Citizen Science: A Tale of Two Cities

“Pursue truth before everything else.” These were the parting words of Dr. Siddhartha ‘Sid’ Roy, who spoke to the AP Environmental students via Skype this Thursday about how citizen (investigative) scientists pioneered the change necessary to bring potable water to their towns.

Potable water is used for consumption. Until 1986 water was transported to our homes through lead pipes – then we discovered the dangers of lead consumption. Lead is known as the ‘silent killer,’  as it’s clear in liquid and has no odor. Despite the ban, many cities are still operating on outdated infrastructure and may continue to as long as they have acceptable lead levels (less than 15 parts per billion).

So where is the lead? In 2000, Washington DC switched the disinfectant at their water treatment plants from chlorine to chloramine. In doing so, the pipes transporting the water began to corrode. Birth rates began to decrease in DC as lead ingestion rose to beyond safe levels. It took four years (and the uncovering of many falsified papers) before a solution was reached.

The same issue occurred in Flint, Michigan. Originally, the city was purchasing its water from two outside sources (one being Lake Huron), prior to switching to the Flint River. When the switch occurred, no corrosion control measures were put in place and huge amounts of lead were released into the drinking water. After much sampling, protesting, and reporting, President Obama declared a federal emergency for Flint in 2016 and the city switched the water supply back to Lake Huron. Citizen scientists saved the day again! So why is Flint still in a water crisis?

It’s not. According to Dr. Roy, Flint, Michigan has some of the safest drinking water around. It’s us who are in the dark ages. Since 2016, Michigan has waged a war on lead, holding their water quality to stricter standards and more frequent sampling. So why are we still trying to save Flint?

“You can’t just put on the advocacy hat,” Dr. Roy states. “You actually have to be an expert.” 

Flint’s source of water is currently one of the largest sources of fake news in the media.

This is a good lesson for us all. Before you advocate ( share, click, like ), always verify what you are sharing is true.Keep your emotions in check. For this reason, our research library has made this the first move in Michael Caulfield’s “Four Move” method for information evaluation.

Want to take the charge? Cities like Newark, NJ and Chicago, IL are currently facing lead issues.

Want to read more? Check out



Based on Peter H. Reynolds’ book The Dot about a caring teacher who dares a doubting student to trust in her own abilities and  “make her mark,” DOT DAY is a celebration of creativity, courage and collaboration! Click here for a 4 minute narrated version of The Dot.

Mr. Malone, Mr. Lear and Mr. Ajima joined forces to design a conic sections demonstrator from 2 large plywood dots.

Students rose to the challenge to be creative and design their own dots.




If you haven’t already, you need to check out the Spark Cafe, which is located on the second floor next to the Research Library.  The cafe is open in the mornings from 8:15 – 11:15 and in the afternoons from noon to 1:30. You can buy drinks, such as hot chocolate and flavored lattes, as well as breakfast and lunch items. The hot lunch on the menu that day is available but not the burrito bowl option. Be aware, too, that the Research Library is open in the mornings starting at 7:30.


Congratulations to our award winners!


2nd     Paravi Das

3rd      Julia Spewak

4th      Madison Tran

5th      Sarah Shekihnureldin


3rd     Nabiah Haque


2nd     Julia Spewak

3rd     Paravi Das

1st     Paravi Das


Paravi Das – State President

Julia Spewak – Region 1 Vice President

CHAPTER OF EXCELLENCE PROGRAM: Quality Chapter and Gold Chapter:

President Sarah Shekihnureldin & Vice President Sydney Velandria


Graphic Communications, Academies of Loudoun

SKILLSUSA Virginia Board member

Pam Smith

The SKILLSUSA 55th Annual National Leadership and Skill Conference will be held June 24-28, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Lead Voting Delegate for Virginia – Paravi Das

National Anthem singer, Opening session – Paravi Das

National Pin Design – 1st Place – Paravi Das

SkillsUSA Professional Development Program #6 International Degree – Deborah Tripp

2019 SkillsUSA Graphic Arts Competition


In today’s rapidly changing graphic arts industry, it’s important to stay on top of the latest trends and keep up-to-date with the newest creative software. Adobe’s Creative Suite is a top of the line package that mixes all the programs needed of today’s graphic designed. Students in the Graphic Design program at the Academies competed today in a two and half hour challenge as part of the 2019 SkillsUSA Graphic Arts Competition to test their use and knowledge of Adobe Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Acrobat.


Students had to create a full color one-page print advertisement for the “Print Grows Trees” campaign, which is a strategic effort to raise awareness that printing on paper actually helps to grow trees and keeps our forests from being sold for development. It’s counter-intuitive, but by connecting the dots between print and private landowners, who own almost 60 percent of our nation’s woodlands, we’ll come to understand that the existing forestland with all its biodiversity could be better sustained if growing trees was a more profitable endeavor. This will only happen if there is more demand for paper. “Print Grows Trees” challenges the widely held belief that by using less paper, trees will be saved.

Students are to conceive, design, and execute a one page (8.5” x 11”) full-color print ad for the campaign. Students are allowed to choose from the supporting artwork provided to incorporate in their ad or else they can come up with some original art or background to use. They will also be provided some text copy that can be used as body copy for their ad. Finally, they must come up with an original slogan, used in the ad.


Below are the four top designs, created by Julia Spewak, Paravi Das, Sarah Sheikhnureldin, and Ashley Ayeri.  These competitors have earned a place in the state competition this spring in Virginia Beach.


Pizza Anyone?

There is a huge focus on authenticity when it comes to education, and you can’t get any more authentic than high schoolers and their connection to pizza.  So why not build a brick oven? Our masonry class did just that.

When constructing a project of this magnitude there are several factors to take into consideration – the two largest challenges being the overall weight of the brick oven and the structural integrity of the arch. Traditionally bricks are laid and held in place with mortar to prevent them from shifting.  Not in a brick oven – no mortar equates to no grit in your pizza. Using a wooden arch as a scaffolding, the bricks are laid at such an angle that when the support is removed they remain in place – defying gravity. Careful calculations and planning ensured we will be enjoying pizza at the Academies of Loudoun for years to come.

Prior to baking the first pie the oven will need to be fired at least three times, allowing the bricks to cure and any residual dust to be burnt off. Reaching temperatures up over 1000°, that inaugural pizza cannot be left unattended; it only takes a minute for pizza perfection.

Pictured below are students Jackson Donahue and Logan McKinney with the finished product.

Weekly Review – January 7-11

by Claire McGuinness

We are now two weeks into the new year after our winter break, and the Academies is moving full steam ahead. On Monday and Tuesday, Telos Corporation CEO John Wood gave presentations on the internships that will be offered through Telos over the summer. The Virginia National Guard spoke on Monday with students interested in learning more about what being a member of the guard entails. Wednesday saw the visit from the United States Army for all those interested in pursuing a career in this branch of the military. Tours were given every day this week to students who are considering applying to the Academies from Dominion, Riverside, Tuscarora, Potomac Falls, and Woodgrove High Schools.