Before you read the rest of this post, make sure to watch this video. It will blow you away:
OK. Now that you’ve seen this video about this most amazing school, doesn’t it make you want to visit Bali? I would love to see this school up close and personal. I would love it even more if the administrators of the schools that my children go to would latch on to this idea and run with it.
My eleven faithful readers who know that I hail from smack in the middle of the High Plains are probably thinking to themselves, “But Sparrow…you live on the High Plains, where there’s snow and bitter cold most of the year! How could you possibly build such a fabulous, amazing, wondrous school such as the Green School in Bali?” Well, the reality of it is that open air bamboo classrooms aren’t going to be a reality here in North Dakota. However, schools can be built using recycled materials and Green concepts that are adapted, or unique, to each season we experience here (yes, we have more than one season: Winter and Road Construction!)
The thing that intrigues me the most is that the children in the video are given the opportunity to not just go to school, but experience life and really get to understand how everything is connected in their world. They get practical experience for living in their local environment by participating in helping to grow and harvest the food they eat, and I could go an and on, but you get the picture from the video.
Here in the Great White North, schools are dictated by a cookie cutter mentality. If a kid learns differently, they are disabled. Done. End of Story. Do not pass go or collect $200, and for God’s sake, see your physician and get your kid medicated. Both of my children were late bloomers, but they were labeled as learning disabled at a young age, because they didn’t fit the cookie cutter mold that 80% of students slide right into. The teachers insisted that we get our kids on medication to “make it easier for them to learn”. They even talked us into taking Oldest son to a specialist when he was in the 3rd Grade to get him diagnosed, so he would be easier to treat and teach. When the specialist was done testing him, she told us, “he could have ADD, or he could have high-functioning Aspergers…we just can’t tell. That will be $400.00, thank you! Next…”. Meanwhile, the physician we’d been recommended to take him to had him taking Welbutrin, which never worked. None of the other medications we tried worked either.
Soon after that, Older Son cornered me in a quiet moment and asked me if he was mentally ill. By this time Younger Son had hit first grade, and his teacher had insisted that he needed to be medicated too. The Ritalin the doctor had him on caused his behavior to hit the skids. I was at my wit’s end, and that’s when I grew a backbone. My kids weren’t sick, they weren’t broken, or damaged. They were just different.
At first I thought the teachers and administrators must know best because they are the professionals, right? Let me tell you what complete and utter B.S. that is. When I finally got it, when I finally really understood what a racket the schools and pediatricians have going on up here with the whole medicated child idea, I was heartbroken for having gone along with it, and for having medicated my kids, when they just needed extra help in reading and math. They needed a school environment that kept them interested and engaged, rather than sitting in a box all day trying to pay attention to dry subjects that don’t have any real meaning for them because their hands aren’t engaged along with their heads.
When I pushed back and fought against drugging my kids, the teachers weren’t happy. In fact, they if weren’t openly angry about it, they treated me as though I was being a neglectful parent by not drugging my kids. I’d like to speak to those teachers who said my kids wouldn’t make it without drugs. Both are doing well. Not only is Older Son doing very well in school, but he also holds a part-time job. Younger Son, who, as far as his Fourth Grade Monster (ahem, teacher) was concerned wouldn’t ever do well or be much of a reader, manages some how to get on the honor roll every freaking quarter. Success with no drugs…I’d very much like them to stick that in their pipes and smoke it, and smoke it hard.
But, I’ve digressed. As you can tell, education of our youth is something I’m pretty passionate about, given my experiences as a parent. And as a child, too. I didn’t do well in the cookie cutter environment either, but back then there wasn’t the idea of medicating your kid if he or she didn’t fit the mold.
Having said all that, I think Green can have more meanings that just the materials you use to create a dwelling or how you treat your environment. I think Green means fresh thinking. I think it means thinking out of the box. I think it means teaching children how to be live successfully in their local environments by integrating topics across classes. I think it means constructing the idea of schools being more sustainable on their own, and teaching the kids about living sustainably.
Most importantly, kids need to move. Keeping a kid captive in a chair for most of a day without much in the way of making what little movement time they get relevant to what they’re learning is not good. Memory is made stronger when your body is engaged with what you’re hearing and talking about, so what’s being taught will be that much easier to remember and integrate into their daily lives. Teach practical topics along with the three R’s so that it’s all one integrated, meaningful stream of knowledge. Meaningful, I think, is the operative word here. Parental and community involvement is also key. It really does take a village to raise a child. If one leg of the Parent-Community-School triad is busted, it just makes it that much harder for the kids to grow up whole and become ready to face the world as adults.
I think schools in harsh climates have a tougher job, and I see strides toward integrative teaching methods, but there’s more work to be done. I know it isn’t easy, and it’s simple of me to sit here and blog my heart out about it, but I truly think it’s something that can be done. If you found the video interesting, there is more where that came from. Double click on the video and that should take you to you tube. John and Cynthia Hardy have some really good ideas about education, and I hope it catches on across the world like a prairie fire. It’s not just the structure that houses the school that’s impressive, but what goes on inside.