Soul Food: Schoolhouse Renovation Student Design Series

Constructing or renovating a building touches on a huge variety of topics and skills, and Foxcroft’s Schoolhouse Renovation Student Design Series, a five-seminar program being offered this year, reflects that vividly. One week, the 20 participating students are choosing paint chips, fabric swatches, and flooring samples to decorate the apartment from Friends or Big Bang Theory; the next they are calculating their ecological footprint (try it yourself at and learning about sustainable construction. In February, they will learn cost estimating in construction, and in April, they will form teams to build their own construction projects using Legos.
The seminar series is the latest student program offered in conjunction with major plant projects on campus. Project Greenbuild, which focused on the building of our Gold level LEED-certified dormitory, Stuart Hall, was the first a ground-breaking (literally) learning opportunity which included regular hard-hat construction site visits. Project Rebuild followed, when Court was repurposed from dormitory to Welcome Center.

This Schoolhouse Renovation Student Design Series, however, starts earlier in the process than either of those. “Our students experience talking about this project as a vision,” says Chief Operating Officer Deborah Anderson, the champion of these unique learning opportunities. “Even if these students have graduated prior to the construction, they will see the final schematic design.” Freshman and sophomore participants, however, have the opportunity to continue the conversation after this program ends in April by serving on a Schoolhouse Student Steering Committee.

Anderson hopes the students develop an appreciation for the care with which Foxcroft approaches maintaining and enhancing its plant. Asked what she has learned so far, sophomore Elikem K. was right on. “Each stair, space, and window was given thought when it was designed,” she said. “It was fascinating, wherever you stand around Stuart or Court, there is a clear view of the beautiful landscape.”
Site analysis and landscaping were the focus of the first seminar, in October, as the group walked the campus, discussing the various buildings. “I want them to see how each building design, building location, choice of material to use complements our beautiful campus,” says Anderson. “These seminars are also a wonderful way for students to be exposed to professional fields that may have not been on their radar.”
Indeed, both Hord Coplan Macht (HCM)M Principal/Director of Sustainability Lisa M. Ferretto and interior designer Leah Wettstein shared a bit of their personal career paths, as well as a few related positions during their presentations. Some of the girls — like Elikem, who is interested in being an architect or civil engineer — are very interested in career possibilities; others signed up for other reasons.
“Last year, when pictures were put up so that students could write what they liked and didn't like, I saw that there were many modern pictures, which I thought did not look like Foxcroft,” says sophomore Hays T. “I want to make sure that Foxcroft remains Foxcroft with a homey feel. Learning about the process was just a bonus.”
Being exposed to the girls’ fresh views and “why not?” attitudes is a bonus for the professionals who teach the seminars. “Their innocence and lack of war wounds leads to ideas unfettered by experience, approach, accepted theory,” says architect Peter Winebrenner, who heads up HCM’s education studio and is a veteran of the three Foxcroft seminar series. “We always come away with some insight or idea,” he says, adding. “It feeds our souls.”
An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.