La Escuela Sustentable
We visited La Escuela Sustentable in Uruguay, the first school of its kind in America. It's a rural school that produces its own electricity, water and heating.
It's a strong collaboration process between the citizen, public and private sectors that made this project happen. The project was run by Tagma, a small local NGO from Montevideo made up of young creatives, educators and researchers in collaboration with Unilever Sustainable Living and 60 other local companies. The idea started back in 2011 and it took 5 years of planning for all actors and funders to come together and make it happen. The local community played a big role, there was a long process of finding ways to connect with the community and involving them into the project, not only to build the space but in the everyday activities on the school.
In a Latin American context, the citizen sector has to create partnerships with the private sector to develop projects when the state is not able to provide support. This project is particularly interesting because it opens up new possible collaborations between actors and sets a precedent for upcoming projects and innovation.
Architecture: A custom design by Mike Reynolds for Earthship Biotecture
Built in one month by almost 100 volunteers from all over the world and 60% recycled materials (including tires, bottles and cans). Inside the school there's also a green house that helps regulate the temperature maintained by the students of the school.
When visiting Uruguay and Argentina we got to meet several people working with sustainable architecture. The field is developing very fast. There's a strong environmental drive but it's also becoming a much more conscious economical alternative.
It's not only about the building and the symbolic value of having a totally off-the-grid educational institution. It's really about challenging the learning experience for the students, for the teachers and for the educational system as a whole. Tagma is very active in contributing to connecting the official curricula with the learnings the building provides. It's an on-going evolving process in which the teachers play a massive role in keeping the connection alive. It's a process of learning new things and un-learning a lot others. One of the biggest challenges is training the people working with the maintenance of the building and how to translate the learnings that are happening in this rural school into a bigger educational reform.