GREEN SCHOOLS – RETHINKING OUR APPROACH TO SCHOOLING.
Imagine if your child came home from school excited as could be because they had been learning how to plant trees. Or what if your kindergartner started asking you to buy more organic tomatoes and kale at the store, instead of Goldfish, because that’s what her science class harvested from the school garden and ate as part of their afternoon snack. Would you feel proud and excited for them?
In our hustled world of traffic, office buildings and grocery stores, many awake and aware parents envision a more natural, earthly schooling experience for their children. One that teaches them about our dependence and inter-connectedness with the natural world, and teaches them the truth about the many crises the planet is facing. A curriculum that inspires them to be part of the solution.
Schools around the world are starting to integrate more ‘green’ skills and sustainable practices to teach children how to live in balance with the earth. For example, Waldorf Schools, a popular alternative to public schools, often make gardening and raising animals such as chickens and rabbits part of the overall school experience. Most Waldorf schools recycle, and science curricula might cover issues such as deforestation, pollution and depletion of natural resources.
Unfortunately, however, most North American schools, public and private alike, primarily focus on scholastics and standardized testing, leaving little time for the exploration of nature and the examination of the lessons that we can only learn outdoors. This leaves children rather unprepared to cope with living on a planet faced with so many ecological problems.
Schools Can Teach Green Skills
Although most schools seem to disregard the importance of giving back to the community and relating to the natural environment, there are examples out there of genuinely ‘green’ schools, which focus on hands-on exploration of the environment and on making children more self-reliant. Both of the examples below show how ordinary people have taken initiative to invest their own earnings into creating a new vision for schooling and better way of raising our children.
The Green School, a school for pre-kindergarteners up through high-schoolers in Bali, Indonesia, is an amazing example of a forward-thinking approach towards schooling. In addition to covering arithmetic, reading, writing, and other college-required subjects, the school teaches sustainable thinking and practical skills to its students.
We are building Green School to create a new paradigm for learning. We want children to cultivate physical sensibilities that will enable them to adapt and be capable in the world. We want children to develop spiritual awareness and emotional intuition, and to encourage them to be in awe of life’s possibilities. – John Hardy, Green School co-founder.
Another example of a similar educational model, although perhaps on a smaller scale, is Escuela Verde, located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Catering to pre-kindergarteners to fifth graders, Escuela Verde’s curriculum is focused on fostering within its students an attitude of personal responsibility as well as responsibility as a member of the community. It allows children to build a relationship with the planet by allowing children to explore their natural surroundings and learn how to become stewards of the land and sea.
Ben Macrory, Head of Communications at Green School, Bali, discusses what sets this model apart from traditional curriculums, and the types of things that kids experience here.
This model puts the future leaders of our world outside of the classroom and into the ‘real’ world at an early age, so that we may foster a future generation of pro-active, and tuned-in people who have the skills and interest in developing independence from the current exploitative cultural modalities we have built.
A Child’s Vision of Schooling
Today my daughter described to me the perfect school, at least to her. It would be built on a creek, with several bridges to help you get from one side of the school to another. It would be surrounded by tall trees offering plentiful shade, so it would be comfortable to have classes outside. Students would be able to have snacks and lunch anywhere, and they would always clean up after themselves. The school would make their own compost from leftover lunches. Students would have a class that taught them to grow fruits and veggies around campus, so they would always have fresh snacks if you forgot yours or didn’t like what your mom packed for you. Strangely, it seemed that she’d already read this article.
She never mentioned not learning, not sitting at a desk, not reading or learning math or science. When pressed if there’s something she would get rid of, she mentioned bullies … not teachers, tests or homework. Perhaps my daughter, being 8, hasn’t yet gotten a headache trying to finish a difficult chemistry lab assignment, but I think she shows us just how easy it would be to transform the environment where our children spend so much of their time into something more inspirational and empowering.
Become involved in your child’s school. Find out what they are doing to empower the children and how they are teaching them to address the challenges of tomorrow’s world.