A veil of morning mist hangs lightly over towering palm trees in Abiansemal, about a half-hour drive southwest of Ubud in Bali. A gong sounds—but it doesn’t come from a temple or a wellness retreat. It’s a school bell. Mums in yoga gear and tanned dads with man buns kiss their kids goodbye and watch as they disappear into elaborate bamboo structures that resemble something out of James Cameron’s Avatar. This is Green School, where living and functioning sustainably isn’t only encouraged, it is the norm, experienced day in and day out by its students. The entire 8-hectare campus is solar- and water-powered, boasting a food-generating aquaponics facility and even an on-site bird conservation centre which has, over the years, significantly boosted the population of the endangered Bali starling.
Anyone paying attention to world affairs will recognise that the students of today will be grappling with issues of energy, climate and food security for their entire lives—regardless of their field of study or their profession. And recognising their children’s fate, a growing number of parents have abandoned traditional education models in favour of alternative, sustainability-focused schools. It isn’t just the parents who are concerned—in November 2019, hundreds of thousands of students took to their respective cities’ streets, from Manila to Sydney to Madrid, demanding the world’s leaders to take action on climate change. In fact, a 2018 survey of 11,000 students and parents by The Princeton Review found that 63 per cent said their decision to apply to or attend a college would be influenced by the school’s commitment to the environment.
Where education was once about preparing for an individual’s future, schools like Green School are priming young minds for the future at large, placing a mindset of collective consciousness at the heart of their curriculums. Alongside essential subjects like maths and English, they emphasise problem-solving and “doing”—be it scuba diving with CoralWatch, attending UN climate conferences, or growing and harvesting food. Many of them include a “return to the land” programme that puts students to work as part of their studies. In the US, the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut acquired the 116-hectare Fairfield Farm over a decade ago to give students hands-on experience with sustainable agriculture, producing 30 per cent of the food used in its dining hall. Closer to home in Hong Kong, Malvern College introduced a forest-beach programme to give students the opportunity to learn from, and in, nature.
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