The phrase “project-based learning” has become a repeated mantra in the halls of Loudoun County schools. Teachers are nudged to provide meaningful, hands-on instruction for their students with the idea that the lessons will stick with them long term, and even better if the students’ work makes an impact outside the classroom.
That teaching model has been engrained into the programming at C.S. Monroe Technology Center for decades. And this morning, the vocational-technical school unveiled the results of a project-based learning assignment five years in the making.
“This house is an exemplar—on steroids—of project-based learning,” School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) told a crowd gathered in front of 118 Prince St. in Leesburg this morning.
The three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, 2,600-square-foot house was built by students in Monroe Tech’s building construction; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; masonry; computer network administration; welding; and environmental plant science programs.
In all, more than 150 students took part in the project. Many of those students joined school and county leaders at the house today for a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Monroe Tech Principal Timothy Flynn told the students that their handiwork will stand for generations. He said he remembers driving around town as a kid, and his dad, a building, would point out homes and buildings he helped construct.
“It brought a sense of pride to our whole family. … This is a product that you can tell your children and your grandchildren, ‘I built that house,’” he said. “You are the best example of the future of Loudoun County Public Schools, and I want to thank you for your amazing work.”
Students invited the crowd of about 75 to tour the house. Several led their parents and friends through each room, pointing out the various parts of the project that they had a hand in.
Nery Urrutia and Kevin Portales, students in Monroe Tech’s HVAC course, headed to the basement to show visitors their work on the electrical box. Both said they didn’t expected to enjoy the course as much as they did. Now they are working toward professional industry certifications to pursue careers in HVAC as soon as they graduate next month.
“It’s a good job, the pay is good and the work is fun and challenging—it’s dangerous if you’re not careful,” 18-year-old Urrutia said.
Madison Randles, 19, nearly took Monroe Tech’s HVAC course but the timing didn’t work in her schedule, so she instead took masonry. That scheduling snafu seems to have led her to her career of choice. “I’ve found that I really love tiling and stonework. Brickwork is pretty fun too,” she said, adding that she’s already applying for jobs in masonry.
The all-brick house sits on a 7,841-square-foot lot (0.18 acres), walking distance from downtown Leesburg. It also includes a two-car garage, a screened in back patio, a stone fireplace, and a kitchen with high-end cabinetry, granite countertops and light fixtures.
Mary Hope Worley, who lives across the street from the new home, lined up to get a good look of the house she watched go up over the years. “I’m a retired teacher, so I loved watching the students at work,” she said. “I liked seeing the progress on the outside and it’s so fun to finally get to see the interior. It’s beautiful.”
Want to be Worley’s neighbor? The house is expected to be on the market by mid-summer.
This is Monroe Tech’s 10th home project. Proceeds from each sold home are used to buy land and materials for the next home project. Construction on the school’s 11th home will begin this fall.