Words by Sarita Pockell, Performing Arts Teacher.
As Green School matures as a community of learners, our students, who have already cultivated a love of nature and a drive to create a more sustainable, equitable world now want to be active participants in the global movement for climate justice and peace. This is what we have always envisioned for our school. We would educate “green leaders” who would go out into the world and make it a healthier place for future generations. Help to fix the damage we have done with our careless practices.
I am one of these learners. When I first became a Drama teacher at Green School, I thought that meant I would be using more natural or recycled materials in our sets and props and using Wayan Kulit (Balinese shadow puppetry) in our productions. All of this was a great step in the right direction, but it was just the beginning. When I really questioned “What does it mean to be a Green School Drama teacher?” I realized that we had to use theater to help students connect with real world issues on a deeper, more emotional, even spiritual level and we had to use it to inspire change in the hearts and minds of our audiences. This would be integral education for sustainability. My teaching practice transformed.
How can schools make a meaningful and relevant impact on their communities and world?
Students at Green School have been focusing on waste in Bali and Indonesia, where pollution from plastic is visible and extreme. We created, Noble Material a musical which would be a platform for our students to understand the waste problem in a more intrinsic, embodied way. The original musical is about the physical and existential journey of plastic…from its invention, to its ocean fate. And yes, our costumes and sets were made by students from our community’s rubbish, but the performance allows the audience to empathize and connect with….the plastic itself.
When Green School Green Generation, our High School activists, decided that they had to come to Paris be a part of the COP21 and the COY11, it was not yet clear how important the Arts would be in their journey. When the prestigious Sustainable Solutions Forum invited Noble Material to perform at their event (the largest side event of the COP21), GS Green Generation jumped at the chance to use the musical as a platform to bring their important solutionary initiatives to the spotlight. We edited up a 15 minute mobile version of the musical entitled “The Noble Material Roadshow”. It would begin with the tale of plastic, but hold space to include other issues that the students wanted to voice in Paris, such as Indonesian deforestation for palm oil production and inspiring community projects like the Bio Bus.
Parents and teachers designed incredible costumes for our activists out of our community’s plastic rubbish. These costumes ended up being a crucial element in our students’ activism. Before their performance at the COY11, the group drew attention to themselves by walking around the conference dressed in their plastic couture. This facilitated the gathering of over 800 audience members, many of them youth from around the world, to see their Bye Bye Plastic Bag presentation and their performance. They received a standing ovation, inspiring their peers with their art and message.
Here is the introduction to the Noble Material Roadshow:
Besides this performance, the students have been using other art to make a statement. Green School’s grade 2 students made incredible orangutan masks which GS Green Generation have been using in Flash Mobs at the COP21 and as a narrative to spread the word about the Indonesian burning and deforestation for conflict palm oil. (search #orangutansinparis on facebook to follow their journey). They created their own chant and use it to gather press and raise awareness:
Meanwhile, back in Bali, teachers and students made upcycled signs and a giant orangutan puppet to use in the Climate March on Pererenan beach. Green School teachers and students led the march in chants and songs as we made our way through the crowds on the beach.
And beyond all of the music, performing arts, costume design, and visual arts projects that have facilitated deep activism in Paris, GS Green Generation have used their graphic design skills to create all of their own logos, bookmarks with palm oil and bio bus facts to hand out at events, banners to use on stages and booths, online presentations and more.
GS Green Generation’s Contribution to Green School’s “Shift” Program,
Art and activism go hand in hand. When we speak of experiential, integrated learning, we are acknowledging that art, besides offering creative expression and voice to each individual, is one of the most powerful means by which we can make a meaningful and relevant impact on our communities and our world.