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John & Cynthia Hardy: Promoting holistic education Features News - Thursday, September 28, 2006 Michele Lee, Contributor, Ubud, Bali Canadian-born John Hardy arrived in Bali in 1975 and loved the people and the rich culture so much he decided to stay. He began creating jewelry that was inspired by traditional Balinese handicraft work. In 1989 he met Cynthia, and fell deeply in love with her. She became his business partner and wife, and, with her help, they created a jewelry business that has become a great success. In 2006, John and Cynthia received the Town and Country Couture Design Award for the best jewelry piece in silver and for the best marketing and public relations. While John and Cynthia appreciate the success they have had over the past 17 years, they are much more than businesspeople -- they are true visionaries who have decided to embark on a new mission to create a Steiner-inspired school here in Bali. Cynthia feels that Steiner focuses on the whole child by encouraging children to sing, dance and paint in their younger years, because this is more important than mere academic learning. Kids will get caught up with their reading and writing skills by the time they are in third or fourth grade. Cynthia says, "While we are very influenced and empowered by Steiner education, we want to do much more than Steiner. We want to bring crafts into the school, like textile-weaving, jewelrymaking, woodcarving and painting -- all crafts from Bali. "We also want to integrate Balinese children into our school. We are dreaming of sliding-scale tuition fees. All of this, of course, has to be studied and has to be sustainable. "We're envisioning having the school open 18 hours a day, where children can have computer training, and classes in English as a second language would be available for Balinese kids in the community." The Hardys are striving to incorporate and help elevate the quality of life for the Balinese in their community, while also educating their own children (they have two daughters) and other children in their international school. John and Cynthia have rented just over two hectares of land, in lieu of purchasing it, because they don't want Balinese to sell their land. John says, "It's a win-win situation, because they keep their heritage and we use their land for a beautiful school." There is enough for a soccer field and for kids to do athletics and there will also be a natural spring


water pool situated next to the stunning river that is just below the school grounds. Their construction plans include a music room, a stable for animals, a silversmith workshop and possibly three small classroom structures. All of these buildings will be made from completely natural materials that will be both beautiful and affordable. John feels strongly about the pitfalls of mainstream education. He says, "Thirty percent of people who enter the school system succeed; conversely 70 percent fail. "The educational system as a whole is not bringing everyone forward; it's constantly cutting them back." John and Cynthia put into practice their beliefs. Both of their daughters have been Steinereducated, and their youngest daughter currently attends a local Steiner-inspired school in Ubud. The newly built classroom that houses a combination first/second-grade class and a third-grade class is a beautifully inspired structure built in the shape of a buffalo with an alang-alang traditional roof that resembles the buffalo's mane, with bamboo walls and floors that were put together without any nails; all are in view of the lush green rice fields that surround the school property. The classroom is a reflection of the Steiner philosophy of creating an innovative and ascetically pleasing space at which children may play and be excited about learning. Some people may think that Steiner and holistic education is too focused on creativity and playing, but Cynthia says, "If you talk to a Steiner academic, they would argue most definitely that children coming out of any grade in Steiner would have the same academic capacity to pass any test that a child coming from a public school could pass. "Ultimately, Steiner educated children are equipped with the same knowledge." It is no secret that Alan Wagstaff -- a holistic educator whom John considers to be a visionary in his own right -- has had a big influence on John and Cynthia's vision for their school. They are inspired by his vision, which goes beyond creating a school -- it is about creating a community of people who are a part of their children's school life that is a blend of cultural, spiritual and academic activities that will nurture the whole child. The school is tentatively scheduled to open in Sibang in September 2007. This location was chosen, because it is equidistant from both Ubud and Denpasar. John says, "The king of Sibang is very supportive of this school and loves the fact that there will be a school in his community." It will be an international Balinese school with a focus on cultural integration and appreciation. (A holistic education workshop led by Alan Wagstaff will be held Oct. 2 through Oct. 6 at Kopi Bali House, Jl Bypass Sanur 405E. For further information contact admin@sgfbali.com or call 0815 58001520 or (0361) 7956613.)


Thu, Sep 28 2006 - The Jakarta Post