use of plastic containers to hold the eggs. One participant, Fumiko Yanagida, upon reflecting on her visit to Green School, commented that she found it particularly meaningful "to learn about the philosophy behind the school".
As conscientious as Green School is about the design of its campus and curriculum, it is equally as intentional about forging connections between the international community of Green School and the local community of Sibang Kaja, where Green School is located. For Green School, their commitment to connect these two communities is represented by the Millennium Bridge, which connects the two sides of the campus separated by the Ayung River. Their commitment has also resulted in the development of Kul Kul Connection, a group of Green School stakeholders responsible for spearheading initiatives to promote unity between these two communities. Tim Fijal, Director of Kul Kul Connection, shared how Green School launched an after-school language programme "with the goal of making the benefits of Green School more accessible to a lot more kids." Currently, 250 local children are participating in an after-school programme called Trash for Class, where they bring in 5 kilogrammes of recyclable trash each semester in exchange for free English language classes. Furthermore, local culture has inspired school culture. The father of a Balinese student introduced the school to mepantigan, a form of Balinese martial art that takes place in a mud pit and combines jujitsu, taekwondo, capoeira and Balinese traditional art. A school tradition arose from this practice where graduating students throw their teachers into the mud pit and vice versa.
While committed to building and sustaining local connections, Green School also hopes to make an impact on a global scale. In his TED talk, co-founder John Hardy expressed his vision for Green School to be a model for other schools and his hope that one day there may be 50 Green Schools around the world, built in accordance with the aforementioned principles. If more schools focus on sustainability and take a holistic and integrated approach to educating children the way Green School does, the students of today, who will become the leaders of tomorrow, will be that much closer to turning the Sustainable Development Goals into a reality.