School History: 1994-2014

Buzz Aldrin Elementary School opened its doors to students for the first time on September 8, 1994. Our first principal was Gina Ross.

Photograph of students arriving at Aldrin Elementary School taken in 1994. Several school buses are parked along the sidewalk. Students are exiting the buses and heading into the building.
Approximately 540 children were enrolled at Aldrin on opening day.

When Aldrin opened, it was the largest elementary school in Fairfax County in terms of square footage. We also had the largest gym of any elementary school in the county.

Photograph of students working at computers in a classroom. The picture was taken in 1994. Five children are pictured, working at three computers. One boy is wearing headphones.
When Aldrin opened every classroom was outfitted with four computers, a printer, a television, and a VHS video cassette recorder. Also, two classrooms on the first floor housed a computer lab with 25 Macintosh computers. In 1994, Aldrin boasted more technology in the classroom than any other elementary school in county. Principal Ross remarked: "If we want to prepare these children for the 21st century, we have to get to the point where the computer is like the pencil."

Other features unique to Aldrin were an occupational therapy room for students with special needs, two large teacher workrooms, and a science center with a weather station, science lab, and television studio. The area that housed the science center was originally designed as a separate wing for students with learning disabilities and physical disabilities, but students at Aldrin were never compartmentalized in this fashion. From day one, students with special needs were mainstreamed in general education classrooms. This forward-thinking practice allowed Principal Ross to build a science center to benefit all students. Within a few years, one of Aldrin's first business partners, The Challenger Center, would establish the first space simulator in an elementary school in our science center.

Photograph of two students checking out library books. Library Assistant Theresa Werner is seated at the long check-out desk, and the students have their backs to the camera. The library has dark brown brick walls. There is a brick pillar next to the desk. Rows of bookshelves are visible in the distance, arranged into biography, paperback, and fiction sections.
Library Assistant Theresa Werner with students in 1994. The first shipment of books for our library arrived on August 31, 1994. It took several days of hard work from staff and volunteers to catalog and shelve all 10,000 books to make sure the library was ready for opening day. In 2003, when Principal Ross retired, the Fairfax County School Board named our library "The Gina M. Ross Library-Media Center" in her honor.

Each one of Aldrin's first teachers was hand-picked by Principal Ross, who received 500 resumes and interviewed some 300 candidates. She was looking for three distinct characteristics: 1) The teacher had to be willing to take an instructional risk, to approach a subject via a different avenue; 2) be flexible because "we will change gears many times in this process," and 3) be willing to laugh. Laughter, Ross said, is a necessary attribute for a teacher.

Photographs of the program booklet from Aldrin's dedication ceremony and a close-up of the school's original logo. The booklet is on the left. It is a white cover with an American flag printed in the center and the words Buzz Aldrin Elementary School, Dedication Day, April 25, 1995 printed with a cursive font. The school logo is oval in shape. In the center of the oval is a line-art illustration of the U.S. Capitol dome, the Lincoln Memorial, and a rocket in place of the Washington Monument. The oval is outlined by 32 small red stars.
Aldrin Elementary School was dedicated on April 25, 1995. Our namesake, Dr. Buzz Aldrin, was in attendance. Pictured here are the cover of the dedication program booklet and our first school logo. The logo shown here was printed on formal invitations to the dedication ceremony.

The Marsville Project

Aldrin Elementary School began its second year with 731 students, a major jump in enrollment from the previous year, necessitating the hiring of ten additional staff members. In April 1996, Aldrin Elementary School participated in the international Marsville Project sponsored by The Challenger Center. The two-day project was the culmination of a two-month long unit about space travel and life in space, and was designed to teach problem solving, critical thinking, and data analysis skills.

Photograph showing a large portion of Aldrin Elementary School's gymnasium during the Marsville project. Students are arranged in groups spread throughout the facility. They are working with large sheets of plastic, assembling structures. The initial stages of construction are pictured.
On Saturday, April 27, 1996, day two of the Marsville Project, students designed and constructed plastic bubble habitats to simulate structures that they felt could sustain life on Mars.
Close up photograph of students working on the Marsville Project in the gymnasium. A group of at least eight students is constructing a habitable structure out of a large sheet of see-through plastic. Several students are holding up the plastic so braces can be put in place to create a tent-like structure.
The students also had to build models of three of these eight systems deemed crucial to supporting human life: air supply, communications, food production and delivery, recreation, temperature control, transportation, waste management, or water supply.
Photograph showing a large portion of the Aldrin Elementary School gymnasium during the Marsville project. At least three groups of students have finished constructing their plastic bubble tent-like habitats. In the foreground, two more are still being constructed.
Students at 13 other schools in the United States and Canada participated in the Marsville Project on April 27th. Utilizing a distance-learning satellite link-up, students at Aldrin were able to video conference with children at the other Marsville Project sites.
Photograph taken inside a completed Marsville Project bubble habitat. A group of eight students and an adult are pictured. The students are seated on the floor. A cardboard box, with the word Welcome written on it in several colors, is placed next to one of the plastic walls. Above the box, affixed to the wall, is a student-created poster entitled Food Production and Delivery. One of the students is pointing out a feature of the poster to the adult.
After constructing the habitats, students ate lunch in their simulated environment and weighed their trash as part of their studies in science and technology.

Assignment Earth

On April 17, 1997, Aldrin Elementary School held Mission to Planet Earth Exposition ’97. At the exposition, students demonstrated the effects of humidity on flora and fauna in a bubble dome, simulated a volcanic eruption with a model volcano, dehydrated foods with solar power, and raced hand-made sailboats by blowing on the sails. The event was created to help students understand the forms of and sources of energy, to reinforce and encourage energy conservation at home and in the community, and to gain a greater understanding of the human impact on the global environment.

Photograph of students performing a musical at the Mission to Planet Earth Exhibition. A large group of students is standing on a stage. The children are singing in unison with their arms raised in the air. A large American flag is affixed to a black curtain behind them. The students are wearing white hats with red and blue trim, and white t-shirts printed with the words Aldrin Eagles and an illustration of an eagle in flight. In the foreground, three students in black are performing the musical with American Sign Language.
During the exhibition, students performed an ecology-themed musical entitled Assignment Earth.

School Uniforms

In 1997, Aldrin Elementary School became one of several schools in Fairfax County to adopt a voluntary school uniform policy. Aldrin’s uniforms were selected by a committee of parents and students.

Photograph of a newspaper article clipping from The Journal about the uniform policy at Aldrin Elementary School. The clipping is a color photograph of a group of nine Aldrin students waiting to board a school bus. Two girls are wearing the plaid jumper school uniform, and the remaining students are wearing the khaki and navy blue uniform.
The boy’s uniforms consisted of khaki pants or shorts, with a white or navy blue collared shirt and a navy blue sweater. Girls had two styles from which they could chose: khaki pants, shorts, skirts, or "skorts" with a white or navy blue shirt or sweater, or a red, white, and blue plaid jumper. Interest in school uniforms waned over time and the policy was eventually abandoned.

During the 1997-98 school year, about half of Aldrin's 750 students wore uniforms to school. Principal Ross was an enthusiastic proponent of the school uniform policy. "The uniforms give kids such a sense of belonging and pride, like they represent a team—something much bigger than themselves,” she told a reporter from The Journal newspaper. In August 1998, the Washington Post published a story about the school uniforms at Aldrin. Student Bradon Garten shared his thoughts about our school’s uniforms with the reporter:

I think my uniform makes me smarter, but it's harder to make friends when I wear it, because some people wear their uniform and some people don't. My mom and I have a deal. If I wear my uniform two days a week, then I can wear whatever I want the other three days. I like to wear my uniform on Mondays and Fridays, because those days feel shorter.

Reach for the Stars

On May 24, 1999, Buzz Aldrin Elementary School commemorated the 30th anniversary of the first lunar landing. Dr. Buzz Aldrin was in attendance, and students performed a musical in his honor.

Newspaper clipping from a Washington Post article about the anniversary commemoration. Two photographs are shown, both in black and white. At top, students are performing a musical. The children are standing on a stage, singing in unison, with their arms raised in the air. A banner with the words Reach for the Stars is affixed to a black curtain behind them. Beneath this picture is a photograph of Principal Gina Ross standing with Buzz Aldrin. They are looking through a book that Aldrin is holding. The photograph caption reads: Students at Reston's Buzz Aldrin Elementary School, above, perform a musical to honor the astronaut and to commemorate the 30th anniversary of man's landing on the moon. Left, Aldrin and school Principal Gina Ross look over a book on space written by Aldrin's daughter.
The Washington Post, May 25, 1999.

After the performance, students showed Dr. Aldrin the space capsules and decontamination rooms they had constructed out of cardboard, egg cartons, and aluminum foil. Second graders wore space helmets fashioned out of empty ice-cream tubs. "Those are some of the fanciest helmets I've ever seen," said Dr. Aldrin. During the commemoration assembly, Dr. Aldrin told students, "Think into the future. We need you to have a vision. I know that’s hard when you’re thinking about when’s recess, or what’s for lunch, or what's on TV tomorrow, but you need to start thinking about the next 10, 20, and 30 years. Make me and your parents proud of what you’re doing.”

Newspaper clipping from a Fairfax Journal article in 1998, showing three students participating in a space simulation. The children are wearing blue full-body suits with large black rubber gloves, and have white buckets on their heads with a window opening for their faces. The article caption reads: Jacqueline Ruiz, right, teams with fellow astronauts Emma Freidhaim, center, and Naville Mejia, all first-graders at Aldrin Elementary School in Reston, to help assemble a space satellite in the shuttle cargo bay on their 20-minute mission.
Aldrin students participate in a space simulation. The Fairfax Journal, April 24, 1998.

Fun Fact

Did you know that in 1999, Aldrin Elementary School was recognized nationally by Sports Illustrated magazine for having one of the finest physical education programs in the United States?

New Leadership

In June 2003, Principal Gina Ross climbed a ladder up to the roof of our school and sat atop the building for a day. Principal Ross had done similar stunts before as an incentive to encourage students to read, but this would be the last such occurrence as the date of her retirement was rapidly approaching.

Newspaper clipping showing a photograph of Principal Ross atop the roof of Aldrin Elementary School. She is looking down over the edge, waving at the camera. Text next to the picture reads: Schools. Going Out On Top... With the last day of school approaching, retiring Principal Gina Ross sits atop Aldrin Elementary one last time.
The Connection Newspaper, June 2003. During her time as principal, in an effort to promote reading and reward Aldrin students for reaching their goals, Ms. Ross rode in a hot air balloon, climbed the ladder of a fire engine, and sat on the roof of our school for an entire day. Principal Ross referred to herself as the Susan Lucci of principals because, despite nine nominations, she never won the FCPS Principal of the Year award.

With the search for her successor underway, Principal Ross shared some words of advice for her as yet unnamed replacement:  "Spoil the teachers. If you love the staff, they will love the child."

Composite photograph of four Aldrin Elementary School yearbook covers. On the left is the cover from 1994 to 1995. The cover art is a student-drawn illustration of two astronauts on the surface of the moon. One has planted an American flag on the ground and the other is descending the stairs from a rocket to the surface. To the right of this cover is the cover of the 1999 to 2000 yearbook. In the center there is an illustration of a Space Shuttle blasting off into space above the Earth. To the right of this cover is the cover of the 2002 to 2003 yearbook. The student-drawn artwork shows an American flag with illustrations of faces of people arranged above the flag’s stripes. Each person represents a different career path, such as chef, police officer, rock star, teacher, doctor, nurse, engineer, hairdresser, music teacher, professor, firefighter, astronaut, librarian, football player, and college student. On the far right is the cover of the 2003 to 2004 yearbook. This student-drawn cover shows a Space Shuttle blasting off in the foreground. To the right of the shuttle is an American flag, and behind the flag is a bald eagle.
Aldrin Elementary School Yearbook Covers

Marty Marinoff (2003-12)

In July 2003, Marty Marinoff was appointed the second principal of Aldrin Elementary School. Mr. Marinoff was an assistant principal at Aldrin from 2001-03, and had been an assistant principal at Great Falls Elementary School in 1990-91 when Gina Ross was principal of that school.

Head and shoulders portrait of Principal Marinoff from Aldrin Elementary School's 2005 to 2006 yearbook.
Principal Joseph Martin "Marty" Marinoff, Jr.

An Alexandria native, Mr. Marinoff began his teaching career in 1972 as a physical education teacher. He led Aldrin Elementary School for nine years until 2012, when he was succeeded by our current principal, Shane Wolfe.

Student Activities

Extracurricular and co-curricular activities and PTA-sponsored clubs have been a hallmark of the strong instructional program at Aldrin since our founding.

Yearbook photograph of students in Aldrin's recycling club taken during the 2009 to 2010 school year. The students are posed in the lobby on the stage outside the main office. 35 students and their teacher sponsor are pictured.
The Recycling Club, 2009-10

In addition to traditional offerings such as SCA, Safety Patrol, band, chorus, and strings, some popular clubs over the years were the Library Club, Student Mediators, the Meditation Group, and the Philosopher Club.

Yearbook photograph of Aldrin Elementary School’s news team from the 2001 to 2002 school year. Six students are pictured, five girls and one boy. The boy is operating a VHS camcorder on a tripod, and two girls are sitting at a table with audio and video technical equipment in front of them. Three girls stand behind the table against the wall.
WALD News Team, 2001-02

Founded in the 1990s, the Solar Flares Dance Team, All-Star Orff Ensemble, and Comets Stage Crew were special musical performance and service groups. The Solar Flares Dance Team was comprised of fifth and sixth grade students from the chorus who loved to dance. They wore neon vests, ties, hats, and gloves, and danced under blacklight so that their costumes would “glow or flare” as they moved. The All-Star Orff Ensemble was comprised of fifth and sixth grade students from the chorus who loved to play Orff instruments, such as xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels. The ensemble accompanied the Buzz Aldrin Chorus as well as played selected concert repertoire on their own. The Comets Stage Crew was comprised of fifth and sixth grade students who liked working behind the scenes. They operated the technical equipment, stage lighting, and set up props and scenery for all the musicals, concerts, and special events that occurred at Buzz Aldrin Elementary School.

On the left is a photograph of the All-Star Orff Ensemble. 12 students are pictured. They are wearing white shirts and dark pants, and are sitting on a stage playing instruments. On the right is a photograph of the Solar Flares Dance Team. The students are wearing black shirts and pants with neon yellow and pink hats and vests. The students are dancing on a stage.
The All-Star Orff Ensemble (left) and the Solar Flares Dance Team (right).

A Look Back

Take a moment to look back at some events in Aldrin’s history. The video topics include a visit by meteorologist Bob Ryan, an in-depth look at our Strategies Lab, the third-grade wax museum in 2009, and the Crayon Factory in 2008.

Composite photograph of three Aldrin Elementary School yearbook covers. On the left is the cover of the 2004 to 2005 yearbook. The cover of the 2009 to 2010 yearbook is in the center. The cover of the 2010 to 2011 yearbook is on the far right. All three feature student-drawn artwork with depictions of an eagle, the school mascot. Left to right, the yearbook themes are No Dream Is Too High, 15 Years Soaring Together, and Hand in Hand, We All Learn.
Aldrin Elementary School Yearbook Covers