MSB’s Adolescents Break Ground on Permaculture Garden

This week Montessori School Bali’s adolescent programme, which was formed this academic year, is set to break ground on their permaculture garden. The class will be getting their hands dirty in the weeks ahead as they explore the horitcultural technique of hugelkultur and all the science and mathematics that can be found within this type of garden.

The garden is a natural extension of the micro-business that the students launched this year, lil lotus coFFee. This small business sees the students sell the beans, plus fresh-brewed cups of coffee and organic chocolate (naturally, coffee flavoured). They hold a weekly pop-up cafe in the school’s drop-off area each Friday morning, and also run stalls at school events like the Twilight Market (the next one is happening May 24 — mark your diaries!).

Lil lotus coFFee has been supported from the outset by (, a young environmental “think-do-be tank” based in Bali that is focused on sustainability and farming within the context of climate change — in particular, working with farmers growing coffee sustainably. Sure-co helped facilitate the class camp, which saw students stay on a Balinese farm to see how coffee is grown and harvested. They also observed how cows contribute to producing clean biogas energy for the farmers (yes, it’s all about manure) and gain firsthand experience with the chemistry involved.

Montessori adolescent programmes world-wide typically create a micro-business as a core component of their curriculum. The idea is to involve them in adult work in a way that allows them to see how adults produce and exchange goods and learn sound business skills at a time in their life when they are very interested in this process. The teacher can then work to ensure that the appropriate academic subjects are included.

“Nobody is complaining that they will never use maths when they are already using maths in business proposals and working out costings, reinvestment analysis, specialist remuneration and reconciliation,” says Katherine Shearer, the class teacher. In lil lotus coFFee’s case, the students decided that one third of the profits goes back into the business, one third goes to charity (Lombok relief efforts) and one third goes towards something the class will decide on as a group, such as a trip overseas or some equipment for their classroom.

When the students decided to expand their potential Friday morning sales by selling a drink other than coffee, they experimented with orange juice and mango smoothies, but this month switched to pineapple slushies, with pineapples provided by Future Farms Indonesia (FFI, This has been the start of a business relationship the students hope to see grow, with FFI stepping in to help them with their permaculture garden as part of their own efforts to promote farming among young people on the island.

Creating their own garden will see the students expand their own products for sale at the cafe. As part of the preparation, students also visited the New Earth Cooking School ( to see their garden and prepare an organic lunch, where they got a real sense of the vast possibilities that lie ahead. The micro-farm, like much of the specifics of each Montessori adolescent programme, will evolve over time and be shaped by the students themselves together as they pioneer the exciting programme.

“It has been great to see how this programme exposes the realities of the world and particularly life in Bali to the students,” says Stuart McDonald, the father of one of the students in the programme. “Students are getting out and about exploring the island and learning about life. We can’t wait to see how the permaculture garden develops and what the students learn as it grows.”

Engaging adolescents in nature is a fundamental Montessori approach to their education, says principal Jan Gaffney. “Adolescent brains are going through a particularly dramatic period, where neural pathways are collapsing and being rebuilt as they enter into adulthood,” she says. “Immersing adolescents in nature helps them expand excess energy, it keeps them aware of the fast-changing bodies and it connects them to the earth in a very healthy and calming way.”

Head and hands work is a basic tenet of Montessori learning, and the whole design of the programme for adolescents aligns with neuroscience research that shows learning is more effective when it is hands-on and involves multiple senses.

Planting fruits and vegetables is just the beginning for the MSB permaculture garden. Animals will eventually be added, perhaps goats for milk and cheese, chickens for eggs, and bees for honey. “Permaculture is about creating an entire agricultural eco-system that is sustainable and self-sufficient. It’s going to take a lot of work, but our students are ready for it,” says Katherine.

MSB’s Adolescent Programme is now accepting enrollments for students aged 12 and 13 (and will continue until they are 15). Email to arrange an appointment at the school. See more at*


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