Sharing My Green School Experience – A Parent’s Perspective
It’s a rainy Tuesday morning in Bali, and my six-year-old, Finley, is at her Primary Class assembly. Teachers are playing mellow acoustic guitar in the background, as the children are slowly ushered into the Sangkep – a wall-less bamboo-covered assembly hall.
The children settle into their places, crossed-legged on the woven mats on the floor, and along with my fellow parent friends and my morning coffee, I also take my seat. The children are welcomed by the Head of Primary School, Nicki Lorenzini, who leads the children through a reflection on two beautifully clear goals they had set at the beginning of the school year:
Be kind to others
Be kind to yourself
I soak up the smiles, giggles, and energy of the children as they start sharing their experiences of how they worked towards these goals. Kindness and all the social and emotional elements of education are part of the magic of Green School and are so aligned with my own parenting and educational values.
Interestingly, it’s one of the elements of the school that you don’t find on the brochures or on the website, and yet is at the heart of what this unique school and community are doing. It is visible and integrated, almost as if it is woven into the heart of the school. It is modeled by the amazing educators here and is right through the learning programme that is so carefully developed for each precious development stage.
“Kindness is woven into every aspect of the Early Years. We foster kindness with ourselves, kindness to each other as well as kindness to Mother Earth. The teachers’ model kindness in all of their interactions. Without kindness, how can we grow up green? Social and emotional development is at the heart of our Early Years program. Kindness is infused into each moment of the day.”
Russlee Panepinto, Green School Head of Early Years
My daughter joined the Early Years Program when she was three, in the Pre-K Geckos class and was immediately embraced with open arms by the teachers in the warm, ‘nest’-like classroom. It is the only way I can attempt to describe the Geckos classroom – like a bamboo nest cocooning the children. The classroom is set-up to expand the early-years sensory and learning experience with all furnishings in it soft-edged, curved, with a beautiful sense of ‘flow’. There are no boxes or hard edges to the Early Years neighborhood. Classroom resources are carefully laid out in a menagerie of bamboo floor-height tables, dress up clothes, musical instruments, puzzles, books. All carefully placed to help students encourage and explore their imagination, build their curiosity.
A colorful poster was a centerpiece of the classroom. Carefully crafted by all the little hands of the Geckos class students with each name carefully placed on it. The poster said: Gentle Hands. Nurturing these values from such a young age and really guiding our children to be more self-aware and build empathy, was not only encouraged but was central to all the things happening in Early Years.
The magical three years that Finley experienced in the ‘nesty’ neighborhood of Early Years has allowed her to blossom and grow into her best self. She is bright, articulate, artistic, sensitive, silly, but most of all she is kind. Finley understands the power of collaboration and empathy, in her own six-year mind. Sustainability does start with ourselves and our own self-awareness, and kindness is integral to this.
As Finley has now transitioned into the Primary Neighbourhood of Green School, she has flourished and is loving the independence of being a First Grader. While she may be out of her nesty Early Years environment, there is still an emphasis on empathy and kindness throughout the Primary School program, as was reflected in the Primary Years assembly.
Photo above: Finley at her Kindergarten Graduation ceremony ‘stepping-up’ into the warm embrace of her new Primary School teacher.
After three years at Green School, I am still amazed that our weekend conversation is often peppered with the questions, “Why is there no school at the weekend mummy?”, “I want to go to school”. For Finley, when the school gong chimes, it means, yes! – it’s time to get to class. And for me, when it chimes at the end of the day, it is the start of the negotiation. Tears are even shed as Finley mounts her case to stay on campus – often until 6 pm! Herding Finley and her friends off campus seem to be the only moments of sadness in an otherwise happy school experience.
This has been my daughter’s educational experience so far. Her creative spirit is nourished daily, her sense of fairness and kindness is valued, her curiosity for the world and the surrounding world is fuelled.
This is our school experience. This is Green School.
Writer: Lee Ann McKee has been a parent at Green School for the last 3 years. A marketing consultant, writer, third culture adult (educated in 3 continents), and co-founder of stix-motivation through music, she moved to Bali with her family, from the hubbub of the city to live a more quiet, sustainable life.