Creativity, critical thinking, and innovation develop best when students are challenged with rich, open-ended tasks. Students need to be comfortable working and creating in an environment where the answers are not always straight-forward and outcomes may be unknown. This ability requires students to employ their creativity, work in teams, learn to fail safely, be self-motivated, synthesize knowledge, and create new knowledge. A well-designed curriculum supported by a well-designed space can create and foster these opportunities for learning.

Watch the video above to see what our teachers think about the Design Labs.

  • Design Lab Completion



To ensure we are able to offer lab spaces and a high-quality program situated at the intersection of the arts and sciences for years to come, we are seeking to raise endowment funds for faculty support, programming, future maintenance costs, and equipment replenishment.


Several years ago, Congressional School began to increase STEM offerings beyond the traditional science and mathematical curriculum.

The design cycle and engineering were introduced into the curriculum in 2016. Faculty completed an intensive week-long training at NuVu Studios in Cambridge, Massachusetts to better understand the needs for the emerging curriculum. Coding and robotics were added for students in kindergarten through 8th grade. The visual arts continued to focus on creativity. Additional faculty attended a NAEYC design program while others attended programs at St. Andrews School in Potomac, MD and The Nueva School in California. For the 2018-2019 school year, a new faculty position of STEM educator was created.

Creativity and critical thinking are cornerstones in all subjects, not just the domain of science, math, and engineering. Our Design Labs will be the place where subject areas can collaborate to provide meaningful experiences for our students. We are excited to imagine the possibilities for all our students in the Design Labs.



It has been exciting over the past several months to watch our labs be demolished and reconstructed into the beautiful, functional Design Labs that we have today. Teachers are so excited that they are open and ready to have class in, and students are loving the opportunity to use the new spaces. We can't wait to see all of the innovations that our students create and discover!



Front Row (Left to Right): Susie Welty (Preschool); Denise Yassine (5th-6th, History); Ashley Spalletta (4th-8th, Music); Maithili Mankar (5th-6th, Science); Andrea Weiss (Director of Innovation and Learning); Sarah Philip (K-4th, Art); Back Row (Left to Right): Dr. Edwin Gordon (Head of School); Chris Pryor (Assistant Head for Advancement); Carlos Hernandez (STEM Educator); Alyce Penn (Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications); Todd Friedman (3rd); Desmond McGlone (7th-8th, Math)

To enhance the integration of STEM and the Arts into the educational experience throughout the campus through strategic leadership, coordination, and alignment across the grade levels.  The Council will make recommendations to the Head of School and Director of Innovation and Learning for strategic alignment of practices and investments in STEM and the Arts.


  1. Increasing the visibility of STEM and the Arts at Congressional School

  2. Seeding creative projects that add richness and meaning to the educational experience

  3. Serving as an advisory body for the creation of cross-disciplinary initiatives and curriculum related to STEM and the Arts that pool the resources and talents of all the academic departments at Congressional

  4. Coordinating STEM and the Arts-related programming across campus

  5. Building a network of educators, industry professionals and other partners to provide practical experiences and opportunities for students, and professional development for faculty and staff



Agnes Starfield

Primary and Lower School French

"I am looking forward to utilizing the new labs with my students! They offer green screen areas which will be so helpful when recording skits!  I will also use them when doing cooking activities."


Carlos Hernandez

STEM Educator

"This is an exciting opportunity for students to work with a variety of new tools and equipment. I am very much looking forward to seeing students take their prototypes and ideas to the next level!"


Denise Yassine

Grades 5 and 6 Social Studies

"The design spaces speak to our school’s desire to make room for creativity and critical thinking. We can’t wait to get in there to construct learning in meaningful ways."


Todd Friedman

Grade 3

"The Design Labs will be a wonderful place to work on projects related to our science units. The layout, tools, technology, and creative atmosphere they provide will hopefully get the most out of the students."


In August, tours were given to influential members from our community who have helped make our design labs possible.


Who will use the Design Labs?

Lower and Middle School science and school-wide design classes are scheduled for the labs. Open time will be available to all. It is our expectation that all grades and classes will use the labs for project-based learning.

Where are the Design Labs?

The Design Labs are located in the repurposed Middle School science labs on the first floor of the Big School.

How are the Design Labs being funded?

Initial funding for the increased STEM program and professional development was supported by generous donations and the school’s operating budget. All proceeds from the 2018 gala were earmarked for the construction, furniture, and equipment for the new labs. Additional capital expenditure funds have been approved by the Board of Trustees to round out the funding.

For information about supporting our plans, please contact: 

Chris Pryor 
Assistant Head for Advancement

When will the Design Labs be ready for students?

We expect the Design Labs to open in early Fall 2019.

What types of projects and activities can we expect in the Design Lab?

Plans include a design and engineering elective for grades 6 through 8; green screen use by French, Global Perspectives, and others; Computer-aided design and 3D printing as part of science and engineering projects, windmill fabrication, Rube Goldberg contraptions, building electrified machines, and more. The limit is only the imagination of the faculty and students.

What are the features of the Design Labs?

The big lab equipment will include a smart board and projector, surround sound, a laser cutter, 3D printers, small tools including drills, hammers, saws, a drill press, increased electric outlets throughout the lab, easily movable furniture and storage, a smooth floor for a robot arena, a selection of fabrication materials, components for circuits. The small lab will have all but the laser cutter, 3D printers, and a green screen.


Questions about the Design Lab? Please contact:

Andrea Weiss
Director of Innovation and Learning

703-533-9711, Ext. 241

Questions about supporting STEM and the Arts? Please contact:

Chris Pryor
Assistant Head for Advancement