School Notes

Here’s a rundown of the activities taking place in the days and weeks ahead and people making news at your Fairfax County Public Schools.


  • Gingerbread houses made by fourth grade students at Fort Belvoir Elementary will be on display at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate on Tuesday, November 29, at 10:30 a.m.  The students will be on hand for a special program, tour, and unveiling of their creations, which are interpretations of the various buildings at Mount Vernon.  Designed and built by the students as part of their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum, the student buildings include the 16-sided treading barn and gristmill and have been designed to complement former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier’s gingerbread re-creation of the mansion.  To guide the students’ creations, Fort Belvoir teachers developed lesson plans incorporating principles of chemistry and engineering as well as colonial history.  They were assisted by Kathleen Linton, a professional chef and gingerbread artist, and were provided supplemental lesson materials by Mount Vernon.  The houses will be on display in the lobby of the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, adjacent to Mesnier’s mansion, through January 6.
  • Games that challenge students to think will be featured at Game Night at Springfield Estates Elementary on Wednesday, November 30, beginning at 6 p.m.  Students, parents, and teachers will gather to play fun, mind-challenging ThinkFun games such as Rush Hour and Pathwords; families can also purchase the games and the school will receive 40 percent of the profits.  The games will be set up at tables and participants can move from game to game during the evening.
  • Holiday music and skits will be performed by members of the Woodson High band at the Tiny Tots Holiday Concert on Wednesday, November 30, and Thursday, December 1, at 10 a.m., in the main gym.  Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will be on hand along with other holiday characters.  Children from local childcare centers attend the concert, which allows band members to have some holiday fun with costumes, song, and dance.  They also showcase different musical instruments to educate the children about music.
  • Sixth grade students from Fort Hunt Elementary will take a field trip to the National Portrait Gallery on Thursday, December 1.  The trip, an annual event for sixth grade students, will feature permanent exhibitions on America’s presidents, the struggle for justice, 20th century Americans, and the Civil War.
  • The FX Players of Fairfax  High will present William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Macbeth, in a special effects-laden performance, on December 1, 2, and 3 at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are available online at or at the door.
  • The Flint Hill Elementary SCA will host its annual Holiday Craft Fair on Saturday, December 3, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The event will feature professional crafters, photos with Santa, a book sale, bake sale, cake walk, secret Santa shop where children can shop for gifts for their parents, and a holiday café.  Contact 703-242-6100.
  • Colvin Run Elementary students have been gathering and sorting food donations as part of the CRES Cares Thanksgiving Food Drive, which will support families at Hybla Valley Elementary.  This is the third year that Colvin Run has held a food drive, and this year the tradition has spread to three other schools that are joining the effort to provide food during the Thanksgiving, winter, and spring breaks.
  • Students at Herndon High recently participated in Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, a program of the National Sleep Foundation that raises awareness of driving while drowsy, the cause of about one in six deadly crashes.  Students in the leadership class posted information and facts about the dangers of driving drowsy and created a short video with tips for safe driving.  The Fairfax County Police Department provided impaired vision goggles to simulate the effects of driving drowsy, and officers had students try to walk a straight line while wearing the goggles.  Leadership students also provided a Wii driving game that students could try to show the dangers of driving while impaired.
  • Two First Lego League (FLL) teams from Rocky Run Middle won first place awards in a regional FLL tournament held last weekend.  Team 4056 won first place in the Haymarket B, Division 2 category for Robot Design.  Team 4513 won first place in Robot Performance and the Champion’s Award in that same division.
  • Silverbrook Elementary fifth grade students collected school supplies for Ecole Amitie in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, as a school service project.  Many of the students’ families are unable to purchase school supplies for their children.  Silverbrook students collected three large suitcases full of supplies for the Ecole Amitie students, and also wrote notes to the children and decorated the suitcases.  A retired FCPS teacher will deliver the supplies to Haiti.
  • As Northern Virginia families looked forward to their Thanksgiving feasts, students at South County Secondary were making sure that those in need would also be fed.  A schoolwide effort coordinated by the leadership classes resulted in a collection of 2,871 pounds of food that was donated to the Lorton Community Action Center (LCAC).  Since 2007, when the drive originated at the school, South County families have donated a total of 10,976 pounds of food to LCAC, which distributes it to needy families in the Lorton area.


  • Arianna Mollers of Chantilly High was named the winner of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) Football Feature Writing Contest.  Mollers’ story about the leadership of injured senior football players will be published in the VHLS State Championship Football program; she will also receive a plaque and tickets to the championship football game of her choice.
  • Betsy Sandstrom, who teaches Russian at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST), was named the first place winner of the Distinguished Teaching of Russian Language and Culture award from the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature (MAPRIAL) and Russkiy Mir.   Sandstrom received the award at the first International Russian Language and Culture Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, earlier this month.    To be invited to the festival, teachers had to be recognized by an international committee for their contributions over time to teaching, then move through a series of qualifying activities in St. Petersburg.    During the competition, teachers watched a demonstration lesson on video, then were given time to write a critique of the lesson.  Ten finalists were chosen for individual interviews with a team of judges.  Seventy-four countries were represented at the festival.  Sandstrom attended the festival with three of her students — Tania Ermak, James Graham, and Gordon Hart — who were awarded laureate status certificates.
  • Web curators at five Fairfax County schools have been named winners of the WebStar awards for the first quarter of the 2011-12 school year.  Winners are Camelot Elementary, Mathieu Campet, curator; Terraset Elementary, Lora Hirshberg, curator; Bush Hill Elementary, Susan Price, curator; Twain Middle, Megan Farrelly, curator; and Madison High, Yusef Azimi, curator. WebStar awards are awarded quarterly to three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school selected by fellow web curators as outstanding school web sites.  Winners receive a gift certificate.