After three U-turns and never ending stream of mopeds swarming around us, Hōkūleʻa crewmembers arrived at the Green School in Ubud, Bali. Having only been in the southern part of Bali thus far, driving north to the countryside and into the rice-paddy charm of Bali was a relief. Entering into the school itself was like entering a jungle – a bamboo jungle – with vegetation under foot and hovering over head.
We were greeted by Noan Fesnoux, our main contact in the school whom I first met three years ago during my first visit to the Green School, and John Hardy, the founder of Green School. John built his business as a silver jewelry artist inspired by the traditional silversmithing and natural environment of Indonesia. About 8 years ago, John decided to give back to the local community by starting a school focused on sustainability. The school has since gained international recognition, bringing world leaders such as Al Gore, Jane Goodall and Ban Ki Moon to be a part of its roster and sparking a series of similar schools to sprout throughout the world. In fact, 30% of the students are from families that move to Bali specifically to go to the Green School.
Dressed in his cycling clothes and cleats under his feet, John leads us swiftly through the uneven stairs and dirt paths of the school. The tour included a group jump on Asia’s one and only bamboo bridge; a visit to the water vortex electricity generator (not quite in full operation yet) whose construction has taken 8 years of design and negotiation; a visit to the school composting station; a walk through of a new classroom under construction without safety helmets to enjoy the natural cooling breeze; and a walk by the solar panel forest whose understory doubles as a chicken coop. The only walls to be found on this campus are built around non-flushing toilets that require no water.
Our final destination was the Heart of School, whose function and energy equals its name. The Heart of School is a masterpiece of architecture composed of all bamboo, artistically engineered to resemble three-double helixes that make up open-air classrooms and work spaces up to three stories high. The bamboo lattices are inscribed with names of visitors and donors who send their good wishes for the school (myself included). Anyone who visits the school can feel inspired by its architecture. The school’s mission of creating Green Leaders around the world is perfectly echoed by walls that do not exist, sustainably harvested bamboo scaffolding that encircle the spaces, and the winding paths that always seem to lead somewhere different. It integrates the human imagination with the wonders of the natural world, never blocking creativity with concrete walls.
Having been here many times before, I have seen and heard the way the Heart of School beats with the laughter and learning of children. My hope is that this visit can act as a gateway to challenge the status quo of our schools back home and encourage us to think of ways to inspire better learning practices.
The Green School and Hōkūleʻa both share a message of hope of what the world could be. The Green School is a community where people are living and learning to come together with nature. Hōkūleʻa for me has been about learning and growth dictated by the natural world, with kindness as the currency for one another. As a passionate follower of one and a proud crewmember of the other, being able to connect the two communities was an inspiring event. With a new beautiful flower linked into the lei of Mālama Honua, I am very grateful and hopeful for the future that this voyage brings.