- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

History for most students is a dusty subject found in textbooks. But for Constance Usova’s fourth-grade class at Drew Model Elementary School in Arlington, history lives in the oldest homes and buildings throughout their hometown.

Mrs. Usova’s fourth-graders yesterday presented their drawings, paintings and brief histories of 13 of the most historic houses in the area in a first-of-its-kind, children-created calendar.

“I liked it,” said Danielle Frye, who drew and painted the Alcova House in the 3400 block of South Eighth Street. Her art is displayed with May, her birth month.

On the bottom of the page, classmate Stephen Lynch wrote that the house had been owned by developer and Rep. J. Cloyd Byarsin 1923 and named Alcova, which stood for Alexandria County, Virginia.

The calendar also highlighted the Ball-Sellers House in the 5620 block of South Third Street, with artwork and research done by students Enka Saravia and Jade Graves. It is the oldest-standing house in Arlington, built in about 1750, and was the home of yeoman farmer John Ball, his wife and five daughters.

“This is my reward as a teacher,” said Mrs. Usova, who was impressed with architecture in Arlington when she came 14 years ago from Pittsburgh to teach art at Drew.

“They were very hard workers. They stayed after school. They came in before school, and they came in during the lunch hour,” Mrs. Usova said.

Celebration of the calendar creations began Friday night with a candlelight tour of the Arlington House at Arlington Cemetery, said Jim Murphy, president of the Arlington Historical Society.

“It’s a touch from one generation to the next,” said Elaine Furlow, member of the Arlington County School Board, at yesterday’s presentation in the Arlington Historical Society Museum in the 1800 block of South Arlington Ridge Road.

The museum is what remains of the Hume School, built in 1891. The two-story brick building had three rooms and was the oldest school in Arlington County, until it was closed in 1956 because of fire safety requirements.

The students’ original drawings and paintings will be displayed in the museum until they are moved to Virginia’s Capitol in Richmond. That display was arranged by Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, Arlington Democrat, who also provided support for the calendar project with the historical society and The Washington Post. Drew Model School also participates in the Kennedy Center Changing Education Through the Arts program.

In the spring, the artwork and calendars will be displayed at the Arlington Arts Center.

Mrs. Usova did research at the museum and Smithsonian Institution and drove around Arlington to take photographs of the houses. She presented the photographs to 52 students, in groups of four, and some students went to see the buildings as they began their paintings.

She and the young artists and writers became almost obsessed with the project, Mrs. Usova said. She recalled how she carried her research materials and calendars as she and the students rushed out of the school during a fire drill last year.

“When we got out into the yard, they asked me where my purse was,” Mrs. Usova said. “I had left my keys, wallet and purse inside.”

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