2017 Spring Break - ITALY!


Vacanze di Primavera:  April 8-15, 2017

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

Each year, GWCS organizes an optional international educational tour to visit places we’ve learned about in school. Immersing our students in new cultures – surrounded by the people, the language, the food, and the way of life - creates inspirational moments that can’t be listed in an itinerary, they can only be experienced.  GWCS students embrace these incredible opportunities and they come back changed; more worldly.

As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is critical for our students to become more culturally aware and globally-minded.  To be able to experience the global classroom first-hand and see subjects they have been studying in their classes come alive is life-changing. These trips offer students new perspectives, not only of themselves, but also of the world around them. 

Spring Break in Italy was an absolute blast. We were lucky enough to spend an afternoon in Milan before heading out to our first official stop, Venice. In Milan, we visited the Castello Sforzesco built by the Visconti family (which was “huuuge” according to the students.) We wandered the streets of this cosmopolitan and stylish city and ended up taking pictures in front of the Gothic Duomo, Milan’s Cathedral, one of the largest Gothic churches in the world. One of this building’s most interesting features is its extraordinary roof, with 135 spires and innumerable statues and gargoyles. We learned a lot about Milan, and its history as the center of fashion, business, and finance in Italy.


Venice, Italy

Venice provided ample educational rewards for us.  Being able to see the canals in person was quite something. Visiting the “Piazza San Marco”, The Campanile, and the Basilica de San Marco was amazing. We toured Palazzo Ducale where we let ourselves get lost in its beautiful architecture and art. To look out at the city from high atop the Palazzo was one of the best experiences. This vantage point allowed us to see just how fragile the whole city was: just a collection of tiny islands with thousands of people in buildings that were nearly a thousand years old. Seeing it this way made the whole place feel more special and vulnerable, and we realized what a priceless treasure it was to be there in person.   

In Venice, we also saw a glassblowing demonstration. It was magical to see an artist make beautiful shapes in just a few seconds with the hot glass. An added benefit from this stop was the opportunity to take home some beautiful souvenirs made with the famous Murano glass.


Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

In Florence, GWCS students learned that this remarkable city was the birthplace of the Italian language, opera, and the Renaissance; a place where famous works of art like Michelangelo’s statue of David still reside today.

Florence gave the impression of being like a puzzle composed of thousands of pieces: so many streets, alleys, nooks and crannies to explore! We saw the huge Duomo, which was bigger in person than anyone expected.  We walked across the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge where many of Florence’s famed leather and gold artisans keep shop. We saw a leather-making demonstration and we realized how soft leather could be. Also, we learned how to tell the difference between real leather versus synthetic leather.


The Piazza dei Miracoli  in Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

In Pisa, we toured the leaning tower, cathedral and Baptistery. Luke and Max decided to take a glimpse from the top of the Pisa Tower. Seeing somebody sing inside the Baptistery in order to showcase its powerful echo was one of the most moving experiences we had in this city. The look on Luke’s face after witnessing this demonstration summed up nicely how impressed we all were.


In Rome, we were accompanied by excellent tour guides to take us through the ancient sites at the Forum, and the Vatican, both to understand everything we were seeing, as well as to allow us to skip long tourist lines. The ancient sites were pretty spectacular and it was impressive to contemplate the various historical time periods they had been through, in comparison to our own short lifespans. It was hard to wrap our heads around the idea of how a building that was completed 1900 years ago had managed to survive massive political, social, cultural, and even atmospheric changes. Pantheon and Piazza Navona were big hits for us. We loved their architecture and art.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

We walked through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and we saw St. Peter’s Basilica. The art was amazing and the massive cathedral was extraordinarily impressive.

In Rome, we also visited the Colosseum. Listening to our tour guide, we could picture ourselves among 70,000 yelling spectators watching exotic animal fights or gladiators struggling for their lives.  We also had an extra tour of Rome at night, where the world-famous Trevi Fountain and other buildings were even more mesmerizing lit up with lights.

On the long and exhausting flight back home, I overheard Charlie say that he was already missing Italy. I think we were all sharing that same feeling. This experience, all that we learned, and the memories of the people we met will stay with us forever, and hopefully, soon, we’ll have the opportunity for a new adventure.   

Come expand your horizons with us and join us for next spring’s trip, destination TBD! 

Alejandro Torres
GWCS Spanish Teacher

Honey Tasting is the Bee's Knees!

GWCS Science Teacher, Entomologist and Apiarist, Ms. Amanda Rose Newton, hosted a honey tasting event for the fortunate GWCS PAC Auction winners on Sunday, March 19, 2017.  Ms. Newton mixed in some teaching with the tasting, so the group learned about bee keeping, honey extraction techniques and hive culture.   It was an amazing event and definitely a (bee) keeper for next year's auction!  

a Honey Tasting Attendee's ACCOUNT on the Event:

As participants arrived, the honey tasting event actually began with a mead tasting . Mead is an alcoholic beverage made with fermented honey.  Ms. Newton had brewed this particular batch of mead in an old whiskey barrel that left a nice burn on the palette at the finish. It can take two to three years to age for mead to be at its best. You end up with a clear honey wine (similar color to Chardonnay). Clover honey is typically used in producing mead.

Ms. Newton provided an introductory lesson on bee anatomy and hive culture.  She explained how bees identify nectar plants and organize the hive, and to which plants bees gravitate. She discussed the effects of honey bees on agriculture and how the effect bees have on farming, the environment and society.  Participants were surprised to learn that bees are trucked (non-stop) to California from the mid-United States, in order to pollinate the almond orchards.

Ms. Newton also presented what is involved in beekeeping and connections in the Northern Virginia area for having backyard hives. She discussed the construction of wooden hive boxes; extraction techniques; differences in raw and pasteurized honey; and how to determine from which plants the bees collect the nectar.

Ms. Newton explained that you have to approach tasting honey to tasting beer or wine -- with a clear understanding that most honey on the market isn't actually honey. She urged everyone to read the label before purchasing honey. Some honey-labeled products are mostly corn syrup with honey added.

Ms. Newton provided attendees with a Honey Connoisseur Color Guide and the Aroma & Tasting Wheel to try their hand - er, taste buds - at honey identification.

Honey identification was followed by a sampling of snacks paired with a number of different honey varieties from Ms. Newton's own bee hives.  Cheese, fruits, nuts, crackers and chocolate to name a few of the tasty morsels provided for honey sampling. As if an afternoon of honey tasting and education weren't enough, each attendee received a Newton honey bear sample to take home.

Mrs. Linda Campbell
GWCS Parent & Honey Tasting Participant

bee Resource Recommendations:  

The Little Robots That Could

GWCS Coyote Robotics compete at the 2017 FTC Virginia State Championships!

Teams 965 and 3749

First Tech Challenge (FTC) Velocity Vortex

It has been a long, long road to get here.  It started in late September 2016 when FTC revealed its new challenge for the First Tech Robotics 2016/2017 competition. This may be the longest sporting season ever—starting in September with the “big reveal” and ending in April 2017 with the FTC World Championships.

Coach Gary Lindner

Since its inception in 2005, Coyote Robotics, headed by Mr. Gary Lindner, has never failed to qualify for the Virginia State Championships. These amazing performances are accomplished by a handful of dedicated students who devote many of their weekends and evenings to designing, building, programming, repairing and operating the robots.   Assisting the students are Mr. Lindner and parents, who coach, mentor, scout out the competition, provide transportation and support and resources to the Coyote Robotics program.

Team 3749 - The Bionic Penguins

Team 3749—The Bionic Penguins has had an impressive season—coached by Mr. Lindner and captained by Andra, a 9th grade Robinson High School student, The Bionic Penguins reached the final or semi-final matches in all four FTC competitions that the team attended. The team also includes Michael, Nick, Aspen, Danny, and DJ.  On February 25, 2017, The Bionic Penguins reached the Division Semi-Finals at the Virginia State Competition in Lynchburg, Virginia but sadly did not qualify for the Super-Regional Competition to be held Scranton, Pennsylvania on March 17-19, 2017.

Team 965 - The League of Incompetent Gentlemen

Team 965 - The League of Incompetent Gentlemen has been anything but “Incompetent”.  The League is coached by Robert Carlisle and is captained by Kelley, an 11th grade GWCS student.  The League has also qualified for the final or semi-final matches in all of its four FTC competitions. The team also includes: newcomer, Christian, Michael, Danny, Preston and mentors: Douglas Fuller and Isaac Weeks.

Rockwell-Collins Innovate Award

At the 2017 Virginia State Championships, The League qualified for the Super-Regional Championships in Scranton, PA by winning the prestigious Rockwell-Collins Innovate Award for the most innovative robot design of the 52 teams that competed in the event.

Teams at the FTC events come from all sizes of school and the team sizes vary from just one or two students, to teams of dozens of students.  The two Coyote Robotics teams have so far represented GWCS at five events this year, in front of hundreds of Virginians, and they have handily shown that a small team from a small school can hold their own against some of the biggest, most tech savvy high schools in the state.  Team 965 will go on to show the same against teams from Virginia-to-Maine.  FTC competitions are a great way to meet like-minded individuals, make friends, learn new skills, practice “Gracious Professionalism”, and basically have an amazing time. In 2017, FTC will offer more than $50 million in scholarships from 200 providers, making it a worthwhile venture for those interested in a career in engineering, robotics and science.

For those interested in learning more about FTC and its positive impact on students, please visit:  http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/ftc/start-a-team

Cristie Carlisle
Proud Coyote Robotics Parent

Worth Quoting - Event Night 2017

Words say it better than photos!

Once a year, most of the GWCS student body stays overnight for fifteen hours of movies, video games, music, junk food, trivia, conversations and sleep deprivation. It's the most anticipated event of the year. 


"I liked watching internet videos with a bunch of kids in Mr. F's room", says Megan. 

"I liked staying up late with friends and having fun", says Zach. 

"I liked how everyone was on their screens, but yet talking to each other the whole time", says Anthony. "It's a nice mix." 

"EVERYONE WAS THERE!" says Scotty. 

"It's when I catch up on all my movies", says Ms. Shumard, "because I have every confidence in Goldie's movie selections." 

"Um, I watched four hours of Stranger Things and I haven't been to sleep ever since," says Goldie. "And there's a second season coming..." 

Josh, a senior who has been to Event Night four times, likes "its unpredictability. One night you can spend four hours playing Risk, the other night you can spend the whole night looking at memes." 

Dr. G, our newest teacher, says he "just likes the opportunity to gather with students and colleagues, to get to know them as individuals, beyond the context of school and work...also to find out what all the fuss was about, since I've been hearing about it since I started here. And I like the fact that a lot of the public high schools do this for seniors at the end of the year, but this school has it for the whole school in the middle of the year, so it's more about relationship building." 

"I thought it was very unifying", says Joey. 

"Event Night is a cherished GWCS tradition", says Ms. Warden. "Students and teachers create memories that last a lifetime."

GWCS Event Night 2017 was maticulously planned and exotically executed by the GWCS Student Government Association.  Quotes gathered by SGA Rep. Extraordinaire... Brian

Alumni News... College Trip to Italy

Two Weeks in Rome and Pompeii

By: Richard Catherina
GWCS Graduate - Class of 2014

Each winter, George Mason University runs two-week study abroad trips where students can earn up to three credits in the discipline of their choosing. As a student of history at George Mason University, and someone who has a great interest in travel, I signed up for a trip called “From Fire, Stone, and Water: The Rise of Roman Civilization.” An interdisciplinary course in geoarchaeology, the trip focused on how the Romans used the territory and climate to their advantage to create one of the most powerful civilizations of all time.

On January 2nd, 2017, I finished my first transatlantic flight and landed at Capodichino airport in Naples, Italy. I had my first culture shock when I saw uniformed men standing outside the airport holding assault rifles. For the duration of my trip, I saw a military presence throughout the country at nearly every airport, train station, and high-traffic area.  My second culture shock came when a driver came to pick us up and take us to our hotel near the excavations of Pompeii. It was then I learned that in Italy rules of the road are more like guidelines, speed limits are suggestions, and aggressive driving is both expected and required.

picture 1

Our first day was dedicated to exploring the site of what used to be the city of Pompeii. Within the ancient city we saw the remains of restaurants, resort villas, temples, forums, etc. What stood out was the quality of the preservation. Some of the buildings were still structurally sound; some of the buildings still had their original artwork. One of the best examples of this preservation that I encountered was an ancient brothel complete with pornographic paintings that had been impeccably preserved since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The most haunting of the sights in Pompeii was that of a man who had been caught in the pyroclastic flow. (see picture 1).

picture 2

The following day, we hiked to the top of Mt. Vesuvius. Mt. Vesuvius is an active volcano; steam and volcanic gases emanate from the crater now, carrying with them the smell of sulfur (see picture 2). The height of the volcano and the clarity of the day provided for an unparalleled view of the bay of Naples (see picture 3).

We visited other places during our time around Pompeii, including the city of Herculaneum (another city destroyed in the eruption of 79 A.D.), the Piscina Mirabilis (where the Roman navy stored drinking water), and the city of Naples. After three days-worth of adventures near Pompeii, it was time to move to the second place we would be staying: Trinity University’s Roman Campus housing, managed by the Camaldolesi Nuns.

We got to walk through Circus Maximus, which was less than half a mile away from our housing. Once the track where the Romans would host their greatest chariot races, the Circus Maximus is now a public park used by runners, cyclists, and dog owners looking for somewhere to play fetch (and according to our professor, it is also sometimes used as a venue for concerts).

picture 3

For two days in Rome we were free to explore as we wished. The first day, I went along with a few friends to St. Peter’s Square, where Pope Francis gave an address to a crowd of hundreds. That was an experience unlike any other. Even though I couldn’t understand a word he said (the address was in Italian), Pope Francis commanded my attention for the duration of his speech. The second free day we decided to see the Vatican Museums. Stepping into the Sistine Chapel, I marveled at the height and size of the ceiling and the detail with which it had been painted. They don’t let you take pictures inside, so you’ll have to just take my word that it is one of the most amazing things you can ever see. This theme of enormous size and flawless detail pervaded the rest of the sites we visited.

During our stay in Rome, we visited multiple historic sites including the Colosseum, the Diocletian Baths, and the Imperial Forums. Seeing Trajan’s column, a pillar roughly 100 feet tall covered in an artistic depiction of the Roman wars with the Dacians and their eventual conquest by the emperor Trajan, all I could think about was the massive amount of time and the colossal effort that must have gone into building it. Standing on the outer rim of the Colosseum, looking in toward the center, I could envision how amazing it must have been to be a Roman watching the games (see picture 4). At each site we visited, the size and intricacy consistently captured my attention.

picture 4

As students, we had the benefit of visiting places most tourists dare not tread. One of the first places we visited after arriving in Rome was the underground tunnels around a small volcanic lake called Nemi. Exploring these caves was on one hand thrilling and on the other hand painful. Making my way through the hills with nothing but my headlamp to light the way, covering it at times to avoid waking up the bats hanging from the ceiling, and crawling through tunnels on my stomach were some of the most unique and unusual experiences I had over the entire two weeks. The only downside to this experience was that the height of the tunnel was often considerably shorter than my own. I spent much of my time in the cave walking doubled over, which provided for effective, yet unpleasant, lower back and glute exercise. I now understand why there are few 6’3” speleologists in the world. Later we went to the catacombs of St. Sebastian. We saw long bones, digit bones, skull shards, and teeth of people who were buried there thousands of years ago. For most of us, it was a thrilling and intellectually stimulating experience. Others in our group found it creepy and uncomfortable.

After experiencing 16 days of unbelievably good food, beautiful scenery, and fascinating history, it was time to come home. There were many other experiences I had on the trip, such as seeing the city of Ostia and hiking through an aqueduct, but those I have described were the ones that stood out most of all. Going to Italy was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I had an amazing time and became close friends with some awesome people. I miss Italy now, and I hope I can see it again.

Coyote Cornucopia Blog

Coyote Cornucopia Blog

At GWCS, we are sincerely thankful for our amazing community which includes all of our magnificent students, teachers, parents, siblings, grandparents, and alumni who makeup our great school.

GWCS often receives emails or cards with overflowing expressions of gratitude but this year we thought it would be fun, and rewarding for all, to post community comments on a "Coyote Cornucopia Blog" page on the GWCS website for all to enjoy.   


What a blessing it is for GWCS students to have a place they can go where wonderful, dedicated teachers recognize and celebrate their strengths and potential in all areas of life - not just academics. Definitely a recipe for well being and future success!



My heart is full! I am so thankful for GWCS - that there is a warm, special place like GWCS. I am thankful for the kind, patient staff. I am thankful for caring, understanding teachers, students, counselors, and directors. I am grateful for extensions. I am grateful for workaround. I am grateful for advisory. GWCS does so many things right!




We are grateful for Mr. Pereira. He challenges his students with his high expectations, has thought provoking assignments, and makes writers out of the most reluctant students.


Noah, Chris and Ben

Coach Connelly and I want to say thanks to this year's GWCS coed flag football team and highlight a few moments of the season for our fan base. Our record may have been 0-3 but it does not do justice to the hard work our players put in, be it practice, games or the long ride in traffic on the way home.

We started and ended our season playing  Chelsea School, Maryland. We began each meeting behind at the half but outscored them the 2nd half in both games. Josh was a pivotal catching machine and Noah played through a sprained ankle in our first trip to Hyattesville, Maryland. The return trip was a demonstration in perseverance. The first half was challenging, giving up 3 TDs and missing out on a first and goal on our first drive. We made some adjustments, both the coaches and players, which led to two TDs and lock-down defense. Our sandwich game was versus Kingsbury Day School. After a few postponements, we finally played on a field shoehorned into a park in NW DC. The Coyotes fought hard, led by Kylan's two interceptions, but alas, came up short.

I hope to coach many of you in softball this spring with Ms. Shu. But for now: We wish all the basketball players much success this upcoming season.

Coach Fedinatz 


2016 GWCS Coyote Coed Flag Football Team & Coaches


The GWCS SGA planned and executed an exhilarating afternoon of Halloween Hoopla!  Long before the afternoon events began, the SGA arrived at school early and hung decorations to get everyone in a festive mood.  (Many thanks to ALL students who lent a hand, there were some non-SGAers who helped out.)  Students arrived at school in full costumed glory.  What a treat to look into classrooms full of studious superheroes and villains (fortunately, no clowns).  Once classes were over, the afternoon activities started with the well-established GWCS tradition:  The Dangling Donut competition. Each advisory selects a distinguished student who will represent their advisory with honor and glory as they attempt to eat a donut that is dangling from a tree by a string, while blindfolded, and without the use of their hands.  Photos depict the audaciousness of this competition much better than words (click image to enlarge)...

Following the Dangling Donut competition, the SGA staged a runway for the costume contest.  Speaking of costumes... 95% of the students came to school in costume (and in character).  It was an awesome exhibition of coyote pride! Congratulations to Kylo Ren (1st place), Batman (2nd place) and Robin (3rd place).  Note - first place was actually a tie but they broke the tie with a civilized superhero vs. villain game of rock-paper-scissors. 

Following the costume contest, the SGA announced the winner of the pumpkin carving contest from an event they sponsored a few days prior.  Congratulations Xavier ~ the alien!

After all of these festivities, students stayed after school for the annual Scary Movie Marathon.  Those who were brave enough to stay enjoyed American Werewolf in London and The Mothman Prophecies (a.k.a. The scariest movie ever!  One that Ms. Shu can't look away from even though she knows she won't be able to sleep for a month!)



Of the many time-honored traditions observed by the GWCS students and staff, none is more beloved than Lettuce Day.  We honor lettuce

Oh, wait... 

What can you say about lettuce that has not already been said?  It’s green.  It’s leafy.  It’s about the size of a human head.  It’s devoid of nutritional value and is comprised almost entirely of water.  It is a boring, boring, boring vegetable.  Until now!  Welcome to lettuce day 2016.  In the crunch heard ‘round the world, Lettuce Day became a thing on October 17, 2016.  How did that happen, you might be afraid to ask?  That’s easy.  Nine GWCS students sat at a long table with nine heads of lettuce on plates sitting in front of them.  As Josh counted down to the blast-off, the tension was palpable!  Nine people sitting in nine chairs, eating nine heads of lettuce as fast as they possibly could.  Just to make it more sporty, Ben tried to eat his without using his hands.  Jack seemed to get out to an early lead, but front runners often fade in competitions of endurance.  Among the spectators, many thought that Zach might go for the gold.  Suddenly, almost as it began, lettuce day, except for thirty minutes of picking up thrown, dropped and regurgitated lettuce, was over.  With two fists pumped victoriously into the fecund air, a champion arose.  Good for you Delia.  Good for you Lettuce Lord.  All comers had been humbled.  Delia reigns supreme.  Pass the ranch dressing please.  Mmmmm.  


Yes, the freshmen and sophomores get to go camping.  Yes, the seniors get to sleep in cabins on the writing retreat.  But nobody lives higher-on-the-hog than the juniors during the Gettysburg Trip.

Every fall, theGWCS junior class heads north to Gettysburg.  It is not truly analogous to Lee’s march on Gettysburg in 1863, but we mention it.  Of course we ride on highways through rolling hills and arrive in good condition and good spirits in less than three hours, and Lee’s troops arrived after a forty day March, but still, the similarities are undeniable.  

The Battle of Gettysburg is a seminal moment in the history of the Unite States.  Some argue that there might not even be a United States today had the outcome of this battle gone differently.  Many soldiers from many states arrived and participated in the three day battle.  From a safe distance (like the twenty-first century) it is a spectacle to behold.  From Culps Hill to the North to Little Round Top in the south, the Union and Confederate sides fought in the largest, bloodiest battle on North American soil.

Together we spent the first day visiting the Memorial Graveyard, where Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address.  Then we spent several hours investigating the battlefield museum followed by the awe-inspiring Cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg painted by Paul Phillipoteaux.  In the evening we gathered together at conference room of the luxury hotel (Motel 6) and watched the movie, “Gettysburg,” which lasted about four and a half hours.  With the basics covered, we were ready for day two.

Although the soldiers at the battle of Gettysburg fought on July 1-3 in hundred degree heat, we went out to the battlefield at dawn, with frost on the ground.  We started at McPherson’s Ridge, went to the Eternal Flame, walked along Seminary Ridge, Pickett’s Charge, The Wheat Field, Little Round Top, and more.  We stood where they stood.  We looked out where they looked out, and we charged where they charged (albeit without guns, backpacks, heavy jackets, ammunition, and in the absence of hostile fire continuously raining-down on us) and wondered what it must have been like to have been there.

Morality?  Philosophy?  Loyalty?  Duty?  There are so many ways to consider a soldier’s life, and a soldier’s role in the grand scheme of things.  More than 50,000 men (and one woman) were killed, wounded, or captured during this battle.  The Tide of the war was turned in the favor of the union, once and for all.  As Lincoln so aptly said, “The world…can never forget what they did here,” the results of their efforts so permanently ingrained in the DNA of the country that stands today.    

Hiking Sky Meadows

Friday, October 7th

Although the clouds were low, spirits were high as nine students, three teachers, three parents, one faculty spouse, and a loyal canine completed a just-challenging-enough 5 mile hike in Sky Meadows State Park on October 7th.  All who went enjoyed the outing and returned safely.  This was the inaugural outing of the newly formed GWCS Hiking Club. Don't worry if you missed this hike; there will be more opportunities.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Special thanks to our amazing Student Government Association (SGA) for organizing the annual Pirate event at GWCS!  To set the mood... the SGA decorated the school in an attractive pirate motif and piped pirate music into the cafe. Many students and staff came to school dressed as pirates but, for those who forgot, the SGA had pirate hats, eye patches and jewels available.  There was even a pirate costume contest:  First place went to Delia , second place went to Noah, and third place went to Sabrina.  There was a special pirate drink on sale at the School Store, and the day ended with the viewing of Pirates of the Caribbean.  (Click image to enlarge.)