Sparking Curiosity

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Beginning School: 3PreK, 4PreK, and Kindergarten

Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private preschool, an exceptional place for young children in Utah to learn. Early childhood is a time of incredible brain development, and you'll find actively engaged learners within our classrooms and outdoor spaces.

When you enter the Beginning School, it’s immediately clear: this is a place tailor-made to amplify the power and magic of young children. The intentional and joyous celebration of Rowland Hall’s youngest learners reverberates in every corner. And in every classroom and play space, you’ll find master teachers who are at the heart of what we do: provide experiences that encourage curiosity, compassion, expression, and deep thinking. In the Beginning School, students learn how to think, not merely what to think.

I am honored to be a part of this special place that fosters such exceptional learning and teaching in a warm and inclusive community. I hope you’ll come for a visit to see what I see and—more importantly—what our students see.

Sincerely,

Emma Wellman 
Beginning School and Lower School Principal

Preschool students listening to their teacher at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City.
Preschool student making art at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City.
Preschooler and teacher doing a science unit at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City.
Independent Private Beginning School Principal - Emma Wellman - Salt Lake City, Utah

Emma Wellman
Beginning School and Lower School Principalget to know Emma

Contact the Beginning School

720 South Guardsman Way, 
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108
801-355-7485

Beginning School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall beginning and lower school students participate in the school's buddy program.

If you want to get kids in 4PreK talking you need to ask them about their buddies. 

“My buddy’s name is Victoria.”

“My buddy’s name is Mateo.”

“I don’t know my buddy’s name, but I like him.”

Immediately the conversation ping pongs from making wreaths with buddies, to drawing with them, to how old their buddies are, to which buddies are too big to swing on the monkey bars. Everyone has something to say about their buddy, and everyone is very enthusiastic about the subject. 

Each fall fourth and fifth graders from the Lower School are partnered with a Beginning School buddy to work with throughout the year. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also rooted in sound pedagogy.

The buddy program at Rowland Hall has been in existence for decades. Each fall fourth and fifth graders from the Lower School are partnered with a Beginning School buddy to work with throughout the year. The pair write notes to each other, do projects together, and learn about each other’s interests. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also rooted in sound pedagogy. 

“We know from research that kids benefit from mixed aged play and learning opportunities,” said Brittney Hansen, Beginning School assistant principal. “Both the older and younger groups are given ways to grow socially, emotionally, and intellectually.”

Rowland Hall is lucky enough to provide a perfect environment for such learning. Not many schools range in age from preschool to senior high. The fact that students start at such a young age and are part of the community for such a long time allows relationships to form and bonds to build that otherwise are not possible. The buddy program underscores that and starts fostering feelings of community and belonging at the earliest opportunity. 

“This program is a great example of how we capitalize on our mixed age community,” said Brittney. “And the buddy relationship doesn’t stop at the end of the year. These are relationships that are sustained and grow and build in time.” 

“Most of the kids develop a very strong friendship with their buddies,” said Isabelle Buhler, 4PreK lead teacher. “And when students who were ‘little’ buddies return in fourth and fifth grade as ‘big’ buddies they are very excited because they remember those relationships. They remember that they had a special connection.” 

That feeling of connection and that beginning of community building is the prime focus for the PreK students. They are learning that there is a lot more happening at the school than the daily goings on in their classrooms—and they are learning it in a very personalized way. 

“This is a one-on-one interaction,” said Isabelle. “We may have other all-school activities but this is more focused and personal. It’s one of the deeper connections we have.”

Preschool and elementary school students play on Rowland Hall's Salt Lake City McCarthey Campus.

While community is the focus for the little buddies, the lessons being learned by the older students are, understandably, more complex. “This is an opportunity for them to begin seeing themselves as mentors and leaders,” said Emma Wellman, principal of the beginning and lower schools. “They have to practice a great deal of patience and empathy and learn to navigate different relationship dynamics.”

This is an opportunity to begin seeing themselves as mentors and leaders. They have to practice a great deal of patience and empathy and learn to navigate different relationship dynamics.”—Emma Wellman, Beginning School and Lower School principal

Anyone who has ever dealt with a high-energy, demanding preschooler knows just how challenging those dynamics can be. But the Lower School students are up to the task and greet the opportunity with gusto. “Sometimes they can be a little hard to be around,” said fourth grader Jack G. “But they can also be really fun and energetic.” 

“My buddy decides what we play,” said fifth grader Viviene D. “I ask if she wants to do and then she takes me somewhere random and we play.” 
 
The big buddy/little buddy dynamic isn’t the only one for the older kids to examine. Being in a leadership role gives them a new view of the responsibilities and issues their teachers may face. “They learn a lot of empathy for adults,” said Jen Bourque, fifth-grade teacher. “They also start using language they have learned and stored away. I’ll hear students saying things like ‘We didn’t clean up. We moved on, but we didn’t clean up,’ when interacting with their buddies.” 

Those types of interactions were absent last year as we locked down and worked through the uncertain days of the pandemic. The absence of the buddy program was acutely felt among both students and teachers in a time already filled with losses. “The buddy program is something students ask about each year before it even starts,” said Brittney. “When we were able to reintroduce it there was a lot of excitement and a feeling of relief.” 

4PreK student Mille P. may sum up everyone’s feelings best. “When the big buddies come I’m really excited,” she said. “I just want to run to them but I know I have to wait. I just want to run because I love my big buddy.”

Students

High school students wave to the camera on the first day of school

Welcome, Winged Lions!

Rowland Hall was excited to welcome students to our two campuses this week as we kicked off the 2021–2022 school year on Wednesday, August 25. As they arrived, students and families were greeted by a golden sunrise, old and new friends, a peppy group of faculty and staff, and an overall air of excitement. (Some even met Roary, our trusty school mascot, as they made their way to classrooms.) Below, please enjoy some of the images captured on the first day of school.

We look forward to a wonderful year together filled with deep learning, joy, and new memories.

First Day Photo Gallery: McCarthey Campus (PreK through Fifth Grades)

First Day Photo Gallery: Lincoln Street Campus (Sixth through Twelfth Grades)

Community

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

You Belong at Rowland Hall