John Hardy’s dream school
‘Mr Al Gore gave me an incredible future’
He is known for his unconventional ideas. He dreams them, lets them percolate, builds them. Such as the Green School on the Indonesian island of Bali. An amazing feat of architecture made entirely of bamboo. In 2008, this off-the-grid school was his first large-scale project championing education and design to build a more sustainable world. We are talking about Canadian John Hardy, who, together with his wife Cynthia, established what may the largest free-standing bamboo building in the world. “With the realisation of the Green School, we have made the impossible possible: stirring up an educational revolution for our children.”
Like his ideas, John Hardy’s story bears witness to authentic creativity. A jewellery designer, he set up a jewellery company in Bali in 1975, which developed into a large multinational. Over 30 years later, he completely turned his life around: he stopped working to dedicate himself to education and design committed to a better world. This was prompted by Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. “It ruined my life and at the same time gave me an incredible future,” says Hardy. “I decided right there and then that, for the rest of my life, I wanted to do everything possible to improve the future prospects for my four children. Setting up the Green School is by far the most important thing that Cynthia and I have ever done. I simply couldn’t find it in my heart to put my children in a box where they would be educated day in, day out. Boxes built by the same people who also build prisons and hospitals, using the same processes, the same materials.”
Bamboo dream school
And so Hardy created his own dream school. Made out of 7 kilometres of bamboo, or, as he calls it, ‘giant grass’. Surrounded by jungle and rice fields and with sustainability as its central focus. The campus is virtually self-sufficient,with 118 solar panels, an on-site permaculture farm for healthy foods, a rain water filtration system, buses that run on used cooking oil, a sewer system that returns waste to the soil as fertiliser, a mini hydro vortex, a water filtration system and a compost station. Everything is incorporated into a breathtaking building where inside is outside and outside is in. A building without walls, where the children are free to sharpen their senses. At a location where creativity and innovation merge seamlessly with education. In a lively community where people from all corners of the globe come together to gain and share new experiences.
For our children to prosper and humankind to flourish, we need a new kind of education
As worldly as it is spiritual
The Green School breathes green and is like no school we have ever known. “When the scaffolding was removed, it revealed a real cathedral for green education,” says Hardy, describing his creation. “Green School is a model we built for Bali and the world. It’s about letting you lead to simple rules: be local, let the environment lead and think about how your grandchildren might build.”
With its open spaces and organic shapes, the place feels as worldly as it is spiritual. And so is the education given, based on Alan Wagstaff’s Three Frame Day: proficiency, thematic, and experiential. The school’s website describes it as follows: The world our children will inherit is changing faster than any time in history. For our children to prosper and humankind to flourish, we need a new kind of education. (…) Our mission of ‘a community of learners making our world sustainable’ sets the core philosophy of why and how the school educates. The ‘Green School Way’ is to prepare for the real world by being involved in it now, to have impact now, to take responsibility now and to model and practice the skills and mindsets that we will need later on, now.
‘Our graduates are living examples of the School of the Future, now’
Hardy about his dream school: “This place exceeds all my expectations and dreams. Ten years on, the Green School has gained a firm foothold. This is the kind of education that the world needs and that we owe our children. Education focused on the whole child, teaching them skills to not only get a job, but to become green leaders in a world that needs them desperately. That is why they have to learn that the world is not indestructible. With a completed holistic education and an internationally recognised Green School diploma, our alumni are capable of truly making a difference. They are the changemakers. They are the future. They are living examples of the School of the Future, now.”
Now, in 2019, the Green School has become a true community. With green houses around the complex and green businesses. The school has some five hundred students from over forty countries. Hardy’s green empire in Bali was extended in recent years with the Green Village, a community of twelve sustainable, hand-built bamboo houses and villas. In 2020, a second Green School will open its doors in Taranaki, New Zealand, also according to the concept of bamboo man John Hardy.
You’ll meet John in Eindhoven at 21 October!