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Lower School: Grades 1–5

Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private elementary school. This is a place of joyful learning and continuous growth. It’s an inclusive community that inspires students to seek their sense of self, wonder about their world, and pursue their interests while supported by a caring faculty and staff.

It is truly an honor for me to be a member of Rowland Hall's Lower School team. Many factors drew me to Rowland Hall, from its mission to inspire students to discover a meaningful life of learning to its beautiful campus that gazes up at the Wasatch Mountain Range. But the thing about Rowland Hall that most excited and inspired me—and still does today—is the community of people: an energetic, talented, and tight-knit faculty and staff; a leadership group that aspires to the highest ideals of teaching and learning; warm and welcoming parents, guardians, and families; and, most endearing of all, a group of eager, joyful, smiling students. Together, we are building the next generation of compassionate, curious, and courageous humans.

I am proud to be part of the Rowland Hall community—our community.


Emma Wellman signature

Emma Wellman 
Beginning School and Lower School Principal

Independent Private Beginning School Principal - Emma Wellman - Salt Lake City, Utah

Emma Wellman
Beginning School and Lower School Principalget to know Emma

Contact the Lower School

720 Guardsman Way
Salt Lake City, Utah 84108

Lower School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall fifth graders gather on the banks of the Salt Lake Valley's Jordan River.

Tribulus terrestris is a deceptively lovely plant.

It fans out across surfaces with delicate fern-like leaves and, when in full bloom, displays tiny and charming yellow flowers.

Under the surface, though, this plant is a nightmare. More commonly known by names like goathead, tackweed, devil’s weed, and puncturevine, it has learned to adapt to almost any environment, pushing out native plants in its wake. It also has a myriad of defenses, making it hard to kill. Students in Rowland Hall’s fifth grade can tell you all about it. The first problem? The thorns.

“The thorns can get stuck in tires and shoes and all sorts of things,” said fifth grader August P. “It was sharp enough that it would just go through your gloved hands when you were pulling it. It went through the trash bags too.”

Hannah Blomgren got the fifth graders involved in puncturevine eradication efforts after seeing the vine’s damage on the trails along the river and realizing how perfectly the situation illustrated lessons she was teaching about the problem of invasive plants in Utah.

The roots also pose an issue. They go deep into the soil and spread around the plant in all directions. “You have to get all the roots,” said Katie P. “If you leave any of the puncturevine it’s going to regrow. It’s hard to pull it all out. Some of them were very heavy and bigger than they looked.”

The students battled the prolific and hazardous weed this fall as part of the Jordan River Commission’s puncturevine eradication efforts. Science Specialist Hannah Blomgren got the fifth graders involved after seeing the vine’s damage on the trails along the river and realizing how perfectly the situation illustrated lessons she was teaching about the problem of invasive plants in Utah.

“In fifth grade, we talk about what plants need to survive, and how invasive species use up the nutrients native plants need,” Hannah said. “We also discuss the environmental impacts involved, like erosion, especially in river areas.”

So in late September, the grade headed to Jordan Park on the west side of Salt Lake City to help remove the vines from fields and riverbanks. While working to pull the puncturevine, the students quickly learned that the tools provided to them (basic two-prong weed pullers) were not up to the task. “We noticed seeds were being left behind,” said Freya S. “We needed a machine that would pull out the roots, but then vacuum up the seeds too.”

Rowland Hall fifth graders show puncturevine gathered from trails around the Jordan River.

Fifth graders show off massive puncturevine growths gathered on a soccer field near the Jordan River.

Luckily for the students, TREC (technology, robotics, engineering, coding) teacher Kaelis Sandstrom had joined them for their field trip and was ready to help them design better tools for the job. After returning to campus, the students were given class time to build their own. Using LEGOs and basic building materials, the kids built models of their ideal puncturevine pullers. Groups came up with lots of ideas, like a puncturevine-sensing drone that could destroy the weed on sight, or a robot that looked like a small animal but was designed low to the ground to successfully get under the vines and pull them out. Since coming back from the field trip, the students have continued working on these designs in the TREC Lab on campus, working through design issues and developing new prototypes. 

They’re taking on the engineering process. They are learning you can build something really cool in a short amount of time, but in order for something to be lasting and useful, it takes time and work. And they’re learning that they can take on local problems here in Utah.—Kaelis Sandstrom, TREC teacher

“They’re taking on the engineering process,” Kaelis said. “They are learning you can build something really cool in a short amount of time, but in order for something to be lasting and useful, it takes time and work. And they’re learning that they can take on local problems here in Utah.”

Community engagement was a big reason for getting the students involved in the puncturevine eradication efforts. Part of Rowland Hall’s first strategic priority is about cultivating community partnerships, and the students did just that in a part of the city many had not visited before.

“We wanted to tie this into the idea of all of us being a part of a community or an ecosystem,” said fifth-grade teacher Samantha Hemphill. “One area where they were working was a soccer field, and so pulling out the puncturevine and helping the people who would play there made it feel important.”

In addition to the time spent working, the students also got to spend time exploring the International Peace Gardens, a site on the banks of the Jordan River that features different areas devoted to the diverse populations that call Utah home. Fifth-grade teacher Rachel Slivnick said the visit highlighted lessons the kids were learning in social studies at that time.

“We had talked a lot about the idea of windows and mirrors, learning about how their cultures can be both a window into a different way of life and also a mirror that reflects your own values and the things that are important to you,” said Rachel. “So, at the International Peace Gardens, it was almost like a scavenger hunt or a treasure hunt, identifying what makes cultures unique and how students could relate to them.”

The students aren’t done with their work along the Jordan River. In the spring they plan to return, not to pull out plants but to place new ones. They will be planting trees in the area along with their kindergarten buddies. And their impacts on the community go beyond the banks of the river. You see, puncturevine has a bounty on its leaves, and the students received two dollars a pound for the plants they pulled. A grand total of $204 will be donated to the school on their behalf, and they have lots of ideas on how it could be used.

“Maybe they use some of it for the new Upper School,” said fifth-grader Aster S.

Tribulus terrestris is a terrible plant, but Rowland Hall’s fifth grade may have helped stop its spread. At the same time, the lessons they learned planted seeds that have already grown roots, sprouted, and will continue to grow for years to come.


A Rowland Hall lower schooler uses an iPad during a classroom lesson.

We live in a world filled with screens—they’re a necessary part of how we work and communicate, and even learn and play. They’re also the cause of a lot of family anxiety.

From How much screen time is too much? to Should I let my child watch this movie? the questions around children and screen time can seem endless—and it often feels like you’re doing it wrong.

As parents themselves, Rowland Hall’s princiPALS understand the struggle around screens. That’s why they’re opening the fourth season of the school’s award-winning podcast with an episode on the topic.

Join Emma Wellman and Brittney Hansen ’02, along with host Conor Bentley ’01, for a refreshing conversation on screen time, including discussion about current guidelines (and why it’s understandable if you can’t always adhere to them), what high-quality programming actually is (and how to find it), and the ever-looming question: What about social media? You’ll also learn strategies to build children’s screen literacy, and find out why it’s so important to invest in non-screen time. And, importantly, listeners will discover how they can get the whole family involved in identifying values and boundaries that will guide screen time in their homes.

Listen to “Screen Time”—as well as other episodes of The PrinciPALS Podcast—on Rowland Hall's website and Apple Podcasts.


Photo Gallery: Back to School 2023–2024

Welcome, Winged Lions!

Rowland Hall is thrilled to welcome students and families to our campuses for the 2023–2024 school year.

The year kicked off on Wednesday, August 23, with smiles, hugs, and excitement. As students and families poured onto campus, they were greeted by an enthusiastic team of faculty and staff, said hello to old friends (and met new ones), and, for many of our youngest learners, gave a hug or a high-five to Roary, our trusty school mascot. And as the week went on, students had even more opportunities to connect, settle in, and prepare for an exceptional year of learning, including by gathering for Convocation and our annual Back to School Bash. Alumni even got in on the fun at the All-Class Reunion.

We invite you to enjoy some of the images captured during the first days of school.


Rowland Hall faculty and staff gather at the 2023 Opening Meeting.

Rowland Hall is excited to introduce two new assistant principals joining the school in the 2023–2024 school year: Josy Alcindor, Beginning School and Lower School assistant principal, and Stacia McFadden, Upper School assistant principal.

Both bring to Rowland Hall a wealth of knowledge as educators and administrators, and we are thrilled to welcome them to our community.

Learn a bit more about Josy and Stacia below.

Meet Josy Alcindor, Beginning School and Lower School Assistant Principal

Josy Alcindor, Rowland Hall Beginning School and Lower School assistant principal.

Since childhood, Josy Alcindor knew she wanted to work in education. She can even recall one of the first times she stepped into the role of teacher: at 10 years old, Josy borrowed her parents’ English learning workbooks to help an older family friend learn the language, a job she took very seriously. The child of Haitian immigrants, Josy was inspired by her parents’ tenacity and dedication to their own learning, and she wanted to help her friend succeed in a new country. It was an experience that helped to spark a love of teaching that she’s carried through her life. Paired with what Josy calls her “mama bear” approach to supporting and advocating for learners from preschool to the brink of adulthood, it’s clear she’s found her sense of purpose in education spaces.

“I’ve always been in the business of children, for their well-being across the board; emotionally, mentally, academically,” said Josy. “My life’s work is for the betterment of children. It’s my motivator.”

FUN FACT: Josy refers to herself as a closet poet (“I love the spoken word,” she said) and enjoys sharing her passion for poetry with others—especially students. At Wildwood School, she even created a fifth-grade activist poetry unit that allowed students to explore causes they care about. Josy said bringing out the poet in a child can help build their confidence and self-understanding.

And Josy has dedicated her career to this work, earning a bachelor’s degree in women and gender studies from Hunter College and a master of science education from the Bank Street College of Education. She’s spent years in the classroom, teaching students in preschool through fifth grade on both coasts: Josy worked at the Dalton School and the Hewitt School, both in New York City, and Wildwood School in Los Angeles, where she was most recently a fifth-grade teacher and diversity division coordinator. She’s also been a dedicated mentor for teens and young adults as a former board chair of Urban Neighborhood Services, and a board member at the YA-YA (Youth Activists-Youth Allies) Network. In all her roles, Josy has built classroom experience and deep administrative knowledge, and has worked to strengthen communities, including by training other teachers and facilitating conversations around DEIBJ or social-emotional learning. She understands that relationships are at the heart of education, a perspective that played a role in her decision to come to Rowland Hall.

“The sheer joy that I experienced when I walked in here—that solidified it for me,” said Josy of her first visit to the McCarthey Campus. She remembers seeing children happily engaged in learning and hearing faculty speak highly of the school, and knew that Rowland Hall was a place that also valued relationships, and where she could help children, as well as families and teachers, thrive. She was further moved by Rowland Hall’s strategic vision and is excited to be part of its continued rollout.

“I love this philosophy. It aligns with my core values: setting children for success, preparing them for tomorrow, for a changing world,” said Josy. “I look forward to being part of the forward-moving thinking and building off the amazing things that have happened.”

Meet Stacia McFadden, Upper School Assistant Principal

Stacia McFadden, Rowland Hall Upper School assistant principal

It doesn’t take long when chatting with Stacia McFadden to learn just how much she enjoys collaborating with people, as well as bringing others together.

“I’m such a connector,” she said.

Though Stacia’s professional life is filled with opportunities for connection-making in educational spaces, she didn’t start her career in education. Stacia majored in computer science as an undergraduate, earning a full-ride scholarship to Michigan State University to continue her studies. But a month into the graduate program, she realized that the path she was on didn’t feel quite right—she didn’t want a career that comes with a cubicle, a screen, and, often, isolation. She wanted to work closely with others. Heeding this self-understanding, Stacia changed course, moving to New York City to join IBM as a business analyst programmer. It wasn’t her dream job, but it played a pivotal role in her professional journey.

“While I didn’t find true fulfillment in this role,” Stacia explained, “I discovered joy via outreach through one of IBM's diversity networks, Black Network of New York, and my sorority.” Through these opportunities, Stacia mentored college students studying STEM disciplines, taught community technology workshops, and led a mentoring program for middle schoolers, all of which helped her understand that education is within her—and that she could apply her love of computer science to the field, helping students and teachers use technology to strengthen their work. “I got passionate about the integration of technology to enhance, empower, and inspire thinking and learning,” she said.

FUN FACT: Stacia plays tennis and has been to three United States Tennis Association (USTA) state championships and one USTA sectionals championship. She’s also shared her athletic talent in her career—tennis coach is just one of the many hats Stacia has worn as an educator.

Stacia pivoted again, earning a master’s degree in computing in education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, and teaching math, web design, and computer applications at a public charter school in Washington, DC. She then moved to independent schools, and over the years has held both teaching and administrative roles, many of which center around academic technology (she was most recently chief information officer at the Lovett School in Atlanta). Stacia has also accepted chances to build connections among national colleagues: she’s a faculty member for the National Association of Independent Schools’ School Leadership Institute, and facilitated programming at the 2023 Leadership + Design conference at Rowland Hall, an event which led to her accepting the assistant principal job.

No matter her role, Stacia has kept connections at the center of her work, prioritizing community building and empowering others, and has always found the most joy in student support. While interviewing on the Upper School campus, she said she was impressed by Rowland Hall’s bright, passionate students and their enthusiasm for their studies and interests. “You could tell they really care about the community and had ideas of what they wanted to see the next assistant principal do,” she said. She also loved observing how students and teachers were doing powerful work to bring to life Rowland Hall’s vision of what’s possible in education.

“The vision statement spoke to me: developing people the world needs,” said Stacia. “How simple is that, and how powerful is that?”

Stacia is looking forward to being part of this important work, knowing her experiences as an educator (and the mother of a 20-year-old college student) have prepared her to support today’s students as they find their voices, discover their passions, learn to get comfortable with an ambiguous and dynamic world, and make real and lasting change.

“I want kids to not only find their voice, but, if they see something they want to change, learn how to do that,” she said.

Banner photo: Stacia McFadden, third from right, with colleagues at the 2023 Opening Meeting for faculty and staff. Photo courtesy Stacia McFadden.


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