Tag Archives: community


Integral Philosophy = Zeitgeisty Education Strategy

As a #solarpunk writer and embodier of positive future living, I have long pondered how to “do primary school education right”. This month, my curiosity for learning about alternative approaches to bust the mainstream way-of-things-to-be-done led me to visit Brisbane Independent School (BIS) in the Western suburb of Pullenvale.

bis-tree-webI had met one of their teachers at a party and asked him so many questions that he invited me to their monthly open day morning tea, which happened to be a few days later. I was excited – I have driven past the BIS sign for years and wondered what it was like. Finally I would get some answers!


BIS is community-run (half the board-members are parents) and has existed for 50 years. It is one of Australia’s few truly independent schools with no religious or other ties (like Montessori or Steiner schools) whatsoever. Its size and structure has changed a lot over the years; today there are 60 students, prep to Year 6, so 4 ½ to about 12 years old). Most of BIS’ changes happened because the school’s teaching approach has constantly been adapted based on new findings in educational best practise.

Yes, you read that right – Brisbane Independent School has been implementing and testing scientific findings on education for the last 50 years!

As a result, BIS used to be tres laissez-faire about 25 years ago but has since become much more structured. However, compared to the rigidity of mainstream schools, BIS is extremely flexible – and gorgeously so. Which makes perfect sense because as we all know, once size (or approach) does not suit all…

The isolated nature of the hectic cityIt is the first Wednesday of the month @9:55AM and I am greeted by trees, meadows, birdsong, gorgeous properties and a lawn-mowing Shetland pony (not the school’s!). BIS is located in the semi-rural Western suburb of Pullenvale, just off Moggill Road.

IMG_02301I breathe deeply. What a setting for a school! I meet another lady who is checking the school out for her super-cute young daughter. Together we find our way to the parents’ room and it’s all really casual and friendly. We fill out an info form (Reason for visit: Research for TZM and my novel), have some biscuits and listen to the princip’s introductory talk. Jen talks fast and likes to have a laugh, she is full of passion for her work and has lots of energy – good energy. I already feel like enrolling myself in this school (this feeling grows stronger over the next couple of hours, and is shared by the other visitors!). There are four other parent teams or mothers apart from me, a couple of young children who I quietly envy because they might be able to attend this school one day, as well as a student’s mum who is helping out in the background.

Parents’ involvement is an important part of the running of this school, or rather, school community. Parents attend curriculum meetings, working bees and help out in various ways – without getting in the way of their child’s development of course. It can sap on kids’ confidence levels if they feel like their parents spend time at the school for their sake, rather than because they have a job to do.


Jen briefly explains the school’s Integral Development Strategy, which translates into an extremely well-researched education philosophy centered around the individual.

From the BIS website:

“What is an Integral School?

Simply put it means we use Integral Philosophy as the core of our values and daily experience at the school. Integral Philosophy (Wilber, 2000) draws together a variety of human development models into one coherent system. Integral acknowledges the thousands of researchers and developers who’s theories have been coordinated into one model.

“What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about human potential – about spiritual growth, psychological growth, and social growth – and put it all on the table? What if we attempted to find the essential keys to human growth based on the sum total of human knowledge now open to us? What if we attempted, based on extensive cross-cultural study, to use all of the world’s great traditions to create a composite map, an all-inclusive or integral map that included the best elements of them all. “ (Ken Wilber)”

Click here for more detail on Integral Philosophy

Then we go for a look around. The three classrooms are huge and comprised of several areas for different learning content. Arts, Numeracy/Literacy, Play, fish tanks and for the older students IT and Science equipment.

KIRA-FILMINGThere is a library, a big hall, a heavenly arts room and big verandahs that lead to inviting outdoor areas with a massive sandpit, vegie gardens, several grassy areas with playground features and shade-giving climbing trees.

IMG_0233The increased demand for this type of education means there will be a fourth classroom (and teacher) next year and – hopefully – a high school in the next few years.

As we walk around and check out the different spaces, barefoot kids in colourful clothes (bare feet are the norm, plus no school uniforms) are playing in the garden, some are reading, a couple of girls are still in the classroom finishing their workbook exercises. A lot of the education here is self-paced and a lot of assessment is going on behind the scenes – who needs extra help with spelling, reading, maths or time-management? Who is not coping and why, who needs extra emotional support?

The isolated nature of the hectic cityJen and her team of three full-time teachers, three full-time teacher aides and a couple of part-time aides certainly have their hands full. Here the community aspect of the school comes in handy, as parents come in to help out in-class (on the day that I was there, a student’s doctor father was coming in to do a Wet Lab with the older kids dissecting toads or cow eyes or whatever it was – I’m sure we all remember that day of biology class…I spent it sitting on a table near the wide-open window, sticking my head out as far as I could while breathing through my mouth and trying not to retch). It is really interesting to learn more from Jen about the different developmental stages that make kids tick a certain way at a certain age, time and place.

values-chartBut how, you ask, does this work? Three classrooms for six or even seven grades?

A BIS day involves three different learning sessions comprised of activities that teach the Australian curriculum. At least during the middle session, children move fluidly between the different classrooms. Aha, that is why Jen could not answer the question of how many kids there are per grade. This flow is based on their individual learning style, on what learning goals or projects they need to complete and what their developmental levels are. Sometimes it can be scary for younger students to visit the older kids’ classroom for the first time, but it usually turns out to be much less scary than anticipated and staff provide plenty of help along the way. Plus, if children really do not cope well, they can always turn around and try again later. This usually just means that they have not yet reached the next developmental stage – no biggie, they’ll get there. No pressure!

Click here for more detail on the different classrooms

The isolated nature of the hectic cityThere are weekly Yoga and Jujitsu classes and the afternoon schedules relaxation and breathing (aka stress management) exercises as well as quality playtime.

YogaSeems crazy, and it involves a much deeper involvement in each individual to ensure no one slips between the cracks. It’s fascinating and really makes sense when you see it in action.

There is no homework for the first few years as there is no evidence suggesting that homework is beneficial for young students! When BIS students do start to get homework, it often becomes a fun activity because learning does not have the same stress attached to it from a young age. In normal schools kids’ spirits are being crushed by an iron homework regime from the start. So they have to sit still at school and learn, and then do more sitting still and learning at home in the afternoon? Crazy. That time should be reserved for playing, rest and self-expression!!

Kmareephotography-SHOOT7-57-of-139There is no punitive system, but the school does follow some basic rules and teaches consequences. For example, one consequence of unruly (pun intended, and makes me consider the word “unruly” in a new light) behaviour might be losing your license to use the arts room for a week.

The teachers have weekly meetings where they discuss every student’s progression and developmental stage, making sure they are supported as holistic as possible. BIS teachers also do lots of personal development through weekend workshops and bi-weekly training in non-violent communication and integral philosophy.

The school follows the Australian curriculum and there is testing but it is not taken overly serious by teachers and parents – resulting in students who are not overly stressed like those in mainstream schools. NAPLAN testing is done at BIS but parents can decide to pull their child out if it becomes a major stress factor.

“The Naplan test day is a day like any other at BIS.” says Jen and, as I look around, imagining myself over twenty years younger and enrolled here, I believe her.

And somehow, it all comes together and works. BIS graduates do really well overall, they do degrees and get into all kinds of fields later on. The transition to high school can be hard for some, but then it is easy for others – just like with kids from mainstream schools. At least BIS kids have been learning for years how to deal with stress, how to resolve conflict and and how to express themselves in different ways. Apparently one former student expressed her surprise at the “emotional immaturity” of the other kids at her new high school.

After two hours and many questions (most of them asked by curious me while the “real” parents are busy with their kids and wondering whether their family might fit into this school) I walk back to the car park. The school’s mission is “to nurture, develop and trust our pupils’ innate love of learning and positive values” – they tick all the boxes and I feel empowered knowing that futuristic school design is not so futuristic after all, just hugely undervalued. How I wish that more schools could follow this really rather simple (yet by no means easy!) and intuitive approach to educating our little ones. Unfortunately Brisbane Independent School is one of only a few schools in the world that follow Integral Philosophy.

Tying it back to the train of TZM thought, I enjoy linking the concepts of Integral Philosophy to our transition as one Earthly People towards awakening and system change. The transition to a NLRBE (Natural Law Resource Based Economy) has many different developmental stages and so does each human being. The evolution of mind, body and soul clearly happens in bursts, mostly out of whack with each other (mainly because our system is so out of whack), sometimes in blissful harmony with each other.

Each of us has a slightly different process, a different recipe for learning and living, and most of us do not enjoy being pushed into anything – be that into learning institutions, belief systems, economic structures or new thought trains.

Our own education is really quite an intimate affair, especially as we grow into double-digits and begin to search for meaning and passions. We need to explore on our own sometimes, into different directions, guided by teachers, rather than being forced into one-size-must-fit-all scenarios which persist only because they are cheap and not challenged on a large enough scale.

Education is one of TZM’s big focus points– not just for adults but also for children. The UK’s TZM Education project is already kicking some serious arse by going into schools and presenting (un)common sense to our future generations. And even though many of us Geisters choose not to procreate, we have many teachers in our midst and are passionate about finding ways to “get education right” in preparation for a NLRBE. BIS is a stand-out example as well as a most interesting case study of a self-organising system, and I believe there is a lot to learn from its – sadly – very unique approach to education.


Pointers, lessons and experiences from TZM Brisbane

The other day I was sent a message from the Finnish National Coordinator, Teemu Koskimäki asking me a few questions about the level of TZM activity in Australia over the past couple of years, how our chapters are doing now and about any challenges we have faced. This got me thinking about all of the valuable lessons we’ve learnt along the way, especially the local chapter in Brisbane and how we’ve managed to end up with a solid active growing group.

brisbaneBurn-out is super common amongst social activists – and I’ve noticed it particularly with TZM activists. Once people discover the importance of educating everyone about the monetary/market system, the concept of a moneyless society, the scientific method and the overwhelming immediate need to change the world – it can become incredibly stressful and disappointing when others around you don’t understand or don’t follow through.

stressIf you are in a different part of Australia (or the world for that matter) and you’ve been thinking about starting a chapter, or you’ve started one and you’re not sure where to go from here, here are a couple of pointers, lessons and experiences we’ve had that can help you on your journey.

  1. Find the core group and low-hanging fruit

breakfastI wouldn’t say our success has been anything to do with the ‘type of people in this city’. As a matter of fact, I think a large amount of people in this city are generally quite ignorant and dismissive of global problems, or they’re caught up in local political debates.

Don’t go all out expecting to change everyone’s mind – especially as a lone wolf or couple! The first step is to find other people who are on the same level already. Yes, they are out there – especially if you live in a city of a million or so people! These people probably already feel alone and misunderstood too and would probably love to connect. I’ve found starting a Meetup to be incredibly effective, as well as starting a Facebook group. Attending other sustainability events and connecting with people can also be helpful. Start with organising something super simple – hanging out at cafes, having picnics, dinner parties, movies and so on. Unnecessary over preparation for a young chapter can be exhausting and lead to burn out.

  1. Delegation

people-chain-bannerOnce you get that awesome little group, don’t be surprised to get a lot of you-shoulds, it’d-be-better-ifs and why-don’t-yous. Of course suggestions are welcome! However, you have no obligation to follow through on suggestions. Remember you are only one person and can only do so much. If I think it might be too much to take on, my response might be something like, “That’s a great idea! I’m happy to support you in organising that in any way I can.”

  1. Utilising national and global resources and support


Especially with marketing, don’t make everything from scratch. There are so many resources out there made by passionate and skilful activists from around the world. Check out Emboonite’s stuff on our activist material page. Also, if you hold movie nights, it might be a good idea to show a part of one of the Zeitgeist films, or a short Z-Day presentation from somewhere else in the world. Here’s a great example from Abby Martin.

I received an email a couple of months back from someone who used to be part of the Perth chapter, who explained that the core group didn’t want to have much to do with global because it was a ‘centralised’ system, which is in essence against the core train of thought. I would say coordinators have no interest in policing – we have absolutely no control over who starts a chapter or who doesn’t. We can only choose who we support and who we don’t. Networking, brainstorming, finding solutions and sharing ideas. That’s what it’s all about.

evening hangout

  1. Staying in touch with global chaptersworld

Involvement in monthly global Teamspeak meetings has kept us up to date with what’s happening with other chapters around the world. We get updated with the latest available material and latest events and share what we are doing too. You can also help with their projects from afar – be part of the global team, help with adding to online content or if you’re more technically minded you can help with their website or even decision-making processes.

  1. Start an event like “Monthly Movies that Matter”.

casey presenting 3

Our main public event in Brisbane is a perfect opportunity to connect with like-minded people and discuss the Zeitgeist Movement train-of-thought. Its advertised on the main website, Eventbrite, sent out to the Australian mailing list, Facebook (the national and local chapter pages) and Meetup. This draws in people from a range of different backgrounds and experiences and sometimes brings in people who actually don’t know much about TZM but are interested in sustainability in general. It’s a great environment for them to learn and connect. Not everyone will understand or be into it, so just focus on the successes and remember that it takes some people a while to fully comprehend several of the concepts we discuss. Keep it simple and focused on a topic that’s not too controversial, until you have a fairly solid group.

  1. Hang out!


Most importantly, I believe the success of our chapter comes down to developing long-lasting friendships. Over the years of hard work, we’ve also got to know each other personally. Events are the most exciting time of the month and in between that we have movie nights, parties, go on trips together and generally have a lot of fun. We are honest with each other and not always dead serious about changing the world – TZM activism is something to be celebrated!