A Community of Lifelong Learners

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Faculty & Staff Stories in Fine Print, the Magazine of Rowland Hall

Rowland Hall beginning schoolers plant flowers on Earth Day.


In their final episode of the 2020–2021 school year, Rowland Hall princiPALS Emma Wellman and Jij de Jesus take on the topic of bullying.

When they leave the elementary years and get into more complicated and dynamic years—middle school, high school—that foundation of clear communication with your child is going to be really important.—Jij de Jesus, Lower School principal

While parents and caregivers are undoubtedly familiar with the term bullying, the definition can shift depending on who’s talking. Knowing this, Emma and Jij explain what it means when educators use that word, as well as walk listeners through what’s happening to kids developmentally during the early childhood and elementary years so that they understand what behaviors are typical and which may require intervention—areas that may not be clear to all caregivers as their children mature, but that school personnel see often and can help explain.

“As educators and people who work with children, we think about typical development all the time,” explained Emma.

The princiPALS also examine what parents and caregivers can do if they suspect their child may be being bullied—or might be the one bullying. Listeners will walk away with a better understanding of what is behind children’s behaviors and how to target support to help students gain skills that will help them manage tough situations for life. Additionally, they’ll hear tips they can put into practice starting today, including establishing open communication with children, an important step that benefits families for life.

“When they leave the elementary years and get into more complicated and dynamic years—middle school, high school—that foundation of clear communication with your child is going to be really important,” said Jij.

Check out “Bullying,” along with other episodes of the princiPALS podcast, on Rowland Hall's website, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast resources:

Podcast

Salt Lake City-based Rowland Hall's princiPALS podcast shares more about how to talk to kids about race.

The princiPALS are back in the office to revisit one of today’s most essential topics: how to talk to kids about race.

Since recording their first episode on this subject—which won a silver InspirED Brilliance Award—in February 2020, princiPALS Emma Wellman and Jij de Jesus have often reflected on the importance of returning to this conversation. The need to do so was made especially clear after recent events, including ongoing violence against people of color, have continued to underscore our collective need to examine and talk about racism.

Demonstrations and discussions about racial inequity in this country initiated a massive shift in the conversations about race and racism.—Emma Wellman, Beginning School principal

“Demonstrations and discussions about racial inequity in this country initiated a massive shift in the conversations about race and racism,” said Emma.

And because these conversations don’t just happen among adults, the princiPALS wanted to give parents and caregivers tools that will help them teach children how to have thoughtful conversations about race and racial differences. With their trademark warmth and approachability—and their understanding of how children learn best during the early childhood and elementary years—Emma and Jij provide listeners with strategies to help kids develop positive racial identity and awareness and to teach the skills and vocabulary necessary to comfortably and respectfully discuss race.

“We’re talking about having the attitudes, capacities, and skills to navigate a diverse and dynamic world,” said Jij.

The princiPALS also give listeners tips to model antiracist behaviors for children, including simple steps that they can start using today to help dismantle racism, since, as Jij noted, “small choices can add up to make a big impact.”

Join Emma, Jij, and host Conor Bentley ’01, as they discuss “How to Talk to Kids about Race, Part II,” available now on Rowland Hall’s website as well as Stitcher and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast resources:

Podcast

Rowland Hall kindergartners around the story fire during outdoor classroom.

On a mild January morning, a Rowland Hall kindergarten class gathered around an imaginary fire. Surrounding them were the sounds of birds chirping, and the open fields and majestic trees of Sunnyside Park, a public greenspace located across the street from the McCarthey Campus. Behind their masks were the unmistakable signs of smiles as they called out the reading powers they’d been practicing.

“Stretching-out power!”

“Pointer power!”

“Beginning sound power!”

After listing all of their superpowers, the students picked up books, as well as pieces of carpet to help keep them dry, and excitedly walked to their favorite park trees. They settled down at the base of the trunks and began to read out loud. From across the field came the sound of little voices sounding out words. At each tree, a child sat focused, tracing a finger across a page to track their place and, occasionally, pausing to share an illustration with the tree.

The research is clear: spending time learning outdoors results in stickier learning, better emotional regulation, connection to and appreciation for nature, better collaboration skills amongst students—even improved appetite and eye development in young children.—Emma Wellman, Beginning School principal

Reading to the trees has become a beloved component of outdoor classroom, the newest addition to this year’s kindergarten curriculum. “There’s something magical about it,” said kindergarten lead teacher Melanie Robbins, who—with her background teaching outdoor classroom at the International School of Zug and Luzern in Switzerland, and studying nature education in Finland—has played a big role in introducing the learning method to Rowland Hall.

Put simply, outdoor classroom is the practice of taking school lessons outside to enhance learning. It’s a good fit for Rowland Hall’s Beginning School, where a focus on indoor-outdoor education and its benefits has always been a priority (design features of the Beginning School building even include access to common courtyards from all classrooms and a dedicated division nature yard).

“The research is clear: spending time learning outdoors results in stickier learning, better emotional regulation, connection to and appreciation for nature, better collaboration skills amongst students—even improved appetite and eye development in young children,” said Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman. Melanie agreed, noting that her early interest in outdoor classroom was sparked after seeing firsthand the benefits of learning outside, including the realization of how much more captivated students seemed to be in nature. 

“I noticed that the children were even more engaged than they were when we were inside, and I wanted to know more about this,” she said.

A kindergartner reading to a tree during outdoor classroom.

Reading to the trees has quickly become a favorite part of outdoor classroom at Rowland Hall.

And though an emphasis on outdoor classroom was already playing a role in plans for the 2020–2021 school year, the pandemic helped turn it into a priority (or, as the teachers view it, a COVID silver lining) since learning outdoors is safer for teachers and students. Many Beginning School teachers now choose to utilize Sunnyside Park for lessons each week—appointments that have become so cherished, teachers say, that students are “devastated” when a scheduling conflict or severe weather derails plans.

“I think there’s this freedom in the outdoors that they’re connected to,” Melanie explained.

In fact, the instructors say that despite the park’s many distractions, students are greatly connected to outdoor activities, and their focus and overall stamina for learning have improved outdoors. The story fire ritual that opens each session, for instance, is helping to sharpen their listening and imagining skills, while reading to trees is helping to build confidence and endurance (“We can read a lot longer outside than we do inside,” said Melanie). These benefits aren’t limited to certain subjects, either. Teachers can take almost any unit of study to the park (and some have been known to wheel two wagons’ worth of supplies over to do just that) and are also utilizing the space’s natural materials for lessons. As a result, students are trying all sorts of activities, from practicing measurements and studying patterns, to creating art and making science drawings.

“We want to get kids learning from the world around them, making real-world connections with science, and bringing math, language, and literacy into an outdoor space,” said lead kindergarten teacher Kelley Journey, who previously taught at a nature-based school in Massachusetts.

I used to think it was fun to take kids outdoors. But now I know that it is a uniquely powerful setting to help develop curious, happy, focused learners.—Melanie Robbins, kindergarten lead teacher

Outdoor classroom is also proving to be a way to build on already-successful units. 4PreK lead teacher Kait Abraham, who’s attended outdoor classroom seminars, brought it into her classroom this year and said it’s been a valuable addition to units like the evergreen study, which had previously only been conducted on campus. By including Sunnyside Park in this year’s study, Kait said, students could view more types of evergreen trees as well as access fallen branches, sticks, and pine cones to use in counting and sorting exercises.

“It was really cool to see how kids take what we usually study indoors into the outdoors and study it even deeper,” she reflected.

And that indoor-outdoor link is happening across the division, with teachers seeing children asking more complex questions and realizing that learning happens in all kinds of places. For Melanie, their joyful engagement, and the fun they’re having because of it, is a reminder of the initial spark that drove her to study outdoor classroom.

"I used to think it was fun to take kids outdoors,” she said. “But now I know that it is a uniquely powerful setting to help develop curious, happy, focused learners."

Academics

Lower School student working on class project

In the newest episode of Rowland Hall’s award-winning princiPALS podcast, Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus discuss some of the most inspiring things they’ve learned (so far) while educating preschool- and elementary-aged children during the pandemic.

During the first months of in-person instruction since March, the princiPALS have learned a lot about the capability of children, the power of good teaching, and the strength of community.

Recorded during the 14th week of Rowland Hall’s 2020–2021 school year, Emma and Jij reflect on leading their divisions during the first months of in-person instruction since the school moved to full distance learning in March. During that time, they said, they’ve learned a lot about the capability of children, the power of good teaching, and the strength of community. And though they’re aware that schools across the country are dealing with different learning models and regional challenges, they believe that their perspectives on in-person learning during the pandemic may help other educators—as well as answer some of the many questions parents and caregivers have as schools readjust learning models in 2021.

“Our hope is that these important things we’ve learned are helpful to anyone out there,” said Jij.

The princiPALS also draw on their top lessons to create tips that will help parents and caregivers continue to support children (and themselves) at this time, with an emphasis on making intentional choices rather than, as Emma noted, “letting the world wash over you.”

Listen to “What We’re Learning about Learning during a Pandemic,” along with other episodes of princiPALS, on Rowland Hall's website, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast

PrinciPALS Jij de Jesus and Emma Wellman on Rowland Hall's McCarthey Campus

Rowland Hall is pleased to announce that “How to Talk to Kids about Race,” the third episode of the school’s princiPALS podcast, won silver for a single podcast episode in the 2020 InspirED Brilliance Awards. This is Rowland Hall’s fifth Brilliance Award since 2017.

2020 InspirED Brilliance Award Winner badge


The InspirED School Marketers Brilliance Awards is the only international competition that recognizes excellence in private and independent school marketing and communications exclusively. Entries, divided into 30 categories, were judged by a volunteer panel of 69 marketing experts from around the world who are professionals in private schools or businesses that specialize in school marketing, and were scored on creativity, persuasiveness, design, copy, photography, and overall appeal. The judges chose “How to Talk to Kids about Race” for the timeliness of the subject, the strong advice presented to listeners, and the overall branding.

"The topic is timely and I appreciated hearing about the research and action items to take,” said one judge. Another commented, “Really smart advice, well-presented.”

PrinciPALS launched in October 2019 as a resource for parents and caregivers navigating common questions and concerns about the preschool and elementary school years. The podcast features Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, and is hosted by alumnus Conor Bentley ’01. All episodes of princiPALS are available on Rowland Hall's website, Stitcher, and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast

Children playing four square on Rowland Hall's campus.

In the newest episode of princiPALS, Emma and Jij discuss how to talk to kids about race.

Kids are noticing race and racial differences all the time, and they’re getting messages about race and racial differences all the time. It’s our job as grownups to positively and proactively give them messages about race too.

Depending on your background and experiences, this topic may feel uncomfortable or unpleasant—especially if you’ve never been exposed to these kinds of discussions before. But, as the princiPALS explain, kids are naturally curious and need help processing what they see around them, so caregivers need to learn to embrace these moments.

“Kids are noticing race and racial differences all the time, and they’re getting messages about race and racial differences all the time,” said Jij. “It’s our job as grownups to positively and proactively give them messages about race too.”

Join Jij, Emma, and host Conor Bentley ’01 as they unpack common fears around talking about race and bias (including the role socialization plays), explore studies on kids and race, and identify tips that will help listeners feel more prepared to have these conversations when they come up.

PrinciPALS episode 3 is available for download on Rowland Hall's websiteStitcher, or Apple Podcasts.

Resources
The princiPALS recommend the following resources on talking to children about race:
    •   The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s anti-bias education website
    •   Sesame Workshop’s Identity Matters study

    •   NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

    •   PBS Utah’s Let’s Talk: Talking to Kids about Race

    •   Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk about Race: Resource Roundup
    •   Anti-Racist Books

They also recommend the work of the following anti-bias educators/authors:
    •   Lisa Delpit

    •   Louise Derman-Sparks
    •   Robin DiAngelo

Update January 11, 2021: This episode won silver for a single podcast episode in the 2020 InspirED Brilliance Awards. Sample judges' comments: "The branding of the podcast itself is excellent. The topic is timely and I appreciated hearing about the research and action items to take. Terrific resource! The concept of interviewing the two school heads together (the PrinciPALS) is strong and the advice is timely. Really smart advice, well-presented."

2020 InspirED Brilliance Award Winner badge

Podcast

A Rowland Hall Lower School class

The princiPALS are back.

In the second episode of Rowland Hall’s new podcast, Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus are tackling the subject of academic rigor.

What exactly is it?

Is it a good thing?

What does it look like for students during their early childhood and elementary school years?

While, for many, academic rigor is simply a way to describe curriculum difficulty, the princiPALS show how it encompasses accessing, evaluating, and using knowledge—and what that looks like today, when students can instantly retrieve vast quantities of information on the internet.

In an ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to teach students how to think, not what to think.

In an ever-changing world, the princiPALS explain, it is more important than ever to teach students how to think, not what to think. “We need students who know their academic content, but also can apply it in new and novel ways,” said Jij. In other words: it’s less about what students know, but when and how they use knowledge that will best prepare them for the future. While traditional education methods focused on memorizing and regurgitating facts to display knowledge, today’s students thrive when they joyfully engage in the learning process, successfully evaluate and apply knowledge, and collaborate with others.

We invite you to join Emma and Jij, along with host Conor Bentley ’01, as they discuss the ways educators, parents, and caregivers can help children become engaged, flexible, deep thinkers. Listeners will also enjoy practical tips that will help them raise lifelong learners and future innovators. 

Episode 2 can now be found on Rowland Hall’s website, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. And be sure to check out episode 1, “Building Resilience in Children,” if you haven’t already.

Podcast

Podcasters rescording

Rowland Hall is excited to announce the release of our first podcast: princiPALS. Featuring Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus, princiPALS tackles big questions and ideas about how to raise children who thrive, and was created as an educational resource for our community.

When Rowland Hall uses the phrase 'community of learners' to describe our school, we mean it. We strive to offer adults at Rowland Hall, including parents and caretakers, opportunities for growth and development, just as we do for our students.—Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund

“When Rowland Hall uses the phrase community of learners to describe our school, we mean it,” said Director of Ethical Education Ryan Hoglund. “We strive to offer adults at Rowland Hall, including parents and caretakers, opportunities for growth and development, just as we do for our students.” These opportunities—which also include lectures, discussions, readings, student panels, and film screenings—set the stage for school-wide success.

Parent and caretaker education supports lifelong learning, creates a community-wide culture of trust and vulnerability, and strengthens the critical Home & School partnership,” explained Ryan.

Director of Marketing and Communications Stephanie Orfanakis, who helped produce princiPALS, added, “The more tools we can access together, the better the outcome for children.” Stephanie also noted that a podcast is an ideal tool for those whose schedules may not allow much room for in-person gatherings. “Not all caregiving adults are available to attend education events,” she said. “A podcast is another option for engagement—parents can tune in when it’s convenient.”

PrinciPALS host, alumnus Conor Bentley ’01, agreed. "The work Jij and Emma do at Rowland Hall and the resources the school provides to families are important, and a podcast is an effective way to present that,” he said.

Those who listen to princiPALS can expect to not only benefit from Emma’s and Jij’s expertise, but to walk away with ideas they can immediately implement. The podcast’s first episode focuses on how to build children's resilience—a topic, Emma said, chosen for its continual relevance. "The research is clear: resilience is at least as important as talent in terms of long-term success," she explained. "We see the positive impact of helping kids develop resilience from a young age." Knowing this, she and Jij offer proven methods on building resilience that parents and caregivers can try out. This feature of princiPALS is important to the team, who want to use their positions to help make raising children easier. As Jij stated in the podcast’s introduction: “Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. But both are a little bit easier when done in partnership.”

PrinciPALS episode 1, “Building Resilience in Children,” is now available on Rowland Hall’s website, or you can listen and subscribe on Stitcher or Apple Podcasts.


Top photo, from left: Emma Wellman, Conor Bentley, and Jij de Jesus recording princiPALS.

Podcast

You Belong at Rowland Hall