Manassas Park Elementary School + Pre-K, Manassas Park, Va.
MPES is fundamentally designed around the premise that people, especially children, cannot be expected to preserve or protect something they do not understand. As such, the school is conceived throughout as a teaching tool that shepherds children along a path of environmental stewardship. Inside and out, sustainable design is integrated with the elementary curriculum. Design decisions were made with the expressed goal of showcasing as many teachable moments as possible. Interior extended learning spaces offer dramatic and surprisingly intimate views of the neighboring mixed oak forest, while elementary classrooms face shady moss and fern-covered learning courtyards featuring “fallen” trees and other particularities of an eastern deciduous forest floor. (VMDO Architects, P.C.)