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Waxpool Dedication Is the Ultimate PBL Project


The dedication of Loudoun County Public Schools’ 59th elementary school on November 1st probably set a record for the largest project-based learning exercise. 


Waxpool Elementary Principal Michael Pellegrino told the dedication audience how the student body created everything connected with the ceremony.


“This entire dedication was created by answering one, simple driving question: How can we, as the Waxpool staff, involve all the students to contribute to our dedication in order to inform our community? Everything you see came from that one question. You have to understand that to truly comprehend project-based learning. That is how powerful PBL is.


“The old-school model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare students to survive in today’s world. Children begin to see the connection between curriculum and real-world experiences. It’s authentic, extremely engaging and relevant to each individual.”


Pellegrino said project-based learning connects learning to real life, teaches time management, meeting deadlines, working as part of an effective team and learning how to make a difference. He then listed the contributions each class made to the dedication:


Fifth-graders created the school song, which was performed for the first time at the end of the ceremony. Pellegrino noted this is a lasting contribution that will far outlast the students’ time at Waxpool.


Fourth-graders created the videos displayed around the school. The creation of the videos included drone photography.


Third-graders created advertising about the dedication sent home to parents and posters displayed around the building.


Second-graders created the “Waxpool Wall of Fame of Important People” that visitors saw in the hallway on the way to a post-dedication reception in the library.


First-graders created a history of Waxpool brochure and newsletters that were distributed at the reception.


Pellegrino said kindergarteners made an especially important contribution. “Our smallest children are taking care of the time capsule and involving each grade level.” The time capsule will be buried later this year.


Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams reinforced Pellegrino’s remarks about the importance of project-based learning. “Staff, your focus on project-based learning and computational thinking is truly empowering for the students, who will make meaningful contributions to the world. For that we are grateful.”


School Board Chair Jeff Morse spoke of the “chapters” that constituted Waxpool’s story up to the point of the dedication. “You, students, are the author of the next chapter. Write in it your hopes and dreams. Use colors and adjectives and equations. Use project-based learning and math. Enjoy all the new friends you have made since you got to Waxpool. Do not forget the wonderful years you will spend here at Waxpool; just as the school will never forget you.


“You have an awesome school, a dedicated staff, inspiring teachers and students who are waiting for the next adventure.”


At-Large School Board member Beth Huck said the boundary process for a new school is usually the hardest thing a School Board member has to deal with. She said this wasn’t the case for Waxpool. “I never doubted for a minute that Waxpool would be an excellent school.


“I know that Waxpool is in great hands with Mr. Pellegrino. During the boundary process – every group that I met with – I was able to say ‘I don’t know what the outcome is going to be but, if you end up going to Waxpool, I know you’re going to end up having a great experience. You are going to be so lucky to be at Waxpool Elementary.’”  


The principals of the three schools that provided students to Waxpool – Karen Roche of Moorefield Station Elementary, Chris Mills of Hillside Elementary and John Cornely of Mill Run Elementary – joined Pellegrino for a “Three Become One” magic trick. Each of the three principals fed ribbons with their school colors into the mouth of a giant piranha (Waxpool’s mascot) at one end of the stage. They then waved a gigantic magic wand over the piranha, after which Pellegrino pulled out orange and blue ribbons representing Waxpool’s school colors.


The ribbons were then ceremoniously cut, representing the school’s official entry into the Loudoun County Public Schools family.


Also attending the Waxpool Elementary dedication was School Board member Chris Croll (Catoctin District), Phyllis Randall, Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Blue Ridge Supervisor Geary Higgins and 32nd District Del. David Reid.