The Monteverde Institute Outdoor Classroom: an Innovation for Conservation

By Mariah Brannan


MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — An outdoor classroom behind the Monteverde Institute is one of the institute’s newest innovations promoting sustainability.

Before I stepped into the classroom, I expected what most people would: a typical classroom with chairs, at least one table and a dry erase board to write on.

But this classroom, built in 2011, exceeded those expectations. The room, surrounded by thick glass walls, gave the room a pure feeling, allowing a clear view of the forest that students are not only immersed in, but that this treasured room was composed of.

The concrete foundation had a mixture of paint, oil and acids to create a polished finish. More than 500 green, blue and red glass bottles collected and rinsed by students of the institute and community volunteers combined with concrete and metal were used to construct the transparent walls.

The combination of Honduran pine and metal sheets used for the ceiling and roof created a tranquil atmosphere.

All in all, the room was breathtaking.

My limited experience in sustainable institutions made me appreciate the construction of this building even more as I reflected on the community and environmental impact that one classroom could have.

The goal for the outdoor classroom was to use as much recycled material as possible in an attempt to model for locals how attainable and practical sustainable living is.

“This classroom in a way tells people, ‘You can do the same in your house, or even better, ’” said Aníbal Torres, coordinator of the project. “Many have taken to the concept and used this in their own way. I won’t take all the credit, but the classroom has inspired a lot of people in the community.”

The primary costs of this nail-free project was investing in labor since all the materials used, excluding the glass bottles, were grown at the institute, Torres said. Every component of the building process of the classroom involved natural resources, students from the institute, volunteers and local artists Lynx Guimond and Ward Kane.

Pleased with the community impact and reaction, Torres believes the classroom evokes the values that the institute cherishes and promotes to others.

The outdoor classroom, as with most areas at the institute, is primarily used by students but is open for public use as well. Torres hopes the concepts embodied by this project will encourage conservation and viable living for the populace of Monteverde.


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