Courtesy of Live Magazine, December 2021

Entrepreneurship and enterprise are not just subjects at Green School, but ways of being and doing. Hannah Mumby takes a closer look at how the international school is educating for a sustainable world, by inspiring local changemakers.

Head of School, Caroline Rennie, says one of Green School New Zealand’s main focuses is to ignite an entrepreneurial spirit in each of its learners from the moment they set foot on campus.

With its buildings and facilities designed to align with nature, she says it is Green School’s attempt to live and learn in harmony with the natural environment that helps it achieve its purpose-driven, entrepreneurial learning goals.

“We are immersed each day in our values and vision for sustainable learning, and it’s that mindset that enables us to be more effective with enterprise education.

“Green School understands that the world will only change if it balances economic and environmental parameters, and our learners – tomorrow’s leaders – must be able to creatively align those two factors.”

Rennie says students practice their entrepreneurial skills on a regular basis – as questioners, thinkers, doers and active learners.

The school’s goal is to challenge learners to consider problems with an open mindset, one that considers possibilities in conjunction with what is already known. They’re encouraged to look at the world from a uniquely sustainable and natural mindset, which often pushes the parameters of each problem.

“Entrepreneurial learning is about taking risks, being creative, pushing the understanding and asking questions in different ways. Our teachers support our learners in providing the flexibility to explore creative thinking, and build confidence and resilience by making mistakes and taking risks.”

Green School’s curriculum is based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and infuses proficiency learning such as literacy, numeracy, and science, with studies around wellbeing, sustainability and systems thinking.

“Everything is then applied to an authentic, real-world and practical context. We endeavour to provide our learners with the understanding, as well as the practical application, that will allow them to be successful in whichever path they choose beyond high school,” says Rennie.

The syllabus features annual “Capstone Projects”, which gives students an opportunity to use their own passions to devise business plans and work with local communities to address current social and environmental challenges.

This year, projects have included jewellery making to help with anxiety, a clothing swap, education sessions around rat trapping and conservation, the development of walking tracks to help with mental health, and the invention of a boot dryer prototype for trampers and farmers.

GSNZ Year 11 scholarship student, Milla Worthington, has taken her love of science and turned it into a fully functioning business that sells environmentally friendly, organic, natural lip balms.

As part of the project, Milla conducted science experiments to finalise her product, then had to apply for a loan through the school, work out repayments, establish pricing, and create a marketing strategy. She’s using the profits from Stage 1 of her project to reinvest and improve her product for Phase 2.

Milla says being in control of her own idea has been the most rewarding aspect of the learning.

“I get to choose what ingredients I use, how ethical and sustainable they are, and how I want it all to look. Having the ability to continue to make changes and improvements to the product as I grow the business feels really good too.

“Ultimately, knowing that I’m meeting my targeted earnings, and seeing that people like the product, is by far the best result.”

Milla’s mum says the real world learning has been a great way for her daughter to test the possibilities of entrepreneurship and see what she is capable of with support, mentorship, vision and the desire to achieve her goals.

“It not only teaches Milla to be self-motivated, but also the value of her time, effort and calculated risk taking. And it has the potential to infuse a self-belief in the creation of one’s own employment pathway.”

Investigations into the Capstone Projects happening at sister school, Green School Bali, shows how students from as young as 10 are making an impact on the world around them.

A Grade 9 (Year 10) student recently created a stair-step and tile that generates electricity, while a Year 11 student is on a mission to reduce ocean pollution in Bali through his “Underwater Waste Clean Up” initiative. He has already collected more than 40kg of trash.

The successful global “Bye Bye Plastic Bags” movement was created by sisters Isabel and Melati Wijsen, who started the project from Green School Bali when they were just 10 and 12.

Rennie says it is important to acknowledge and appreciate the learning systems of the past, but the 21st Century is calling for a more adaptable approach to help address the growing demands of a changing world.

“The infusion of creativity, interest, joy and engagement increases motivation and allows students to progress to higher levels of learning.  At Green School New Zealand our motto is “Thrive with Purpose”, and we believe that is what makes us unique, radical, and relevant.”