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The Global Search for Education: The Green Leaders of Tomorrow

Jan 19, 2019 by

“The teacher’s role in this journey is to ‘model advance learning’. They are there as a mentor, a guide, a coach, and most importantly, a co-learner.”  –  Glenn Chickering

Our environment should be important to all of us.  It is after all where we live.

The Green School in Bali was founded by John and Cynthia Hardy who wanted to create a school focused on environmental stability.  The big picture goals for the school included wall-less classrooms and the vision that learning can take place anywhere, especially outside where students can connect with nature in a more meaningful way. Indeed, teaching children to take care of their environment begins with immersing them in this school’s impressively self-sustainable “green” campus. How do the faculty build out curriculum from there?

The Global Search for Education welcomed Green School founding faculty member Glenn Chickering to talk about educating for sustainability, complex systems and lifelong learning.

 “Our open classrooms give a feeling of being outside and a part of the ecosystem to our campus at all times. This is important in that we go about our days without the separation of space and climate that a traditional school building inherently has.” – Glenn Chickering

Glenn, what would you say makes the Green School a unique and innovative learning experience?

I would say the shortest answer to that question would be that we are wall-less in respect to our facilities, our relationships, our programs, and our connections to the communities within and without our school.

Our open classrooms give a feeling of being outside and a part of the ecosystem to our campus at all times. This is important in that we go about our days without the separation of space and climate that a traditional school building inherently has. It is cooler in our classrooms because of shade and fans, but there is not an extreme difference between the ambient air temperature outside a building and the air-conditioned rooms you typically find in a school setting. I feel that our absence of this extreme difference is key to our connection to the natural world.

There is another aspect to our infrastructure that is very important – the ‘hidden’ curriculum. It is much more powerful to teach students about the principles and importance of sustainability when they are surrounded by sustainably built buildings and furniture, and served healthy food grown on our campus or nearby on plates made of banana leaves with no plastic utensils. Contrast that with a school teaching about nutrition with hallways full of soda and candy bar machines, and lunch lines full of fried food wrapped in plastic.

We work hard to foster mutually respectful relationships between our students, teachers, staff and parents. Our students consistently speak to how comfortable they feel to be themselves and how much they appreciate their relationships with teachers, who are on the learning journey with them.

We purposefully design our learning programs so that subjects are integrated and our students mix with students of different ages. This helps emulate life, where subjects are not neatly divided and you don’t spend your day mixing only with people within a year or so of your age.

We are also very intentional in connecting our students to real world projects at all stages of their learning journey. Rather than looking at school as a place to incubate a student until they turn 18 and then set them out to connect with the real world, we look at school as a safe and supported entry point to real world projects for students of all ages.

“We are also very intentional in connecting our students to real world projects at all stages of their learning journey.” – Glenn Chickering

What are the key goals of your curriculum?  What do you care about the most in terms of your learning framework?

With our curriculum we are looking to hand the learning journey back to the students. We want them to trust and challenge themselves. We look to foster the mastery of the Green School skills that is akin to the 21st century skills, but tailored to promote our school’s mission, as the paramount goal of our learning program.

We believe that in order to solve the global issues of today, the citizens of the world must be ‘systems thinkers’ who are able to understand the principles of sustainability and know where there are leverage points to help steer systems, be they environmental, economical, societal or personal, toward a sustainable path.

We believe that you learn by doing and this is why we connect our students to their communities in real world projects.

Finally, we create space for students to create their own learning journeys, with passion projects and large pieces of time off the timetable.

Give us some examples of the learning strategies you believe have been the most impactful in terms of achieving these goals. 

Firstly, slow down and allow time for mistakes, reflection, and reiteration. Schools tend to try to pack in too many learning objectives and cover too much content. It is much more impactful to teach our students ‘how to learn’ in today’s world. Learning is often messy – and that’s ok. You can’t always measure everything cleanly – and that’s ok too.

Secondly, stress the importance of questions over answers. Students need to learn to ask the right questions so that they may overcome adversity and innovate. If a school is feeding content and then asking the student to supply the correct ‘answer’, then we are not setting them up for success in today’s rapidly changing world. We need to get them asking the right questions.

Finally, give the students choices in their learning journey. Create more elective courses. Change courses more often. We run our middle and high school on 6 week academic blocks and the students choose new courses every six weeks. This keeps them fresh and engaged in the process.

“The citizens of the world must be ‘systems thinkers’ who are able to understand the principles of sustainability and know where there are leverage points to help steer systems, be they environmental, economical, societal or personal, toward a sustainable path.” – Glenn Chickering 

Can you speak about in the interaction between teachers and students – how much of the learning is student driven?  What is the role of the teacher?

Teaching is always about striking that balance between creating the structure a student needs to stretch themselves as a learner and leaving the learning journey open to their interpretation, process, and interests. There are times when we provide a fair amount of structure. There are times when the students create the entire course and learning journey with consultation from teachers and parents.  The teacher’s role in this journey is to ‘model advance learning’. They are there as a mentor, a guide, a coach, and most importantly, a co-learner. They show students how to go from idea through the design process, the mistakes of implementation, then reflection and to the desired results.

What assessment do you use to ensure your students are world-ready?  

More than anything, we try to make their outcomes public. By that I mean, we are asking them to display their work for others to question and challenge. We are asking them to present in front of audiences. They will need to do this to succeed as adults – communicate their ideas – follow through on their plans – test their results – and share it with the world for scrutiny.

We are also asking them to learn to collaborate with an eclectic group of people. This is vital in today’s world.

What kinds of challenges – ongoing learning or employment – are traditional Green students leaving Green School for?

This answer is as eclectic as our student body. We have students studying computer science, medicine, social sciences, environmental sciences, and art at some of the top universities all over the world. We have former students who left school to start their own businesses or go straight into the work world with NGO’s.

C. M. Rubin and Glenn Chickering 

Join me and globally renowned thought leaders including Sir Michael Barber (UK), Dr. Michael Block (U.S.), Dr. Leon Botstein (U.S.), Professor Clay Christensen (U.S.), Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond (U.S.), Dr. MadhavChavan (India), Charles Fadel (U.S.), Professor Michael Fullan (Canada), Professor Howard Gardner (U.S.), Professor Andy Hargreaves (U.S.), Professor Yvonne Hellman (The Netherlands), Professor Kristin Helstad (Norway), Jean Hendrickson (U.S.), Professor Rose Hipkins (New Zealand), Professor Cornelia Hoogland (Canada), Honourable Jeff Johnson (Canada), Mme. Chantal Kaufmann (Belgium), Dr. EijaKauppinen (Finland), State Secretary TapioKosunen (Finland), Professor Dominique Lafontaine (Belgium), Professor Hugh Lauder (UK), Lord Ken Macdonald (UK), Professor Geoff Masters (Australia), Professor Barry McGaw (Australia), Shiv Nadar (India), Professor R. Natarajan (India), Dr. Pak Tee Ng (Singapore), Dr. Denise Pope (US), Sridhar Rajagopalan (India), Dr. Diane Ravitch (U.S.), Richard Wilson Riley (U.S.), Sir Ken Robinson (UK), Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Professor Manabu Sato (Japan), Andreas Schleicher (PISA, OECD), Dr. Anthony Seldon (UK), Dr. David Shaffer (U.S.), Dr. Kirsten Sivesind (Norway), Chancellor Stephen Spahn (U.S.), Yves Theze (LyceeFrancais U.S.), Professor Charles Ungerleider (Canada), Professor Tony Wagner (U.S.), Sir David Watson (UK), Professor Dylan Wiliam (UK), Dr. Mark Wormald (UK), Professor Theo Wubbels (The Netherlands), Professor Michael Young (UK), and Professor Minxuan Zhang (China) as they explore the big picture education questions that all nations face today.

The Global Search for Education Community Page

C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, “The Global Search for Education” and “How Will We Read?” She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, is the publisher of CMRubinWorld and is a Disruptor Foundation Fellow.

Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld

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