I am so grateful for this task because it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the best Professional Development experience I have ever had. In 2009 I attended a Global Citizen Eco-Summit at the Green School in Bali. Although before the conference I was keen to be environmentally friendly and felt I “did my bit” for the environment, my ecoliteracy improved tremendously as a result of the conference and I returned to the classroom with a sincere passion for sustainability and an appreciation for experiential learning.

The conference began with a welcome drink at the director’s home (administration and teachers live in yurts on campus- see image below) that was served in cups made of wood with straws that were hollowed out lemongrass sticks! I remember raising an eyebrow and thinking- hmm, how clever! We then went on a tour of the school grounds and it was the lemongrass straw times 100! Below are a few of the pictures I took of the classrooms but they don’t really do the campus justice so here is a link to the school’s Gallery page. Scroll down to the “Architecture Gallery” and have a look.

http://www.greenschool.org/gallery/

yurt greenschool.jpg

Staff accommodation on campus


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Classroom- Discussion Circle


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Classroom


I remember during the tour how all of the conference attendees kept looking at each other with facial expressions that asked “Am I really witnessing this? Is it really possible that this is the tour of a school?” I was in awe but I also had my doubts- how much learning could really be happening in these bamboo classrooms- they looked nice but was there any substance? How practical was the campus really? Looked more like a place for summer camp than an academic institution. I realized at some point during the conference though that although valid, these questions were based on a traditional sense of education and academics; a traditional view on why we educate. Do we educate to help students acquire knowledge and skills that will help them fit into the present world or to help them dream of a better future and acquire the knowledge and skills to realize those dreams?

I learned at the conference that to build a better future we need to have a healthy relationship with nature. When you are walking among nature every day as you study Mathematics, History, Science, etc... chances are pretty good that you are not only going to acquire academic knowledge but you are going to come to understand how your learning relates to the natural environment. You are also going to understand the role nature plays in your life and the value of learning from nature and fostering its health. I was only there for four days and it built an appreciation for the natural environment in me that still stands today.

Not only did the school itself and its ethos and practices help to improve my understanding of the need to learn from nature- and learn and through experience with nature- but I attended several presentations that really made a difference in my ecoliteracy. In particular, the presentation put forth by Facing the Future- a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to create tools for educators that equip and motivate students to develop critical thinking skills, build global awareness and engage in positive solutions for a sustainable future” had a tremendous impact on me.

It was through Facing the Future that I came to understand the term sustainability and the importance of experiential learning. Resources from FTF present real world situations examined through the lens of global issues, allowing subjects such as Humanities, Science and Mathematics to leap from the textbook into the hands of students who, through experience, come to better relate to the knowledge and see the relevance of their studies. Many of FTF resources foster ecological intelligence and stress the value of being connected to the natural environment. Complex problems such as poverty, climate change, population growth and food and water security are all addressed with the environment in mind and with the goal of, not producing band aid solutions, but solving the root of the problems sustainably.

I strongly recommend that you spend some time on their website.

http://www.facingthefuture.org/

There are many free resources available and they hold webinars as well.