After several years of playing victim actors for Fairfax County's many Community Emergency Response Teams, GW Community School students and their principal decided to become a certified CERT team themselves!

Community Emergency Response Teams serve as immediate responders in mass casualty incidents such as earthquakes or tornadoes to provide safety and security when first responders are delayed.

Led by James Sobecke, and assisted by several longtime CERT instructors, GWCS's CERT class 106 began in late January 2016. The course was rigorous and included the study and practical application of search and rescue, triage and treatment of victims, identification of structural dangers, victim transport, fire suppression, incident command and reporting and much more.

The class culminated in a three-hour final exercise that put their skills to the test. Team 106 assembled at school at 0730 on the morning of ***. They had no idea of where they would be directed or the nature of the disaster they were about to face. After the team assembled and geared up they headed out to a neighborhood "devastated by a tornado."

In teams of two they reported to Incident Command and were assigned duties for search and rescue missions and medical operations. In all they managed well over 20 very convincing victim actors in full moulage. All victims were found, transported, treated, and monitored until the fire chief arrived on scene and was debriefed.

The chaos and confusion was real for Team 106, but their months of training and practice paid off. Team members remained calm and cautious as they completed their exercise.

Dirty, exhausted, and running on adrenaline, Team 106 returned to school for a hard won celebration of a successful exercise. Each team member passed the course and now proudly holds the title of CERT.

Cinco de Mayo Coffeehouse

Coffeehouse #2

May 5, 2016

For the first time ever, Coffeehouse, our once or twice yearly showcase of performing talent, was organized and run entirely by students from the music club and improv group, and they did a fantastic job. Coffeehouse featured poetry, both original and classic, about six different versions of the Green Day song Brain Stew (reggae version, country version etc.), and Nicholas Cage having a very peculiar day portrayed by Brian Conner. Alumni Eric Asker ('08) refereed the improv games with the same poise and wit he showed as a student, and seniors Ronan Taylor and Trevor Ferguson emceed the event in inimitable style. 

All Night Event Night

GWCS Event Night... All Night!

6pm April 15 until 9am April 16, 2016

What is this long-standing tradition at GWCS called "Event Night"?  It's a movie night. It's a concert. It's a game night. It's a trivia night. It's a social occasion. It's a lock in. It's a sleep-deprived blur. And it is the most anticipated, funnest night of the year. This year, 40 students and 6 staff members made a solemn vow not to be the first person to fall asleep, and then entertained each other all night long with games, movies, music, great conversation, and 2am tacos. There was even a solid gold baby. If you don't know what that is, well, you had to be there (and if you missed it, be there next year!)

XSTEM Science & Engineering Symposium


Thursday, April 14, 2016

For our second annual trip the XSTEM Science Symposium at the USA Science and Engineering Festival, we got to see a fascinating series of speakers, including a 20-year old MIT student working on the CRISPR/Cas system for editing DNA, a marine biologist studying coral bleaching, a quantum physicist, and Nobel Prize winning researcher Dr. Carol Greider. Students had the opportunities to ask questions about their research and their experiences in scientific fields. It's not too often that you get to hear from an actual Nobel Prize winner about what inspires them! 

Heroes vs. Villains 5K

Thank you to all the participants who braved the cold and showed up for the Heroes vs. Villains 5K on Sunday, April 10, 2016. The event was a success and the GWCS Coyotes showed up ready to run/walk.  Not only was it great exercise but proceeds from the event went to a great cause.   Our efforts helped the Fairfax Law Foundation sustain a Pro Bono Program that provides legal services for impoverished Fairfax County residents and law related education programs for local students, including court tours for 8th grade students and children's mock trials.    

Until the next 5K, 

Mr. Connelly

The Coyotes Get Tropical: 2016 Spring Break in Costa Rica!

GWCS Spring Break in Costa Rica:  March 18 - 24, 2016

Over Spring Break, ten Students, four Parents, and two (super awesome) Teachers braved an early morning flight to San Jose, Costa Rica to embark on an epic seven day adventure.

The first day was spent eating delicious local cuisine at a Soda in San Jose, followed by a walking tour of the city. Afterwards, the tired group enjoyed dinner at the hotel before calling it a night. The next morning the group hopped on a bus and left San Jose to head onward to the beautiful Arenal region a few hours away. Here students learned about the sustainable growing of coffee, used elbow grease to push roasting beans around in the hot sun, and of course, sample coffee! Next up we visited the amazing Poas Volcano before retiring at our gorgeous hotel! The hotel was a highlight of the trip for many as it included little bungalow-style houses, pools, good food, hot springs, and amazing nightlife! The nightlife of choice for Coyotes? Hunting down cane toads, tree frogs, scarab beetles, and other creatures!

Day three found us all experiencing the La Fortuna Waterfall and having the opportunity to go for a swim! Afterwards, we took to the skies ziplining through the canopy layer of the forest. By the end of that experience we were all more than ready to hit the hot springs for some relaxation and fancy beach drinks before calling it a night.

The following day was equally jammed-packed with a trip down to Los Chilles, on the border of Nicaragua for a canal boat tour of the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge. Here, we were able to have the opportunity to see Howler Monkeys, Jesus Christ Lizards (yes, the ones that run on top of the water), camions, and all sorts of amazing birds -- including Great Blue Herons, who must have overheard we were going to Costa Rica and agreed it was a great idea! The rest of the day found the group divided as half of us went on a Tour of a Sustainable Farm and the other half explored the city of La Fortuna.

Next, we said goodbye to La Fortuna and made our way on a long three-hour bus ride to Gunacaste, home of the Costa Rican Cowboys. Along the way we stopped at a local restaurant and participated in a cooking class. For some of us, it was a chance to chop vegetables for the first time! What a cool place to get your first lesson! Next on the agenda was a stop at Rincon de la Vieja National Park, where we hiked through an area known for its active volcanos. We experienced this first-hand through the dusty debris and hot, dry climate that was a huge contrast to where we had just been in La Fortuna.

The last day in Guanacaste brought us to the Buena Vista Lodge which was like being on a Ranch in Montana, just more sustainable and with a Costa Rican flair! Here we made soap out of used cooking oil from the Lodge’s restaurant which is one of many sustainable practices they participate in. We also learned how our own waste (or our “farts” as our guide liked to put it) can be converted into methane gas to fuel many activities on the farm. Since we were on a ranch, it was only fitting that we spend the afternoon on a horseback ride around the property. After a long bumpy ride on the rocks, we were given the exclusive opportunity to visit a nearby beach! We spent the remainder of the afternoon hanging out on the black sand beach with perhaps the most postcard-quality background you could imagine.

One would assume this is where the adventure ended but you would be wrong! The Airport Saga to follow brought us an unexpected layover in Houston, a stay in the Hilton, and a midnight arrival the night after we were due in at a completely different airport. GW Community School students can make the best out of every situation and managed to have fun playing cards, throwing a tennis ball, and enjoying the extra day away from home. They should all get A+s for being creative, having a positive attitude, and representing our school values internationally. This ensures there will be more adventures to come!


On Thursday, March 3, 2016, two new members joined the GWCS Community.

There has been a lot of excitement about our new friends.  Here are the bullet-ed highlights:

  • Two male Red-Eared Sliders were adopted from the Washington Humane Society
  • The turtles were brought to the shelter by their 'pet families' because they could not take care of them any longer.
  • These are aquatic turtles, native to the southern U.S. as their environment includes ponds and streams.
  • They both had skin and shell condition issues that are being remedied with medication added to the water.  A conditioning mask was applied by Ethan and 'waxed off' before setting them in their new habitat. Ronan, Katie and Josh assisted with water conditioning and pump works last week.
  • The turtles are enhancing environmental studies in Ms. Newton's classroom.
  • The aquarium has been set up to replicate a pond habitat.
  • There is a feeder fish tank set up and a pond water tank that keeps elodea, a food source, fresh and growing.
  • Ms. Newton will accept feeder fish donations when needed (fish can be purchased at the pet shops).
  • Other helpful donations include crickets and earth worms - when needed.
  • The students are still deciding on names for the turtles.
  • Ms. Newton is looking into also adopting a box turtle from the Washington Humane Society.
  • Special thanks to Mrs. Jo Koerner of Reston, for donating the 75 gallon aquarium and additional smaller tanks and to Mrs. Linda Campbell for being our turtle Uber driver and picking the turtles up as well as assisting with the aquarium setup.

Coyote Robotics teams are headed to the State Championships!

Coyote Robotics Logo Head.jpg

Congratulations to GWCS Coyote Robotics!  Both GWCS Robotics teams competed in the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) Southwest Virginia Qualifying Tournament in Richland, Virginia on January 9, 2016. Team #3749 "Even More Coyotes" went undefeated in qualification rounds to finish ranked #1.  Leading the top seed alliance they selected the next best team and then their other Coyote Robotics team #965 "More Coyotes" for the elimination rounds. They won two straight in both the semi-finals and then in the finals to WIN the competition!  Both teams have now qualified for the State Championships in February! Go Coyotes!

Alumn, Fred Blum, Living GWCS Values

At GWCS, our values don't just express the way that we work together in our community; they also express the gifts we hope we can nurture in our students for when they graduate and go on to bigger things, so it's always awesome to see alumni living and acting out those values. Check out this article from the Sacramento Bee about Class of 2004 GWCS alum Fred Blum demonstrating tons of investment in his city, service towards the less fortunate, kindness to the earth, team play with local nonprofits, responsibility in caring for his crops and, of course, excellence

 Click image to read full article.

Click image to read full article.

“A lot of people are really interested in the fact that their food is grown so close to where they live,” Blum said. “People really respond to that – it makes people feel connected to their food, which is huge in terms of eating healthy and being sustainable.”
~ Fred Blum, Sacramento Bee 12/4/15

GWCS Values: Learning, Service, Kindness, Excellence, Responsibility, Investment, Team Play, Intellectual Curiosity

Music, Poetry, Theatre, Stand-up Comedy & Puppets!

GWCS Annual CoffeeHouse
December 11, 2015
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

The GWCS Music Club was excited to host it’s first Coffeehouse of the 2015- 2016 school year - a terrific collaborative effort by GWCS students, teachers, Music Club and SGA. 

Audience members were treated to an evening of music, theatre, poetry, stand-up comedy, and puppet creativity! Members of the Music Club, along with advisor Mr. Andrews Bashan, performed a wide variety of songs, with members switching it up to show their talents on a variety of instruments and vocals.

Interspersed throughout the music, Mr. Periera performed poetry readings of three of his excellent original works. Mr. Goldie’s selected reading from his book Faith instilled humorous holiday spirit in everyone.  Emily Sullivan led a group of Coyotes in what can only be called "avant garde puppet rap about a Canadian children's show."  Theater Class delivered an unforgettable performance of the one-act comedy-drama Variations on the Death of Trotsky.  Other GWCS students, who auditioned for spots in the show, impressed the audience with their comical theatrical performances.  (See photos below.)

Mr. Andrews Bashan gets an A+ for expertly integrating all of the elements of live theatre into an entertaining and uniquely GWCS showcase. And, of course, Coffeehouse would not have been possible without the support of the SGA, whose members helped set up, clean up, sell tickets and refreshments, and run things behind the scenes. 


“Coffeehouse was really great - two hours of fun - music, theatre, poetry, and creativity. A terrific collaborative effort of GWCS students, teachers, music club, and SGA.”
— Mrs. Ternullo
“I had no idea. Coffeehouse is truly an event that captures the talents of our unique community. I am so glad I went and want to participate next year!”
— Ms. Newton


Annual Trip to Boston - the Center of All Things Tech: MIT SPLASH! Trip

November 21 - 22, 2015

For those not in the know, M.I.T. (Massachursetts Institute of Technology), the center for perhaps all things geeky, holds a wonderful annual opportunity called MIT Splash! for high school students around the country to take a sampling of classes on the sprawling Cambridge campus. Classes are taught by anyone who has an interest to teach, which makes the diversity of courses offered staggering. You could have a class taught by a local chef, artist, Harvard professor, stay at home mother of three, or a lawyer.

Prior to leaving for the trip, GWCS students had to sign up in a lottery for the classes they wanted to take which ranged from technology/robotics to interpretive dance! The fact that they have to have a lottery system tells you how competitive this process can be! Armed with their course schedules and the excitement of missing a few days of school, GWCS students, parents, and teacher chaperones headed to the airport for a north eastern adventure on Friday, November 20th.

In addition to two full days of classes on the MIT campus, the students enjoyed an opportunity to see the Pixar exhibit at the Massachusetts Science Museum, tour a few of the many Boston area colleges, see penguins at the New England Aquarium, ride the T transit system, and take in all the bustling intellectual energy Boston is known for. Certainly a cram packed few days that many (including an equally excited teacher chaperone) are excited to repeat again next year!


The GWCS Homecoming Party this year featured catering by Chik-fil-a, movies, prizes, minute-to-win it challenges, a surprise dance party, and even a robot maze (courtesy of our Robotics club). With so many different activities, there was something for everyone as we celebrated the success and dedication of all of our school teams (basketball, flag football, soccer and robotics).