about our building
In 2011 Mundo Verde opened its doors in commercial space on the 2nd floor of a Dupont Circle office building. With only 122 children, we crowded the tiny start-up space and had to be creative and resourceful to maximize space and make the most of our surroundings, exploring local parks and surrounding neighborhoods.
From these early beginnings, we learned to adapt and developed an awareness that in not being constrained by walls and spaces, our students and families gained daily contact with nature and the community.
Out of necessity came a belief that became a defining cornerstone: that learning and education should take place well beyond the the traditional walls that are seen as critical givens for schools.
As a response to the growing demand for its unique educational experience, Mundo Verde sought a permanent location that would enable our diverse community of families to establish a sense of place and belonging in the District of Columbia.
More than a school, more than a neighborhood institution, we aimed to become a green demonstration site for sustainability education, a community asset, and a hub for the formation of young global stewards who would carry forth our vision with their actions.
From 1925 to 2008, the historic J.F. Cook building proudly served as an anchor institution for African American students in the District of Columbia. The school was named after John F. Cook, a pre-civil war educator and activist in Washington.
In 2008, the school closed despite significant neighborhood interest in keeping it open. For seven years, the building remained empty, its features slowly eroding as the natural world attempted to reclaim what it could, with paint peeling; pipes breaking, the roof collapsing, water seeping in and damaging floors, walls, and ceilings; and systems deteriorating. All the while, the skeleton of this beautiful building stayed intact, waiting to be brought back to life.
In 2013, Mundo Verde was selected by the District's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and Department of General Services to renovate and reuse this historic school building. Recognizing the rich history of the J.F. Cook School, Mundo Verde is thrilled to be able to call this newly-renovated site home and continue its legacy.
Other than having a permanent place to call home, Mundo Verde is lucky to move into a neighborhood and building with rich cultural history. The Cook Elementary School was built in 1925 and was named after John F. Cook, a pre-civil war educator in Washington, and Chair of the Republican Party in 1867. Cook’s rise in popularity was due in part to his resurgence of the Columbia Institute School, which he renamed the Union Seminary. Cook dedicated time and resources to help make Union seminary “one of the city's best equipped schools for legally free children.”
The Cook building was the third addition to a cluster of schools originally built to house the overflow of students from traditionally black schools nearby, John Fox Slater Elementary and John Mercer Langston Elementary. Both buildings are still there today, with only Slater being open and operational. Mundo Verde is happy to nest in this building, to further its purpose as an elementary school.
The area surrounding the Cook school today is now known as Truxton Circle. Truxton Circle was named after Thomas Truxton, a naval officer after the Revolutionary War. Up until the 1940s, the circle remained as a public park with fountain, similar to to the one in DuPont. Today, the area where the circle used to be is at the intersection of Florida St and North Capitol, just two blocks from our school.
Mundo Verde is excited to join the rich history of education Truxton Circle has. We hope to leave a mark on this neighborhood in the way that it was once intended to be, a space for academic achievement for youth.
The renovation and construction of our buildings incorporated many sustainable design features and materials. Building materials were salvaged from the original facilities and reused for landscaping and architectural elements. The asphalt areas are being transformed into play spaces and school gardens. The rainwater harvesting system installed by Forrester collects grey water used by the school to save over 350,000 gallons of water annually from going to the water treatment facility.
Mundo Verde sought a campus built not only for learning, but also to act in accordance with its mission and values, operating in an environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable manner measured by established sustainability metrics.
Our staff and students are empowered and bestowed with the responsibility that they can always make the physical space they inhabit more sustainable moving forward. This, after all, is what we do as a school: each year we look at our results, consider what worked, and adjust for the year to come, with the confident expectation that we will improve, always.
This stage of our campus is just the beginning. We recognize our building won’t achieve net zero energy consumption this year, or any time soon. It doesn’t mean we won’t aim for it and get closer year after year. As we aspire for more, we trust that the incremental changes we make this year and the next will have a cumulative environmental impact. Mundo Verde’s “footprint” will be greener each year… and we will leverage this impact; the children walking out of our building will ensure that the aspiration of reaching net zero is a part of all that they do.
When dreaming of our permanent home, we pictured a sustainable campus alive with spaces for learning “the Mundo Verde way”: spaces in which our students are scientists, urban planners, historians, and activists—investigating real community problems and collaborating with peers to develop creative, actionable solutions; spaces in which student see the relevance of their education and are motivated by the understanding that learning has purpose.
The Mundo Verde campus is comprised by two buildings: the renewed and historic school and a new Pre-K Annex. The surrounding landscape is integral to the buildings, blending the natural systems of the city with learning space.
The campus serves as the backdrop for students to embark on learning expeditions. Students grow and harvest food in gardens on site, later preparing them in cooking classes while learning healthy and seasonable eating habits. Organic waste is turned into compost in the community compost bins. Indigenous plantings support migratory insects and birds. An underground cistern and constructed streambed illustrate the importance of water conservation. Building materials and systems are made accessible to the students’ explorative questioning. Their analytical skills are engaged through exposure to natural systems and monitoring and metering of building performance and resource use. In this way, the school’s buildings and landscapes are purposefully designed to be dynamic partners in the development of children into lifelong learners and stewards of the environment.
- 28 light-filled classrooms with bathrooms and sinks
- Reuse, recycling, and compost center
- Infrastructure for the capture, treatment, and reuse of stormwater, including an underground cistern, water pump, constructed streambed, and low-flush toilets.
- Classrooms equipped with daylight harvesting systems, including energy-efficient light fixtures, lighting zones, and dimming controls.
- highly efficient HVAC system
- A dedicated art room
- An expansive auditorium for our community to gather together for celebrations and community building
At Mundo Verde, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to renovate a historical D.C. building to have it align with our mission of sustainability. Here are 8 sustainable features that the new building will have.
1. Refurbished original wood floors
The J.F. Cook school was built with wood floors in 1925. By refurbishing the original wood floors, we not only maintain the history of the building, but we also save this precious resource by reusing it.
2. Other recycled materials
Some other materials we will recycle include: bricks, walls, and staircases. Any usable materials that Mundo Verde will not use on-site will be sent to other construction sites that wish to use recycled materials as well.
3. Windows panes are put together in Frederick, Maryland
Part of sustainability is the commitment to buying and using locally sourced products. By sourcing from local areas, we reduce the emissions it takes to transport materials. Plus, we keep working in the relatively local community.
4. Sustainable “Green” Roof
The roof is colored bright white to enhance reflectiveness. By reflecting sunlight from the building, it will take less energy to cool the building as needed. Additionally, a goal of a green roof is to keep as much storm water off the ground and in the cistern instead.
5. In-house water cistern
A 25,000-gallon water cistern will capture 350,000 gallons of rainwater a year; grey water plumbing will facilitate the reuse of water flush toilets. Think of all the expedition topics surrounding this one feature!
6. Faucets are automated
This will reduce the use of water by automatically turning on and off using timed sensors.
7. Daylight harvesting and Solar Panels
A highly efficient HVAC system will reduce our energy consumption and “daylight harvesting” sensors will monitor sunlight and adjust lights according to how much light is needed. Solar shades filter and reduce glare and heat.
8. Expanded Composting and Recycling System
It is easy to have a recycling system, but an expanded composting system will allow us to potentially use the same compost we create in our own gardens. Our waste services provider will partner with us to measure, weigh and report back to see what our waste levels are so that we can continuously improve.
longterm goals and projects
This commitment to continued growth and greening of our campus focuses on the following long-term projects aimed to create the mission-specific connections between our new home and our curricula, maximizing the campus as a learning laboratory:
Food Education & Science programming:
Natural Schoolyard for Play and Learning featuring play and physical activity structures, outdoor classrooms that engage students in the elements and natural life cycles
A commercial kitchen with a demo cooking station
Bilingual Library/media center
Project-based Environmental Studies:
additional environmental investments
Visual /Performing Arts Program:
auditorium suitable for performances and our fifth grade graduation
Additionally, Mundo Verde aims to leverage its campus as a community asset by hosting workshops and presentations for neighbors, sharing our lessons learned in green building design and site evergreening at conferences such as EL Education Conference and the Green Schools Conference and Expo, and hosting visitors at our school (such as a recent half-day walking tour that featured Mundo Verde, titled Platinum Pride: Sustainable Excellence, from the Greenbuild International Conference’s Off-Site Educational Tour program)