skip to main content

City of Fairfax Taps into Providence Elementary School to View into the Future of Fairfax

PES students trying to find their street on the city map.

PES students trying to find their street on the city map.

Providence ES student government representatives helped the City of Fairfax Parks and Recreation and City Planning departments plan Fairfax in 2035

City of Fairfax Community Planning and Development planner Kelly O’Brien has made presentations all around the city to residents, community members and associations. But on Wednesday she might have met her toughest audience yet – 45 students from Providence Elementary School. The students, spanning across grades 3-6 met with Ms. O’Brien to discuss their vision of what the City should look like in the year 2035.

On today’s agenda was Van Dyck Park. Students were able to view the future plans of the park from a large map and see what direction the city is heading for the park. The kids approved the expansion of sidewalks, the increase in trees and the sunken skate park, but did offer a few suggestions of their own.

“Can we get a water park,” asked one student.

“Maybe a roller coaster or a castle,” whispered one student to her friend.

“I would like to have bumper cars and a milkshake machine,” her friend whispered back.

While the park might not be able to integrate all the student ideas, the morning was a success for O’Brien.

“It is great to get your feedback and suggestions because you are the experts,” said the City planner to the students.

The kids were engaged throughout the meeting and enjoyed finding their street or neighborhood on the large map provided by the Parks and Rec department. Principal Dan Phillips later tweeted about the morning. “What a great opportunity to practice civic responsibility, public policy development, and leadership!”

Kelly O'Brien speaks with students.

Kelly O’Brien speaks with students.

FHS Student Builds Greenhouse for Alma Mater PES

FHS Student Brendan Smith and PES Principal Dan Phillips

FHS Student Brendan Smith and PES Principal Dan Phillips

Brendan Smith, a Fairfax High School student and former Providence ES student, dedicated his Eagle Scout project to PES. Brendan planned, organized and built a greenhouse in the courtyard which will be used by students and staff.

The project started this summer and was completed in November. Brendan created plans, purchased materials, learned to use them, and recruited volunteers to make it happen. “We love the greenhouse, and we especially love the idea that Brendan wanted to give something back to our school after he moved to Fairfax,” said Principal Dan Phillips in an email to parents. “This is a fine example for all of our students, and we are very proud of Brendan.”

PES 6th Graders Speak with Space Station Commander

Sixth Graders Attended STEM in 30 at Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum

Students from Providence Elementary School were able to ask astronaut Randy Bresnik questions about living in space in a live video question and answer program. As part of the Smithsonian’s STEM in 30 program, the 6th graders joined other Washington area students for a live Q&A.

Bresnik has been in space since July and is part of a six member crew.

PES students and others asked a variety of questions to the astronaut including wanting details on day-to-day life in space. To see the video, please see the You Tube channel here.

Providence ES Class Participates in National Geographic Explorer Challenge

Students were able to meet mapmaker and activist Hindou Ibrahaim after studying her throughout the school year

Photo of paper quilt made by students of Hindou Ibrahim's life

Photo of paper quilt made by students of Hindou Ibrahim’s life

Emma Zuidema third grade students were filled with curiosity and wonder. When she saw the National Geographic 2017 Explorers Festival, she knew it would be a good match. National Geographic highlighted several emerging explorers across a number of fields and were looking for classrooms to pair the explorers to create a biographical project about the explorer’s life and work. Ms. Zuidema’s class was selected and were matched with Hindou Ibrahim, a mapmaker and activist from Chad.

The students can be seen on the National Geographic video project along with other classes.

Ms. Ibrahim tireless efforts in Chad focuses on expanding and utilizing a 3D mapping system to spread knowledge in order to stop climate change and is also a strong advocate for girls’ education. Ms. Ibrahim spoke at the April 2017 Paris Agreement for climate change.

Ms. Zuidema’s students researched Ms. Ibrahim and read stories that connected them to her part of the world. The students specifically learned about indigenous knowledge, climate change (the water level decrease in Lake Chad), and learned about the importance of education (highlighting education for girls).

The students made a quilt based on their study and research. The quilt, made by paper pictures drawn by the students, tell the story of Ms. Ibrahim and her activism. “We loved learning about Hindou because through her we could share in her story and her hope to change the world,” said Ms. Zuidema.

“When we sent our project to her and to National Geographic, her response was so genuine and supportive. She created a space for each child to feel like they could change the world themselves — her presence was absolutely amazing.”

Students gather around Hindou Ibrahim

Students gather around Hindou Ibrahim

The highlight of the experience for the third graders was getting to meet their new hero in person. In the spring of 2017, Ms. Ibrahim surprised the students in class. “As soon as she walked in the door, Hindou even gave every person in the room a hug,” said Ms. Zuidema. “She shared with us some of her story, her fears for the future, and she asked the class for advice. One of our students in the class responded, ‘Hindou, never give up!’  She invited each child to present their quilt square that showed a piece of her story that stuck with them.  Then, she showed us examples of her 3D mapping project and invited comments and potential solutions from the class.”

As she reflects on the project, Ms. Zuidema is proud of her students and their connection to Ms. Ibrahim. “I am grateful to National Geographic and their outreach to educators for providing the opportunity for our students to make that connection with an amazing individual. I feel confident that they will take their memory of the project forward with them, and apply it in a positive and meaningful way.  I’m really looking forward to creating those moments for my students this year and for years to come – where an authentic connection to an important cause gives each and

Student's picture of Hindou Ibrahim for paper quilt

Student’s picture of Hindou Ibrahim for paper quilt

every student access to true learning and wonderful memories.”

Zuidema continues, “I would also like to thank the supportive Providence ES parent community, especially Kathleen Schwille who pointed out the project to the teachers at PES. We are so lucky to have such wonderful parents in our school.”

City of Fairfax Schools Allocates Over $230,000 in Instructional Grants to City Schools

The City of Fairfax School Board has allocated over $230,000 in instructional grant funding to its four city schools. The funds will support Professional Development, Intervention and Academic Support, Supplemental Materials and Innovative Practices.

“In these days of declining financial resources in school district budgets, I’m really pleased that we are able to continue target funds for student and staff learning; we know these funds support our schools’ efforts,” said Dr. Phyllis Pajardo, Superintendent of the City of Fairfax Schools. “We are proud to assist and enhance our schools as they focus on innovation, professional development, and academic support.”

The principals at the four schools work with the City of Fairfax Schools staff from project and material funding. The grants are divided into four main categories:

Professional Development:  Many administrators and teachers will tell you one of the most precious resources they have is time. By providing funds to support professional learning, collaboration time and money for substitutes, the City of Fairfax School Board can give them the gift of time. The grants allow staff to plan, meet as grade-level or subject-area teams, attend professional training and take time to create innovative lessons for students.

Intervention and Academic Support: Each year the four schools are able to offer additional summer programming to support transitions to new schools, strengthen academic skills, and close potential academic gaps seen throughout the school year. For more information on the summer programming, see article here.

Supplemental Materials: The City of Fairfax School grants support a variety of curriculum enhancement programs such as environmental education, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics), and high school SAT preparations.

Innovative Practices:  – During the June 2016 retreat, School Board members expressed a desire to bolster schools’ abilities to create and incorporate innovative practices. To progress this, innovative practices were added to the areas for which City Schools could request instructional grant funding (See Strategic Plan objective 2 at the bottom of this page). When DRES principal Adam Erbrecht requested $6000 of his school’s grant be designated for innovative practices, he knew just what to do: Ask his staff what they wanted. Erbrecht sent out a “request for proposals” to his staff and received over nine requests totaling $13,100. Instead of giving the green light himself, the principal turned the power back to the staff and had them analyze and review the proposals on what they felt would most positively impact the school. The challenge the staff found was that all the projects were worth funding. By combining the City of Fairfax Innovation Grant and a generous donation by the DRES PTA, all the projects received financial support. For an example of these Innovation Grants, please see article about DRES Counselor Emily Baldwin.

“We are thrilled to reward the innovative thinking of these groups and hope more can come from this in the future,” said Erbrecht. “We greatly appreciate the use of our City Grant Funds to foster these innovations.”

StrategicPlanSY2016-2022FINAL approved 2_17

The City of Fairfax Schools strives to make our website accessible to all. If you are having difficulties, please call our office at 703-385-7911 or send an email to

© 2017 City of Fairfax Schools