A rendering of the outdoor classroom pavilion at Jefferson Middle School Academy. Courtesy of the Author

By Elinor Bacon, ER Bacon Development, LLC, Partner, Hoffman Madison Waterfront

A new destination for learning is coming to the Southwest community as construction begins on an outdoor classroom pavilion at Jefferson Middle School Academy on Maine Avenue SW, across from The Wharf.  The project is a joint effort of the DC Students Construction Trades Foundation and DC Public Schools, highlighting career and technical education in Phelps ACE High School and STEM learning at Jefferson Middle School Academy.  DCS Foundation is one of the grantees of The Wharf’s Workforce Program, and the learning center project is supported by a grant of $350,000. 

Hoffman & Associates is the managing member of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, developer of The Wharf.  Monty Hoffman, Chairman and Founder of Hoffman & Associates said, “As a founding board member of the DC Students Construction Trades Foundation, I am thrilled The Wharf has been able to support such an exciting project for the Southwest Community.  We look forward to this dynamic new enhancement to the historic renovation of our neighbor, Jefferson Middle School Academy.” 

The design build project has attracted support from leading architectural and construction firms while instructing students about all aspects of the development – concept, design, selecting sustainable materials, obtaining permits, and now construction.  The result will be a 1,000 square-foot open-air structure on the school’s campus that will complement the school’s recent award-winning renovation and modernization. 

“This partnership brings technical education onto our campus in an exciting way,” said Michelle Mays, director of logistics and strategy for Jefferson Middle School Academy. “The outdoor classroom pavilion will expand our instructional space for both in-school and community programs.”  

DC Students Construction Trades Foundation sponsors the Academy of Construction and Design “ACAD” BUILDS internships for high school students to earn and learn while working under the guidance of building industry professionals on projects that create value in the local community.  ACAD students previously helped build a single-family house in Northwest DC, took part in renovation and modernization projects at local schools, and built two tiny houses that were featured in the DC Government’s tiny living demonstration site in Northeast Washington.  

“We sponsor learning experiences that introduce students to the lifelong benefits of technical education,” said Mark Drury, building industry veteran and president of the DC Students Construction Trades Foundation. “The new site at Jefferson Middle School will teach students about sustainable building and connect them to the natural environment in lessons about the District’s intersecting waterways at The Wharf.” 

The Foundation hosted its annual Meet the Future scholarship and awards ceremony at Jefferson Middle School on May 18, kicking off the construction phase of the outdoor classroom pavilion project. Each year, this event recognizes DC Apprenticeship Academy graduates who earn professional certifications and journey licensing and celebrates the outstanding achievement of high school students in Academy of Construction and Design or ACAD BUILDS Internship programs. These opportunities offer career and technical education, employer mentoring, scholarships and awards that launch District of Columbia youth into industry employment or college degree programs after high school graduation.  

StudioMB, project architect and designer of many buildings surrounding the fish market at The Wharf, engaged students throughout the process, and the final outdoor classroom pavilion design incorporates many of the students’ ideas. 

“As a DC-based architecture firm, it was a great experience to work with local high school students through the ACAD BUILDS program,” said StudioMB principal Adam McGraw. “Over the course of our mentoring sessions we were able to share our knowledge of the profession as well as listen to interns’ design ideas for the project and hopefully, at the end of the day, we were able to inspire some students to consider architecture as a career path.”

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