The Wheels on the Bus (of Changing Education) Go Round and Round Insights

The Wheels on the Bus (of Changing Education) Go Round and Round

By Sal Gordon, Head of School - Green School Bali

How do you create learning experiences that are meaningful, fun, academically challenging, integrated and project-based, with a focus on community-service, and real-world skills and values embedded in them? How do we nurture learners with a love for life-long learning and raise changemakers who will make our world sustainable?

These are big questions, and questions we, at Green School, can answer in many ways.

One of those answers is: BioBus

Green School Bali sets the bar high with its mission: A community of learners making our world sustainable. To move towards this mission, we have created a new model of what a school can look like, what a school can do, and how we learn – our school has ‘Impact’ as a learning outcome. This isn’t an experiment. This is a school educating for the future, where our students – and, really, our whole community – make a difference in their lives and in the world, now and into the future, as part of their learning journey. How do we do that?

The BioBus program started in 2014 after data from a student-led sustainability audit shed light on our community transport footprint. Our community had to get to school from three different areas in Bali – too many cars were adding to our carbon footprint.

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Students and teachers – with parents and other experts – took this as a challenge. Our students researched bio-fuels and (one of the many ‘light-bulb’ moments) realised we could be running a school bus network on refined used cooking oil. The ‘light bulb’ almost popped when more research showed the positive impact of taking dirty, over-used, unhealthy cooking oil out of the kitchens and drains of Bali. A ‘win-win’ situation. Actually, there’s more wins than two.

From the lightbulbs came a school bus service (7 buses in total) that our community uses to get to and from school, and around Bali on our various learning adventures – created through a learning programme design (not a separate side-project) and embedded in the experiences of being at Green School Bali for a cross-section of our community.

The BioBus mission is to provide sustainable transport services to GS and the local communities by offering sustainable transportation, solutions to health and waste problems around used cooking oil by converting it into biodiesel, and deliver real-world, integrated learning to the youth.

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Each month the BioBus fleet saves 7 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. More than 40 entities (including hotels, restaurants, schools, and households) around Bali donate their used cooking oil to our student team, called ‘The Grease Police,’  collecting around 2,000 litres per month.

So what are the learning outcomes from the BioBus project, you must be thinking? One of the most beautiful things about thematic, project-based learning is the abundance of integrated learning experiences that are a part of a single project, and BioBus is no different. The learning outcomes include: project design and implementation, marketing and public relations and social media, donor business management, geology, fuel and future energy generation systems (leading to mechanical engineering), organic chemistry all the way to transesterification labs, a partnership with a refinery, more experiments and business activation using byproducts (BioSoaps and more), finance Mathematics and data analysis, web design and App coding, written and spoken presentations (local to global) and community-service.

Let’s be more innovative and aware of the purpose of education with ‘student learning outcomes’. Real life-long learning outcomes are based on skill development and value manifestation. Real learning is about thinking critically, thinking creatively, thinking in systems, solving problems, adapting, being aware, collaborating, activating, and communicating. And the foundation to this learning is living into values – doing the right thing to make something better – community, responsibility, integrity, equity, empathy, sustainability.

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Real learning on so many levels – learning that makes the world a better place.

The BioBus program is now part of a bigger carbon reduction movement with the school. Projects across transport, recycling and composting have been complemented by carbon capture initiatives including the regeneration of a mangrove sanctuary and bamboo planting. Each project is complex and challenging. Each project is impactful and measurable. We lean into this and learn as we go.

Now think ‘Big Picture’. The BioBus program is a regeneration tool. At Green School, we believe education is one of the most – if not the most – important levers for a sustainable future. A subject or project, a learning experience, at school can be a mechanism for transformational impact. This should be the central focus of schools. The BioBus is just one example from Green School Bali where the learning programme has been designed to create that transformation impact on our communities and our world.

Learn more about biodiesel in school buses and our Partners for Change.