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Green school sprouting

Construction work on the Green School outside Paarl on the Simondium Road is well underway and is now starting to take shape.

The Green School, the first of its kind in South Africa, is due to open on 25 January.

Situated on eight hectares in the Cape Winelands, Green School South Africa has been closely aligned in its development with international sustainability principles and practices, says Head of School Andy Wood. The school is modelled on the first Green School, established in Bali in 2008, and, after Green School New Zealand, it is the third in a planned international network of Green Schools.

This school’s campus was designed and constructed in accordance with the international gold standard in green building, the Living Building Challenge. This standard, developed by the Living Future Institute, has stringent requirements to ensure buildings don’t just have zero footprints, but are regenerative: this means for instance that the campus is not only carbon and water neutral, but that it consumes less energy than it produces, and uses less water than what naturally enters the site.

Green School is powered by its own solar-generated electricity, and the water balance has been carefully calculated to ensure that water extracted from the river and borehole is replenished with rainwater received. Administrative buildings and classrooms on the expansive campus are set within vegetable gardens, orchards and grain fields overlooking the mountains surrounding the valleys between Paarl and Franschhoek. “Rather than being contained within four walls, our learning environment embraces nature and integrates with the outdoors, inspiring students to create bonds with their environment and think more expansively about it,” explains the school prospectus.

“The natural, holistic setting inspires fun, exploration, curiosity and creative expression. It encourages students to chase adventure, connect with each other and their community, and genuinely enjoy coming to the school every day. The gardens not only teach learners about maths and chemistry but re-establish the tie between us as humans and our nourishment, and connect the school community to the land.”

Wood believes Green School’s approach to teaching and learning differs substantially from most other schools. “Our objective is to build a community of learners focused on making our world more sustainable,” says Wood. “We aim to teach learners to develop the ability to be creative, to solve problems, to collaborate and see themselves as agents of change; not just as empty buckets collecting information to pass tests but as vibrant, young people who have a passion for making the world more sustainable and who engage in activities that enable them to make a positive difference in the world around them.”

Green School offers three “Frames of Learning’’, which are enhanced by their natural habitat that provides a living laboratory for many subjects. The Frames consist of Proficiency Classes teaching mathematics, languages (English and Afrikaans) and science; Thematic Classes involving cross-disciplinary learning around a theme; and Experiential Classes based on entrepreneurship development, environmental studies, arts, health and well-being.

A highlight of the year is the development by learners of a “passion project” based on a subject in which they have a strong interest. They then explore and develop their projects and present them to the school at the end of year.

Local resident Alba Brandt, whose children attended Green School Bali and who has co-founded Green School South Africa with her husband, Herman, says parents are strongly encouraged to actively participate in school life. She cites as an example the case of a learner who has chosen renewable energy as their passion project. A parent with expertise in the subject could then provide guidance to the learner. “We see parents as an important part of the school community,” says Brandt.

Green School, adds Brandt, hopes “to encourage changes in the general education system by making school fun and practical, by instilling a spirit of entrepreneurship in children at an early stage and by engaging them in their environment and community”. Children, she says, are too often taught to wait until they are adults before making life and career choices. “We want to encourage them at a young age to do things based on what they enjoy or in which they are interested.”

Brandt continues, “Our experience at Green School Bali of this progressive model of education transformed our perspective of what a school can offer and also our thinking of what will be required of children entering the job market in the 2030’s. The challenges that humanity will face and the leaders our school system needs to cultivate, makes the opening of this school, in our country, so important.”

With a planned enrolment of 150 learners and 15 teachers, Green School offers education from kindergarten to Grade 8 in 2021 and will expand to provide education up to Grade 12 by 2025. The school aims to maintain a ratio of one teacher to 10 learners.

It is aligned to the South African public-school calendar but follows the Green School curriculum. Its end-of-year assessments of learners will be based on Green School standards, on the basis of which Green School Bali graduates gain access to top universities around the world.

For more information on Green School South Africa visit www.greenschoolsa.co.za, contact admissions@greenschoolsa.co.za and follow Green School South Africa on Instagram @greenschoolsa and like them on Facebook @greenschoolsouthafrica

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