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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

Photo Gallery

Lower School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Two Rowland Hall fifth-grade interns welcome visitors to Grandparents Day 2023.

Signs of spring are beginning to show on the McCarthey Campus, which means people are already hard at work preparing for end-of-year festivities. What might be surprising, though, is that not all of these people are grown-ups.

This year, fifth-grade interns have been playing important roles in planning some of Rowland Hall’s most exciting events, including the upcoming Richard R. Steiner Campus groundbreaking and Lower School Spirit Game. But events aren't the only way fifth graders are making a difference. That’s because the 2023–2024 school year is the inaugural year of the 5-I Fifth-Grade Internship Program, a first-of-its-kind optional leadership program that connects fifth graders with McCarthey Campus staff, administrative, and leadership teams for a yearlong authentic learning experience in which students make real impact on campus.

The in-school 5-I Fifth-Grade Internship Program is designed to help fifth-grade leaders:
• Take initiative
• Individualize learning
• Develop interests
• Impact the community
• Be inspired

In this first year alone, the program’s 34 interns are supporting 19 departments and teams, making it difficult to find an area of the beginning and lower schools that students aren’t impacting. They’ve helped to plan, execute, and lead Community Sings, Roar and Soar assemblies, Grandparents Day, and Maker Night. They’ve observed teachers and supported younger students with their math, reading, and writing. They’ve welcomed prospective families on campus tours. They’ve surveyed their peers to learn what they want to see on the new campus. And they’ve provided necessary behind-the-scenes support, from sorting the mail to answering technology support tickets.

“I think it’s cool seeing how the school works,” said fifth grader Anna F., one of three interns who’s helped create Lower School Spirit Nights, new opportunities for lower schoolers to come together to cheer on the Winged Lions. Classmate Bergen S., one of two interns who assisted with Grandparents Day and is now weighing in on the upcoming Steiner Campus groundbreaking festivities, added, “It’s a really good learning experience. It’s nice to know how much people in the offices contribute to our daily lives.”

Beginning School and Lower School Assistant Principal Brittney Hansen ’02, who led the design and rollout of the 5-I program, knows this kind of opportunity is developmentally appropriate for fifth graders, and right in line with the school’s strategic priorities, which emphasize authentic learning that increases student choice and voice. As the oldest students in the division, fifth graders are ready to stretch their leadership skills while also exploring their budding interests. They want to put into practice their talents and knowledge to better their school. And they’re interested in what it’s like to have a job, with many ready to explore the type of right-fit challenges that internships provide—and which can help prepare them for the next stage of their education.

“We’re looking at the trajectory for what they’ll need by middle school,” said Brittney. “What skills do they need to be successful?”

Photos by Charlie P., marketing and communication intern

And because Brittney and the Lower School principals team wanted to emphasize the real-world nature of the program, they kicked it off with an application process that echoes what students may one day see when applying for positions outside of school. Prospective interns were asked to write essays explaining why they wanted to join the program, what they hoped to learn, why they were strong candidates, and any areas of the school in which they’d like to work and why. They also needed a parent or guardian signature, as well as a letter of recommendation from an adult who wasn’t a relative or homeroom teacher because, as Brittney explained, “We wanted to give the kids practice in appropriately asking a grown-up for help in completing an application process.”

Building these kinds of life skills is important to the 5-I experience. “This program builds skills that are hard to learn in a classroom or traditional curriculum, like writing a professional email and responding in a timely way, or writing thank-you notes to express gratitude for someone giving their time to you,” said Brittney. Students also had to take on responsibility for their applications; although plenty of grown-ups were on hand to provide support and guidance, applicants were in charge of ensuring that their essays and other materials were completed and turned in on time. But the fifth graders weren’t deterred.

“I always get my work done and never say no to a little challenge,” read one aspiring intern’s essay. Another shared, “I am a hard worker. I always take my best shot at every challenge that comes my way.”

Thirty-four fifth graders—more than half of the class—submitted applications in which they made clear their excitement for this new opportunity.

And though the idea of the 5-I program had been met with enthusiasm by fifth graders, Brittney didn’t expect a big group for the first year (she originally envisioned a pilot program of 12 participants). However, 34 fifth graders—more than half the class—submitted applications in which they made clear their excitement for this new opportunity. Since October, these interns have been hard at work, connecting with mentors monthly and taking on tasks across campus that both teach them how the school runs and help them learn more about themselves.

For Anna, one of the interns behind Lower School Spirit Nights, a major takeaway from the program (so far) is an understanding of the effort it takes to transform big-picture brainstorming into a real community event. “It’s important because kids see how much work and effort go into major events, from thinking big to making it happen,” said Anna. She also shared how exciting it’s been for students to have a hand in creating school events. “It’s not a little bubble; it’s more real-world scenarios,” she said. “It really improves teamwork, and trying hard, and dedication.”

It also improves connections across grades. Fifth grader Katie P., one of two interns for the Student Support Team, gives mini lessons to kindergartners and third graders every week and is learning that working with kids is one of her passions. “​​It’s fun. We get to have a different experience every time,” she said. And as a longtime Rowland Hall student, Katie can also apply her own experiences to this work. “I remember when I was that young,” she said. “I remember when I was so confused or when I understood things.” By tapping into what helped her, she’s making concepts easier for students and building connections, especially with the third graders. 

Importantly, 5-I also helps interns learn the value of their voices. Bergen, one of the interns who helped plan this year’s Grandparents Day, shared that he helped write the program script in collaboration with intern Zoe Y. and under the guidance of Associate Director of Alumni and Donor Engagement Marc DeCoste, and that being a part of that process was really fun. “They listened to me and asked me to contribute my ideas,” he said. Additionally, using the script to welcome visitors to campus for the event boosted Bergen’s public-speaking confidence. “I never spoke to a group that large before,” he said. “I felt like I knew what I was doing.”

These benefits go both ways. Adult mentors across campus are full of stories about how wonderful it’s been to have the interns’ support. Director of Enrollment Management Shuja Khan, for one, said his intern, Mila P., greatly benefited his team during the admission season, when she helped build the Rowland Hall community by giving time during recess every Tuesday morning for 12 weeks to welcome prospective families to campus. “Every family was surprised and happy to see her,” said Shuja. “Parents have so many interactions with teachers, administrators, and other parents, but it’s harder to have authentic interactions with kids.”

And Mila’s willingness to share her own experiences opened opportunities for Shuja and his team to have deeper discussions with families about curriculum and the school’s strategic vision. The Admission Office is so impressed they're already thinking about how they can expand opportunities for next year’s interns—and they’re not alone. Chief Information Officer Patrick Godfrey, whose team is supporting three interns, also looks forward to the future of 5-I.

Photos by Charlie P., marketing and communication intern

“This is a fantastic program,” said Patrick. “It’s a way for students to connect outside the classroom with people like me that they wouldn’t ordinarily connect with, and see other sides of the school that they would never see otherwise.” As a result, many members of the staff, especially those who don’t regularly interact with students, feel a deeper commitment to Rowland Hall’s vision. “It’s a more direct path to the why behind the work we do each day,” added Brittney.

This internship program is one example of how we're thinking creatively about learning.—Brittney Hansen ’02, Beginning School and Lower School assistant principal

It’s also a rewarding way for staff to see firsthand how authentic learning successfully builds skills and confidence in students, and helps those students actually see themselves as problem solvers and critical thinkers. For Patrick, who’s watched his team’s interns blossom as they’ve taken on tasks such as basic troubleshooting, running a light board, and beta testing software, this is the ultimate end product for a school.

“I have three students now who can troubleshoot classroom tech for teachers,” he said. “Kids are talking about it all the time when they go home; they’re really jazzed about it. There’s no cost but extremely high reward for students who participate. It’s a huge win for the school in my book.”

And it’s already promising to become a top experience for Rowland Hall’s fifth graders (younger students are even asking when it’ll be their turn to intern). Brittney said she could see it turning into a capstone-like project for this grade, marking the end of their Lower School careers—and serving as just one example of the exceptional outcomes of a Rowland Hall education.

“The Lower School team really does take the work of providing authentic learning experiences seriously and in a way that’s appropriate for our young learners,” said Brittney. “This internship program is one example of how we're thinking creatively about learning, in the broad sense, on this campus.”

Authentic Learning

Banner photo: Interns Zoe Y. and Bergen S. welcome visitors to Grandparents Day.

Photo Gallery: Weavers and Dreamers 2024, A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year, the Rowland Hall community honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy with Weavers and Dreamers: Leading the Beloved Community, a time to imagine a beloved community where everyone can be themselves in multifaceted ways alongside local Black storytellers, artists, and musicians.

Weavers and Dreamers - Leading the Beloved Community

This year’s event kicked off on Thursday, January 11, with a tribute to Reverend France A. Davis, a longstanding Rowland Hall board member, community trailblazer, and civil rights activist. Rev. Davis’ tribute was followed by a performance by alum Micah Willis ’14 and his band and a storytelling program presented by Charlotte Starks and Ashley Finley, members of the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership (NSOUL).

On Friday, January 12, middle and upper school faculty and staff gathered for a professional learning opportunity, and then a special daylong program was held for students in grades 6–12. Students engaged in conversations about building a beloved community; participated in activities featuring musicians, poetry, and storytelling; and reflected on the connection between our imaginations and questions of belonging and inclusion, as well as storytelling as a crucial leadership skill that can help us imagine different and better futures. Alum Micah Willis and NSOUL storytellers also joined this gathering.

On Monday, January 15, Rowland Hall students and their families honored the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by coming together for a day of community engagement. Volunteers planted wildflower seeds and built greenhouse benches with the Jordan River Nature Center in the morning, and then community members were invited to join an afternoon march, organized by the University of Utah’s MLK Week Committee, from East High School to the University of Utah.

The celebration continued on Tuesday, January 16, when Charlotte Starks of NSOUL gathered with Beginning School students to read a story and speak about Dr. King. The Lower School then came together for a Changemaker Chapel, where students heard from two guest speakers, Micah Willis and Charlotte Starks, and engaged in the division’s annual tradition of creating an artifact and marching around the quad to demonstrate how they can see themselves as future changemakers. This gathering allows our younger students to express what they need to feel belonging and how they might imagine a world where everyone feels included and valued.
We invite you to enjoy the linked Weavers and Dreamers photo gallery.


Rowland Hall elementary school students on the playground

As Rowland Hall’s princiPALS like to say: Parenting is hard. Teaching is hard. But both are a little bit easier when done in partnership.

That’s why, in the newest episode of The PrinciPALS Podcast, the pals are talking about some of the topics that are important to you, our listeners.

In this first-of-its-kind princiPALS episode, Emma Wellman and Brittney Hansen ’02 are answering some of your top questions about raising young children: how you can get habits and behaviors to stick, how to address distressing current events, how to get kids interested in activities and hobbies, and how to manage sibling rivalry during the elementary years. We hope you’ll join the pals, along with alum host Conor Bentley ’01, for this warm, supportive conversation that will leave you feeling seen and understood, and provide a deeper understanding of how to support the children in your life.

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


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.


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