A Nostalgic AOS Coating Ceremony


The 13th annual Academy of Science (AOS) coating ceremony on Wednesday, September 27th, felt very much like a family gathering. 

Academy Director George Wolfe welcomed new members to the AOS family and welcomed back two former AOS students.

A total of 65 students make up the AOS class of 2021.  They were selected from an applicant pool of 960 LCPS students.  Wolfe stated that the coating ceremony tradition was borrowed from a similar ceremony he attended while his daughter, Emily, was in college.  Wolfe said that he originally hoped to tie dye the lab coats, but that other educators taught him an important lesson in “shut up and listen leadership.”  Wolfe added that Emily had delivered his fourth grandchild earlier in the day.

Perhaps Wolfe’s biggest joy of the evening was welcoming back two AOS alumnae.   “Thirteen years ago when we started the AOS, I had a secret mission,” Wolfe joked.  “And the secret mission was to create teachers, not just scientists.  I didn’t tell anyone that until just now.”   Maura McNamee has returned to the school as a long-term substitute this fall. It is the first time that an AOS graduate has taught at the school. The guest speaker for the event was 2010 AOS graduate Kelsey Stiles.  Stiles was the recipient of the district’s 2017 New Teacher of the Year Award for her work as a third grade teacher at Rolling Ridge Elementary.

Wolfe introduced Stiles by reading the abstract from her AOS research project on what can be learned about materials science by studying squid beaks.  He added, “Kelsey is what I dream about when we send out our graduates—well-rounded individuals who can discover something pretty cool about squid beaks but then takes their passion for learning and work with kids….”

Stiles reflected on her own experience of being a student at the coating ceremony.  “You might…be feeling vulnerable, unsure and even slightly intimidated by the amount of world-changing brain power sitting in this room.  Well, I’m here to tell you to embrace that feeling.  One of the greatest things my teaching mentor taught me last year was that vulnerability is actually not a weakness—that trying new things, not being sure and learning to give a hundred percent with an uncertain outcome is why I’m a teacher.  I want to provide opportunities for growth to my students, but growth requires some risks.  I can promise you right now that the vulnerable and uncertain feeling you might have today as you take this commitment is OK.  In fact, it’s the place your teachers want you to be….It’s the best place to learn.”

LCPS Science Specialist Jennifer Chang brought greetings on behalf of the school division’s Science Department.  Chang said that the biggest strength of the AOS program is that students have the opportunity to engage with authentic, challenging problems every day.

Members of the class of 2018 were on hand to help the freshmen into their lab coats as they came up on the stage by advisory class.

The ceremony concluded with the students wearing their new lab coats and reciting the Academy of Science Pledge:

“Today I make a commitment to my education and training as a student of the Academy of Science.  I acknowledge my responsibility to continue the pursuit of knowledge throughout my life.

“My classmates at the Academy of Science are now my colleagues and I owe to them the same support and encouragement to achieve their goals as I hope to receive from them.  I will work alongside my classmates and instructors with tolerance, compassion, and honesty.

“I acknowledge my obligation to adhere to the Academy of Science Honor Code and to conduct myself with integrity and in an ethical manner at all times.  I shall do all within my power to show in myself an example of all that is honorable and good.

“I accept this coat as a symbol of reward for what I have achieved as well as a promise for my future.”

This was the last AOS Coating Ceremony to be held at Dominion High School. The next one will be at the new Academies of Loudoun.