The first time I set foot on the campus of Greenschool I knew this place was unlike any other in the world. It was calm, peaceful, & all of the children were beaming with positive energy. There were no closed in walls, all the functioning structures were made of bamboo & totally open to the lush permaculture that surrounded the heart of the school; it almost didn’t even seen as though it was a school.
The second day I visited Greenschool about 15-20 6th graders were covered in mud in the mud pit (where the full moon ceremonies are held-also directly next to the principal’s office) having a “bonding session as the rubbed mud in each other’s hair. Right besides this “bonding exercise” was 5-7 students jamming away on marimbas & jambeys during their “snack time.” And when the gong rang & all the kids scurried to their next destination I knew this was the place I needed to be. (Oh did I mention the school lunches are made from organic foods that are picked from the crops surrounding the school, the toilets are composted, every building/classroom & all the furniture is composed of sustainable bamboo, the water is derived from an underwater well that is located directly under the school, the electricity is in the process of being supplied by a vortex in the river next to the school, & it has the smallest carbon footprint of any mass school on Earth. This place RULES!!)
The following day, I met with the founder of the school, a man who is severely scarred from the realities of “An Inconvenient Truth,” & has dedicated the rest of his life to create one more solution towards a more environmentally conscious future. In the short time that I spoke with him he asked me questions like “how many GOOD teachers did you have, honestly?” “What do you think is the real reason people choose teaching as their profession?” And “how many of those teachers do you think change the world in their summers off?” He wanted me to not only answer the questions, but to answer them honestly. So I did, & I will never forget that conversation.
Unfortunately, this opportunity Matt & I have been given is a scenario of sad endings leading to new beginnings. The woman whose position we were given died (today actually). A few days before her death all of the Greenschool teachers sat listening to the founder as he pleaded to us that “you should never wait to be doing what you really love because you never know when this will all be over for you. One month ago I saw Dawn (the woman who we replaced) pushing around a wheelbarrow, now she is in hospice waiting for the cancer to end its cycle. If this is not what you want to be doing, please go figure out what it is.” Then we all gave her a minute of silence.
So, needless to say, we’ve got shoes to fill & not only do we want to fill them well, we want to fill them GREAT because we cannot imagine anywhere else in the world we would rather be, than here & in this situation. Now we are Ibu Brynn & Pak Matt (aka “The Greens”) & we are team teaching these kids about Green Studies (the whole backbone of this schools mission), & we are being supported by everyone around us to throw out the books & get these kids dirty & reconnected with nature.
Since we have taken on this role (which also involves creating the whole curriculum- an enormous task in itself) we have discovered how humans have deprived themselves of nature by succumbing to the convenience of air conditioning, fast & easy food, cemented walls, etc. & have forgotten all of the things true nature inherently provides for us. It has been said that in order for a human being to understand the extremity of the world’s environmental crises they have to possess an intimate connection with the Earth on a personal level. Or, in other words, the people who get out in nature catch bugs, get their feet dirty, swim in natural waters, learn about & live off the land etc. will have a deep yearning for this place we call home & even consider it as a part of themselves (which instinctively they want to protect). The ones who segregate themselves from the natural world will find it hard to care or even think twice about something that isn’t a part of them (why would they care if it’s gone if it’s not a part of their day/life?). It is estimated that by 2030 80% of the world’s population will be urbanized & sheltered away from everything natural. So it is our job to not let that separation happen to these children by giving them all the opportunities to love & learn about the natural world. It is our job to get these malleable souls out in nature & understand what it feels like to hold a butterfly in their hand, dig up minerals from the breast of the Earth, & get their hands dirty in the most sustainable ways. It is our job to turn these children into conscious adults who will be leaders & movers in our global environmental solutions. This is where I need to be right now, & I AM GOING TO KICK ASS!!!
“In the end we will only conserve what we love,
We will only love what we understand,
We will understand only what we have been taught.”
~Baba Dioum –African Conservationist