The Monarch School Celebrates Earth Day 2014 with Green Campus Tour and Unveiling of Living Building Studio Classroom

The Monarch School celebrated its 2nd Annual Earth Day Festival at the Monarch Institute for Neurological Differences, John M. O’Quinn Campus on April 22, 2014 and unveiled its new Living Building Studio Classroom. 

The Studio Classroom is the first project in Texas built to meet the requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). To date, there are only five certified Living Buildings in the entire world. Phase I of The Monarch School’s 1,120 square foot free-standing multi-purpose classroom is complete. 

The studio serves as an outdoor living classroom in which the student’s day-to-day interactive decision making will help the building achieve net zero energy and water performance. 

Click here for examples of how students might use interactive decision making to help achieve net zero energy and water performance in the Living Building.  Students monitor the building’s Heating and Cooling, Nature Light and LED Light, Wind Energy, Water Harvesting, and Geothermal System. 

The Living Building Challenge is the ultimate extension for The Monarch School’s sustainability efforts.  Today, The Living Building Challenge is the most advanced measure possible of sustainability in the built environment.

Green building, sustainability and an environmental education programs are all examples of the commitment made by The Monarch School to it students when it began in 1997. 

In addition to the Living Building Studio Classroom, The Monarch School completed its Chrysalis Building in 2009 and received LEED® Gold Level certification in 2010. With the start of the 2013-2014 school-year students saw the competition of two new environmentally green buildings on campus, the Butterfly Building and Monarch Center. Both buildings received LEED® Gold Level certification in June 2014.

The Monarch Campus has a unique environmental design aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health. The Chrysalis building, Butterfly building and the Monarch Center building incorporate indirect lighting, soothing colors, clean air, and space design specifically shaped for individuals with neurological differences. The outdoor campus supports acres of project work in environmental education. 

 “An important aspect of The Monarch School’s environmental education program is that it offers our students with special needs the opportunity to learn about the environmental elements of our campus, and as they learn they share the knowledge of how to be good stewards of the environment with their families and the larger Houston community,” said Dr. Debrah Hall, Head of The Monarch School and Institute for Neurological Differences.

 “Ultimately, our environmental program will showcase three viable renewable energy sources—solar energy, wind power and geothermal energy, as well as incorporate active water harvesting. Students will conduct tours to educate the community about the value of these resources,” she said.

The Monarch School’s Earth Day Festival activities give students an opportunity to showcase the environmental programs they are part of all year long.


Tours conducted by Monarch students include information about the LEED® 
Green Points Directory displayed throughout the school as a teaching tool about sustainability and the environment.  The students use the directory to describe how the buildings were designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. 

In addition to Earth Day tours of the Monarch Campus and Living Building Challenge Studio Classroom activities included: Tree Planting with Monarch students working side-by-side with community and corporate volunteers. Also, demonstrations on energy conservation, as well as information about a student’s honey harvesting project. Mini- tours by the students showcased their environmental activities harvesting, growing and planting cord grass in Galveston Bay through a partnership with the Galveston Bay Foundation Marsh Grass Project. Students also hosted a Recycle Salvage Sale and were honored to have Via Colori 3-D pavement Artist Anat Ronen creating art on campus.

The Monarch School was featured in The Center for Green School’s publication, ”The Whole-School Sustainability Framework”, a complement to the Green Ribbon Schools criteria and a resource to guide schools in setting the cultural conditions needed to support sustainability efforts. This publication made its debut at the Green Schools National Conference held in Sacramento, California in March 2014.

The Monarch School is dedicated to providing an innovative, therapeutic education for individuals with neurological differences. As part of our effort to “Shape lives from the inside out,” we have targeted and achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certification for our main campus buildings. LEED® for New Construction v2.2 Gold certification demonstrates our commitment to the environment and our students. 

Monarch Student In the Community: