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A Rowland Hall fourth-grade students takes notes on an iPad while her teacher, Marianne Love, instructs in the background.
Fourth-grade teacher Haas Pectol helps two students on their iPad during a class at Rowland Hall's elementary school.
Elementary school teacher with students on a field trip, pointing toward the mountains.
Two Rowland Hall students pose for the camera in front of the Salt Lake City, Utah, independent, private elementary school.
A group of elementary school students write in workbooks while laying on the floor of a Rowland Hall Lower School classroom.

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

Two Rowland Hall second-grade students work together to solve a workbook problem in class.
Two siblings pose for a photo outside of the Lower School at Rowland Hall's Salt Lake City, Utah, McCarthey Campus.
Elementary school teacher helping students in science at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elementary school students on the playground at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A Rowland Hall Lower School students peers through an origami loop that they created during an art class.
Elementary school student plays ukulele at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Two Rowland Hall Lower School students laugh together while eating lunch outside.
A Rowland Hall Lower School students poses for a photo while playing on the playground at recess.
A Rowland Hall elementary school student completes math exercises in a notebook.
A Rowland Hall elementary school student raises their hand to ask a question during class.
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 second graders drum during the school's Artist in Residence program.

The rhythms of West Africa, created by Tiya Karaus’ second graders, filled the chapel.

It’s a chance to expose students to different art forms and give them opportunities to interact with experts in artistic fields. They get to see the arts in action and start making connections between themselves and the outside world.—Tiya Karaus, second-grade teacher

Some students took turns on dundun drums while others danced, each taking a part in telling a story. The activity was part of the Artist in Residence program at the Lower School, which brings musicians, painters, photographers, dancers, and more onto Rowland Hall’s McCarthey Campus each spring. For Tiya’s class, the artist was dancer and drummer Déja Mitchell, who was instructing the students on the kuku rhythm, a celebratory call-and-response drumbeat that, in Guinea, is used to signal the return of women to the village from a successful fishing outing. Opportunities like these, Rowland Hall teachers agree, are a great way to deepen student learning and connect them to the larger community, which is what makes the Artist in Residence program so special.

“It’s a chance to expose students to different art forms and give them opportunities to interact with experts in artistic fields,” said Tiya. “They get to see the arts in action and start making connections between themselves and the outside world.”

In addition to West African drumming and dancing, this year lower schoolers took part in learning about photography with artist Kirsten Hepburn, and explored modern dance with a performer from Tanner Dance. The arts are an important part of a Rowland Hall education from the earliest stages of learning. Music and visual arts are woven into the curriculum in Beginning School classrooms, and regular music and art classes are part of the weekly schedule in the Lower School. In the middle and upper schools, students are given multiple opportunities to take part in a variety of artistic endeavors. The arts enjoy a place of prominence at the school not only for the joys they bring, but also for the lessons they teach. Music, dance, theatre, painting, and other means of artistic expression give the students windows into experiences that they may not otherwise be privy to, and also provide mirrors to their own experiences and how they connect them to the world. They also are a way of learning that feels natural to children.

Rowland Hall second graders learn from dancer and drummer Déja Mitchell.

“The whole child is a musical child, is a dancing child, is an artistic child,” said McCarthey Campus music teacher Susan Swidnicki. “That’s part of being human.”

Part of the human experience for Tiya’s students also involved learning about the people on the other side of the world who invented the rhythms they played and the dances they performed. Along with the music and dance, Déja shared with the class the history behind the rhythms and dances, and how and why they evolved. “It’s a way for them to connect with another part of the world and get a deeper appreciation of other people and cultures,” she said.

We live in a very noisy world. For children to do that kind of focused concentrating, listening, and responding is really important to their learning.—Susan Swidnicki, music teacher

A deeper cultural competency is just one of the additional benefits Tiya’s students are gaining through the Artist in Residence program. Self-control and cooperation are two other skills they have developed as they played the drums and learned the dances. Every student will tell you the kuku rhythm isn’t just about where you strike the drum, but also how hard you hit it. You have to have the balance. And you have to be listening to what others are playing, and watching the movements the dancers are making, in order for everything to work together.

“We live in a very noisy world. For children to do that kind of focused concentrating, listening, and responding is really important to their learning,” said Susan. “It’s a great lesson in how to get along with others collaboratively and joyfully.”

The students also gain confidence in themselves, not only as artists but as people. After all, drumming is not easy. But if you mention the term “kuku” to them, they do not hesitate to show you. Dozens of hands instantly start drumming on tables.

“It’s a full-body experience for them. It’s hard work when you are little, and you have little hands,” said Tiya. “As one student said, ‘I love this so much, but my hands are so tired.’”


Rowland Hall Beginning School students enjoy time to gather in class.

Behavior and discipline: no matter what kind of parent you are, they’re two topics you think about often. And chances are, you’re often wondering, “Am I doing this right?”

That’s why in the newest episode of princiPALS, early childhood and elementary school experts Emma Wellman and Brittney Hansen ’02, along with Rowland Hall alum host Conor Bentley ’01, are focusing on behavior and discipline. What do undesirable or challenging behaviors in children mean? And what are the best ways parents and caregivers can guide those behaviors?

By learning to recognize patterns in your own children’s behaviors, you’ll be better equipped to help your children correct, problem-solve, and learn from those experiences.

In this episode, listeners will learn to recognize the why behind children’s actions. “Children are not their behaviors,” explained Emma, so by learning to recognize patterns in your own children’s behaviors, you’ll be better equipped to help your children correct, problem-solve, and learn from those experiences (not to mention you’ll feel more calm in the moment).

And in true princiPALS fashion, Emma and Brittney remind viewers they are not alone in this work. The pals share their own stories of growth, as well as identify resources—from books to your children’s teachers—you can use to help build your knowledge of relationship-first strategies. They also leave you with helpful homework that will assist you in better understanding your children’s behaviors and your responses to them.

Listen to “Behavior and Discipline”—as well as other episodes of the princiPALS podcast—on Rowland Hall's website, Apple Podcasts, and Stitcher.


Rowland Hall fifth graders meet with representatives from Ruff Haven while completing community-impact projects.

What do you get when you ask a class of resourceful fifth graders to take the lead on a community-focused project?

An impressive array of impact-making solutions.

That’s a truth that Rowland Hall’s fifth-grade teaching team discovered this year, thanks to a new project-based learning (PBL) opportunity that kicked off in the fall and, after months of dedicated student work, wrapped earlier this month.

The project, the first of its kind for the grade, began taking shape at a summer PBL workshop attended by two of the fifth-grade teachers, Sam Johnson and Colleen Thompson, who brought an idea to fellow teachers Jen Bourque and Dr. Torry Montes, both of whom had PBL experience from previous schools and were excited to bring a new idea to life in their Rowland Hall classrooms. The team wanted to connect their students’ learning with an understanding of their place within community, as well as—thanks to the nature of PBL, which promotes deep learning through student choice and leadership—empower them to take charge of an opportunity to build connections across the larger Salt Lake community. They decided to identify a shared public space that could use improvement, picturing it as a canvas on which students could lead the charge of finding ways to better serve the community, and they chose Bend in the River, a somewhat neglected park along the Jordan River Parkway, as the space for the project. They planned an October field trip to introduce students to the area.

Their discussion focused not on transforming the space they stood in, but on examining larger societal issues that contributed to unmaintained spaces, pollution, and a lack of housing. And since PBL is designed to follow students’ areas of interest, rather than adults’, it quickly became clear that the project was going to shift in unexpected, and exciting, ways.

But when the teachers took the students to Bend in the River, things didn’t unfold quite as expected. Instead of discussing how they wanted to change the area, the kids instead wanted to discuss the why behind what they were seeing: litter, broken structures, water pollution, and unhoused people. Their conversation focused not on transforming the space they stood in, but on examining larger societal issues that contributed to unmaintained spaces, pollution, and a lack of housing. And since PBL is designed to follow students’ areas of interest, rather than adults’, it quickly became clear that the project was going to shift in unexpected, and exciting, ways.

“We had this idea of proposals to change this park, but that didn’t come from the kids,” said Jen. As a result, the role of Bend in the River changed. “It became the place we used to come back to how that place is related to issues that touch the greater Salt Lake community.”

To better support their students’ burgeoning interests, the fifth-grade team refocused the project, moving away from transforming a specific space to answering an essential question: What do communities need to thrive? In November, they relaunched the project with an in-school field trip composed of rotations that would help students answer that question, determine what they were most passionate about, and identify where they wanted to work toward making an impact. “We were embracing the ever-moving target that is project-based learning,” explained Jen.

As part of the in-school field trip, the teachers brought in community members who could speak about creating connections and working toward solutions that benefit a shared community, a choice that was well-received and led to visits from additional representatives who generously shared their knowledge over the coming weeks: Britney Helmers and Josh Schuerman from Little City; Will Wright from the Salt Lake City Office of Economic Development; Tyler Fonarow, recreational trails manager for Salt Lake City Corporation; Ann Wigham (parent), Stan Stensrud, and Kimo Pokini from Ruff Haven; David Garbett (parent) from O2 Utah; Greta Hamilton, stormwater program supervisor for Salt Lake County Public Works & Municipal Services; Brian Tonetti from Seven Canyons Trust; Mat Jones, District 2 supervisor for the Utah Department of Public Lands; and foothill rangers Haley Long and Eric Creel.

As the students learned about and discussed what communities need to thrive, four areas of interest naturally rose to the surface: environment, unhoused community, arts and community spaces, and trails and parks. It was decided that, in place of the original Bend in the River idea, students would find solutions to community problems within the four areas, each of which would be led by a teacher who could provide coaching, feedback, and support. And as an added benefit, the teachers structured the project so that students could work with their peers in other fifth-grade classes, a helpful experience for this group of rising middle schoolers.

The three A's allow students to be young changemakers in their own communities and prepare them for the challenges of the world they are going to inherit.—Dr. Torry Montes, fifth-grade teacher

The teachers also wanted to use the experience to help students better understand the many ways people can make real-world impact, which they did by introducing them to the three A’s: awareness, action, and advocacy. They explained that each A stood for a way people can make change: generate awareness by bringing attention to a problem, take action by moving forward on a solution, or act as advocates for policies that help people. The three A's, explained Dr. Torry, are often considered the goal of high-quality PBL.

“Educator Tony Wagner states that project-based learning is one of the best ways to meet all of the 21st-century learning goals,” she said. “The three A's allow students to be young changemakers in their own communities and prepare them for the challenges of the world they are going to inherit.”

Inspired by the ways they could make communities better, the students set to work researching causes and solutions, reaching out to groups and organizations, and creating a variety of projects that impressively showcased each of the three A’s, including proposals, petitions, posters, websites, flyers, and even a poem. By early March, when the students shared their final solutions at an open house, they had truly illustrated how young learners, when empowered to lead their learning, can take action, build awareness, and advocate for what they believe in. And as parents and caregivers wandered the fifth-grade wing, examining the projects, they were amazed by what they saw, recognizing how this work would benefit community organizations—including Salt Lake City Corporation, Tiny Village, Family Promise, Crossroads Urban Center, and Rowland Hall, not to mention the community members whose lives would be enhanced through the students’ ideas around clean water, safe shelters, and environmental protections—as well as the students themselves. Through this experience, the students learned life skills that will benefit them long after they leave their fifth-grade classrooms—including leaning on their own thinking to approach real-world problems. It’s a skill that’s essential, and one they’ll be encouraged to build on as they move on to middle school, and beyond.

“This is preparing them for their futures,” said Jen.

Project Galleries

As part of their community project, Rowland Hall’s fifth graders were asked to not only choose the areas of change they wanted to pursue, but also to decide how they wanted to creatively share their work with others. We’re proud to include in this story the students’ choices for the Rowland Hall community’s enjoyment, and have provided examples of the students’ work in the galleries below. We also invite readers to read the students’ reflection essays on the experience, written to be published here in Fine Print.


Students learned that generating awareness is essential to bringing attention to a problem, what needs to be done, and who should be involved. Click below to view the gallery.

Fifth-Grade Awareness Projects


Students learned that action means moving forward on solving a problem they have identified. Click below to view the gallery.

Fifth-Grade Action Projects


Students learned that advocacy is designed to influence policy, helping to mobilize community members toward improvements. Click below to view the gallery.

Fifth-Grade Advocacy Projects

Authentic Learning

Rowland Hall third graders practice meditation in class.

Close your eyes and visualize a third-grade class. Now, describe what the students are doing.

Chances are, you’re picturing a lot of activity: kids running around a playground, perhaps, or enthusiastically waving their hands in their air, hoping to be the next to contribute to a class discussion. But if you happen to visit Katie Schwab’s classroom on the McCarthey Campus right after lunchtime recess, you may just be surprised by what you find.

On this particular January day, as the third graders made their way back to their room, they began to do some unusual things. First, someone turned off the overhead lights. Then the group began to spread out around the darkened room. Some students took cushions from the window seat to put under their heads, while others chose to lie flat on the floor without support; one lucky person grabbed a spot on the classroom couch. Any quiet chatter trickled to silence as a class member began to lightly play a tongue drum, its chimes a calm ocean wave softly rolling across the room.

Katie's aim is to equip students with a variety of centering techniques they can use to identify emotions and how they’re manifesting in their bodies, and then reset and regulate their nervous systems.

“I would like everyone to start to find your rest,” said Katie. “Maybe close your eyes. If you’re sitting up, be still and grounded to earth.”

As each student settled into their position of choice, a soft voice came over the sound system: the narrator of the day’s Mind Yeti meditation exercise, “More Love, Not Less.” As they made their way through the meditation, the students repeated affirmations such as “Whatever is going on inside you, you are worthy of your life” and “When I am sad, I deserve more love, not less.” After being led through a range of emotions, students were asked to insert whatever feeling they were experiencing in that moment.

While meditation isn’t something you often see in elementary school classrooms, for Katie, it’s become an important tool in her teaching quiver. Over the past few years, she’s noticed how factors including the pandemic, overwhelming world events, and a constant exposure to technology have put kids in a heightened state of anxiety—one that can be hard to come down from. “Just being present is a challenge,” she said.

So this year, Katie decided to bake a mindfulness routine into her class schedule, inserting purposeful time for meditation or relaxation in the space between the class’ midday recess and a period of quiet individual work time. Her aim is to equip students with a variety of centering techniques they can use to identify emotions and how they’re manifesting in their bodies, and then reset and regulate their nervous systems. It’s been a new experience for most of the children, and while many admit it was hard at first, as the months have passed, they’ve gotten good at it and started to recognize how it’s making a difference in their lives.

A Rowland Hall third grader practices mindfulness at school.

Students choose comfortable places to practice the mindfulness techniques.

“After we do mindfulness, I feel calmer,” said Nina E., “and it’s easier to do some stuff.” Classmate Will W. agreed, adding that the practice has helped him better focus after recess. He’s even started meditating at home with his mom before bed. “It helps me fall asleep faster,” he said.

Katie’s class has also had the chance to build on their skills thanks to bestselling author Dr. Pedram Shojai, a Rowland Hall parent of two (his son is in Katie’s class) who shares the benefits of mindfulness with people around the world. Like Katie, he knows that young minds are being overwhelmed today, and that technology—designed to trigger a dopamine release in young brains, particularly boys’, to make money off their attention—is a major culprit. “The attention economy has really gotten all the way down to children as young as three,” he explained, so it’s imperative that kids growing up today learn how to center themselves amid tech noise that isn’t going away. “You need to learn how to hold that line, and have control over your own mind and your own consciousness and your own attention.”

Katie Schwab's students learned mindfulness skills from Dr. Pedram Shojai, whose words are written on the board as a reminder

Meditation and other mindfulness exercises can teach kids how to do just that. During his visit, Dr. Shojai continued to help build the kids’ toolbox of mindfulness techniques by introducing them to Jedi skills (Jedis meditate too!) and mindful movements such as peripheral vision training, which coordinates the eyes, mind, body, and breath to activate a state of relaxation. He also had them practice a tried-and-true technique to calm the fight-or-flight instinct they feel when wound up: bend your knees to relax your calf muscles, put your tongue against the roof of your mouth, and breathe from your lower diaphragm.

By building mindfulness into our children’s everyday routines, said Dr. Shojai, we’re normalizing the practice, making it more likely that the skills will become second nature to them—“the gift that keeps on giving in every facet of their lives,” he said. This is especially true if children begin practicing the skills between the ages of six and eight. Plus, there is now solid science behind the ancient practice of meditation. “After six weeks of just 10 minutes a day of basic meditation, fMRI scans show 10 to 15 percent greater density of the cortical neurons in the prefrontal cortex. That means you’re actually growing a part of your brain by meditating,” Dr. Shojai explained. “The prefrontal cortex is responsible for executive function—higher-order thinking, negation of impulses, and higher moral reasoning.”

Meditation can actually grow the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for higher-order thinking, negation of impulses, and higher moral reasoning.

Those are the kind of outcomes that any parent or caregiver can get behind. But don’t worry if your kid is older than the recommended age, or even if you're an adult who wants to jump into meditation, said Dr. Shojai; it’s never too late to start building those skills and reaping their benefits. (Check out his tips below.)  Katie can certainly attest to this. While she introduced meditation into her classroom to benefit her students, she can’t help but notice how the practice has helped her as a teacher. “The nature of my work is multitasking,” she said,” but this practice helps me slow down every day so I can be present with my students.” After all, she added, “They look to me however I’m showing up on a given day.”

Mindfulness at Home

Interested in bringing the benefits of meditation into your home? Here are Dr. Shojai’s top tips:

  • First, understand what meditation actually is. There’s a lot of misunderstanding around meditation, and as a result, it can be hard for people to try it or to stick with it. Meditation doesn’t just look like sitting quietly in a room by yourself with your eyes closed. There are numerous techniques you can use, depending on what works best for you (that’s why Katie’s students have been trying so many options). “I meditate when I’m skiing through the trees or on a chair between runs,” said Dr. Shojai. “There are a thousand ways to climb the mountain. Find what works for you.”
  • If you want to add meditation into your family’s routine, add small moments of mindfulness—and keep them fun. Don’t worry about doing too much. “Keep it easy and keep it gamified,” said Dr. Shojai. For instance, defuse a moment of tension by suggesting that everyone put a hand on their lower belly and take 10 deep breaths, or ask everyone to take five deep breaths together before starting dinner. “The key is intercepting things we’re already doing with behavior that can be modeled,” he said.
  • Model the kind of behavior you want for your kids. Remember that your kids are watching you for clues on how to behave. “If mom’s a nervous wreck and she’s like, ‘You should meditate,’ and she‘s no good at it, it’s not going to happen,” said Dr. Shojai.
  • As with any other positive behavior, praise kids when they’re successfully applying their new skills. The aim of mindfulness is to activate the prefrontal cortex to override a natural instinct to react (say, by hitting a sibling who’s teasing them). When your child is consciously stopping a negative reaction, show them you noticed that choice. “It’s all about positive reinforcement,” said Dr. Shojai. “The important part is to acknowledge that a child’s agency did it.”
  • Remember that it’s going to take practice. “As parents, we’re also pulled into the instant gratification attention economy, where we expect things to happen faster than they do in nature, but kids’ little nervous systems need time to absorb these skills,” said Dr. Shojai. It’s okay if your child (or you!) makes mistakes while building these skills. Remember that another chance to practice them will come up.

Experiential Learning

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