For more than seven years, Global Andalan School has provided an unusual educational framework for its students. The school is situated at the edge of the industrial peat forest lands cultivated by Riau Andalan Pulp & Paper (RAPP) in Indonesia’s largely rural province of Riau. Students learn in gazebos set throughout two hectares on the grounds of Estate Pelalawan. They spend their school day amidst the growth of shrubs and other plants, where they are able to observe the recurring cycles of the natural world. The school’s founders decided on an alternative structure that emphasizes one-on-one attention for students and families, individualized instruction, and a curriculum guided by the students’ interests.
RAPP is among the constituent companies of the $15 billion RGE Group. Founder and CEO Sukanto Tanoto established the Tanoto Foundation more than three decades ago to create better educational opportunities for the people of Indonesia, and has since funded the construction and refurbishment of many schools across the country. By partnering with RAPP, the Tanoto Foundation has created a brighter future for the children who attend the school at Estate Pelalawan.
Nature permeates every aspect of the students’ time at school. Each child is responsible for an individual vegetable garden which they use to grow a single crop. Students develop empathy, compassion, and a sense of team spirit when they help their classmates after finishing their work in their own gardens. In addition, students are able to see the results of their labor when they take their harvested crops to market. One group of students used the profits from their recent market sales to fund a special picnic.
Education experts around the world have stressed the importance of helping children connect with nature in meaningful ways. A nature-focused education can open new doors for students by teaching the technical skills necessary to grow agricultural products, and by encouraging responsibility and good stewardship of environmental resources.