Barefoot Play: A Bamboo Playground in Bali

Location: On the campus of the Green School in Bali, Indonesia.

Bali is on the other side of the world and while I thought it was a wonderful place to visit, this playground is at a private school, so I’m not suggesting you make the trip just for this…though Green School is worth learning about!


The Green School in Bali offers tours. And they fill up. You need to plan a bit to get a ticket.

The school opened in 2008 and now, 8 years later, has 400 students. It is a private school that attracts students from all over the world. In fact, my tour guide said that ‘most’ (I’m not sure this term is actually based on percentages) of the families find a way to move to Bali for a year so their kids can attend. She said they end up staying on, not willing to go back to regular school. It is not a residential school, so children go home to families in the afternoon.

I had been hearing about this school built entirely of bamboo in the jungles of a tropical island and was glad to see it with my own eyes. The curriculum, taught in ‘outdoor’ classrooms (there are no windows or doors, but the bamboo structures have computers, desks, alt-whiteboards, etc) focuses the lessons through a lens of sustainability. So the students rotate through the jobs on campus, like managing the compost they produce (augmented by manure produced by two cows kept for that purpose), and working in the recycling center, where they collect and sort trash to sell to a company that makes shipping pallets.

Green School classroom and compost and cows

The school is expensive to attend. But the price of all those tour tickets go to pay for scholarships for local kids, who make up 20% percentage of the student body, as well as an after-school program that local kids attend.

It is an impressive campus. The bamboo architecture is gorgeous and the setting is splendid. The river that runs through campus is used to generate some of the power needed and while I was there, young school kids were eating their lunch barefoot on the bridge. I like barefoot kids.

My favorite thing was the amphitheater and mud pit. In my recollection from what I learned from my tour guide, the students gather weekly for mud wrestling in this big puddle as part of gym class. I may have gotten some part of that story wrong, but I just love the idea of it. When I showed my own children this picture, they were enthralled. They love big puddles.

Mud bath at Bali's Green School

Bali Green School Playground

Playground-Review-logoWhat’s to love?

From my perspective: My kids didn’t come with me to Bali, and I didn’t talk with any of the students, so these are my thoughts.

I love that the kids kick off their shoes before climbing up into the colorful play structure. Barefoot is just better.

When my own four and six year old children looked at the pictures, they were enthusiastic, mostly impressed by the unique look and the bold colors. However, when they started asking questions, I realized how different this “playground” was from what they expect: No slide. No monkey bars. No spinning features.

While I was observing, the students in the play yard were older, I’d guess somewhere in the range of 4th – 6th grade. No one was swinging. The kids that kicked off their shoes to climb into the colorful bamboo structure were meeting up with friends to sit and chat in a shady spot. It had the feel of a clubhouse more than a play structure. The kids were calm and relaxed. I’m not sure what a typical American school yard looks like during recess?

Notably, this playground is part of a private international school started by a Canadian-American couple so their own four children would have a ‘dream school’ to attend. This is the only playground I saw in Bali. There are likely to be others considering the number of ex-pats who live on the island, but they are not an obvious part of any traditional Balinese infrastructure.

SO, what I like most is that this school exists, and that people build their dream schools and do amazing little and huge things, every day, for their children. Our children inspire us. It’s hard to explain. But they do. And I hope we can build better schools, and a better world to play in, for all our kids.

PS: I recommend watching “My Green School Dream,” a 13 minute TED talk by John Hardy.

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About Jessica Becker

I am a community outreach professional raising two daughters with my husband in an old house on an isthmus. I wake early to practice yoga, I cook dinner for my family, I bike most places I go, and I believe that happiness is a life skill. It is up to each of us to create the causes of happiness. For me, that means seeing what is going on and engaging creatively with people and places. I write about it at BetweenTwoLakes.com.

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