Adventures in Learning
    Category: Improving Education By : Yessar Rosendar Read : 605 Date : Monday, March 02, 2015 - 20:14:46

    Courtesy of Green School Bali

    When long-time Bali resident John Hardy, 65, looked for a school for his children seven years ago, he didn’t find any that suited him on the island of paradise. He had already sent three of his four children overseas to study, and wanted to keep his fourth one on the island. “I went looking for a school and couldn’t really find what I wanted, so I got together with some people and started a school,” says John. They called it the Green School Bali. It was built in 2006 on eight hectares of land in Ubud, near the Ayung river and about 15 minutes from where the couple lived.  

    As the name applies, the school was meant to embody green principles in every aspect, from its curriculum to its design. Most of the buildings at the school are made from local bamboo and the school uses no air conditioning. All the water is supplied from a local well. “I wanted to build a school that was beautiful and green, and gave kids a chance to make a difference,” John says.

    His vision for living and teaching green started after he watched Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. He built the school as a second act after selling his successful jewelry business, called John Hardy Jewelry, which employed 800 staff and sold its products worldwide. The school took its first 100 students in 2008, and now boasts 420 students from more than 40 countries, studying from pre-kindergarten to high school. Like most schools, it is managed under a yayasan, which John called Yayasan Kul Kul. “It was time to go and do something for the world. A school, however, is like a wine, it takes a long time to know whether it’s good or not,” John says.

    Despite its young vintage, the school is already winning some accolades. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools awarded it the greenest school on earth in 2012. Many well-known figures have visited the school, such as Richard Branson, and, most recently, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (who wore batik for the visit). “It’s the most unique and impressive school I have ever visited,” said Ki-Moon when he visited the school last August.

    In his youth, John had wanted to become a fireman but couldn’t pass the entrance test because of undiagnosed dyslexia. “I see things very well and I think about things very well, but I can’t remember very well, so I didn’t have a place in a standard world,” John says. The Canadian art student then made his way to Bali in 1975. He settled in, as he fell in love with the beautiful island and its culture. He was also intrigued by the Balinese craft traditions and started a jewelry business. His wife Cynthia later joined his jewelry business. Reflecting on his early experience, John wanted to create a school that could also accommodate kids that had special needs. He notes the examples of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, all who had trouble in school but later became huge successes.

    “Kids who are different are sometimes the geniuses. The school system tries to make everyone the same, but being different is a gift. It is not something to be taken out of a child but to be encouraged,” he says. The school has developed its own curriculum that combines academic studies with activities outside of the classroom, where students learn by doing such as by planting rice.