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Lower School Specialties

Specialties in the Lower School supplement the core academic classes with lessons in the visual and performing arts, physical education, and an introduction to world languages.

Children discover the treasures of our library and literacy lab, use complex chess strategy, and explore both indoor and outdoor science labs. Investigating the artistic and being comfortable in the physical world sets the foundation for a lifetime of competency and confidence.

Explore Our Lower School Specialties

Literacy, Library, & Media

Rowland Hall is committed to developing exceptional readers and writers. We know that children who are encouraged at a young age to fully engage in the intellectual pursuit of reading, writing, and rewriting have bright, successful futures.

Our beginning and lower schoolers enjoy building these skills with our dedicated literacy and academic support specialist, who meets with students in classrooms and in our literacy lab to boost foundational skills.

Literacy and Academic Support Specialist April Nielsen talks about how children learn to read. April—who has taught at Rowland Hall since 2002—holds a master's in literacy and diversity as well as a reading specialist endorsement.
Lowers schoolers reading and working in the library.

Lower schoolers working in the library.

Meanwhile, our library curriculum coordinates with grade-level curriculum and follows the standards of the American Association of School Libraries. Throughout the literature strand of the library curriculum, students learn the characteristics of each genre and are encouraged to explore various types of books. Published authors and illustrators visit the school often and share their process, becoming models for student writers.

Because of preparation in the Beginning School, students come to the Lower School having made their first forays into the information-literacy strand (research skills) and empowered to find answers to their questions through library exploration. This continues through formal research training using books, magazines, and websites. The media-literacy strand teaches students how to evaluate and analyze the effects of media on their lives, including those of violence, persuasive techniques, and advertising.

The vibrant and busy Steiner Library is physically and metaphorically located at the heart of the McCarthey Campus, holds nearly 20,000 items, and serves children, parents, and teachers. While meeting the recreational reading and academic needs of the community during the school day, it is also a gathering place for students engaged in homework or research while in the Extended Day program.


Rowland Hall set the stage for the burgeoning elementary school chess movement in the ’90s and has been teaching lower schoolers the game—and winning chess championships at city, state, and national levels—ever since. Students in grades one through five attend chess class weekly to learn essential skills such as predicting, problem solving, using empathy in winning and losing, taking risks, and learning from mistakes.

Teacher playing chess with happy, young students

Numerous studies highlight the benefits of chess in education, including teaching tactical thinking, higher-order pattern recognition, self-discipline, and time-management skills.

Rowland Hall is one of the very few institutions in the country that offers chess as a part of the regular school curriculum. Students seeking more chess time or competitive chess settings can become involved in Chess Club, offered after school via the Extended Day program. Many of those students join the school’s chess team that participates in local, state, and national tournament competitions.


Physical education is integral to a total PreK-12 education, contributing to skill acquisition and mastery, a lifelong pattern of physical fitness, and positive social and emotional development. Our PE curriculum builds on students’ instinctual desires to be movers and shakers. Differentiated teaching provides children with a dynamic, creative, and fun learning experience.

During PE class periods, students discover their individual potential and develop the leadership, sportsmanship, cooperation, and teamwork skills that foster a desire to pursue lifelong health. Standards from the Society of Health and Physical Educators and the State of Utah Physical Education Core Curriculum provide us with a wide breadth of concepts that lead to an overall exposure to what it means to be physically educated.

Students in first through fifth grades receive instruction in skill development, movement in space, dance, fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship, and lifetime fitness activities. Third through fifth grades also learn and play a variety of individual and team sports. Activities include yoga, relay races, aerobics, flag football, volleyball, basketball, Frisbee, and more.

Our beloved Winter Sports program—five Friday afternoons in January and February—focuses on exposure, exploration, and community. The program exposes students to new sports and recreational activities, improves physical and emotional well-being, and develops sportsmanship. Recent offerings have included skiing, ski jumping, snowboarding, curling, ice skating, rock climbing, archery, dance, gymnastics, and more.

Visual Art

The visual arts program at Rowland Hall takes students on a journey of creative exploration. Our goal is for every student to feel supported while developing artistic skills in a playful, interactive environment.

Students watch a demo in an art classroom.

Using the National Standards for the Fine Arts as a guideline, the art curriculum incorporates interdisciplinary and multicultural projects. Art history, art appreciation, and color theory along with the elements of art and the principles of design are interwoven throughout art lessons.

Inquiry-based learning gives students a wide range of opportunities to strengthen problem solving and critical-thinking skills.

In art class, students experiment with a variety of high-quality art materials and techniques. Drawing, painting, sculpting, printmaking, ceramics, mask making, puppetry, and dramatic play are all part of the art experience at Rowland Hall.

Outside the art room, students use the McCarthey Campus’ beautiful setting and gardens as well as the nearby Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges for visual inspiration. Off campus, students are given opportunities to participate in local art competitions and exhibitions. Many students have been recognized in state juried art competitions and have exhibited artwork at local art galleries, community centers, and museums.

Science Lab

Rowland Hall students learn scientific concepts and experiment with science in a designated, well-equipped science lab. In this bright space, with its science garden just beyond, students are involved with a mixture of inquiry-based experiences and instruction, all aimed at imparting “science as a way of thinking” about the world around us.

At each grade level, students focus on four to six study units per year that provide a balance across the disciplines of physical, life, earth, and space sciences. Although topics vary to include current themes, curriculum is guided by the Next Generation Science Standards and recommendations in the American Association for the Advancement of Science Project 2061 Benchmarks. The State of Utah science curriculum is also a valuable resource.

The science curriculum includes a mixture of science lab, classroom learning, and outdoor exploration. In the science lab, students engage in hands-on experimentation and instruction that augments their classroom science studies. Classroom studies include activities, field exploration, and library research. Whenever possible and applicable, we incorporate our garden and other outdoor spaces to give students the opportunity to learn directly from the natural world.

Most importantly, we emphasize development of the skills and knowledge required to build a foundation for future science learning. Key concepts focus on the scientific circle, making hypotheses, estimation, measurement, data collection, experimental design, and logical reasoning.

In our science program we actively strive to integrate knowledge from other disciplines, promote sustainable practices, and use both current and local issues to create a rich and relevant context for learning.


The music program encourages each student to actively engage in the process of creative music making. Through singing, dancing, and playing percussion instruments, students learn to express their ideas and emotions in and with original compositions. Hands-on projects and playful exploration of the elements of music ensure that all students feel a part of the music community.

The music curriculum, informed by the National Standards for the Arts, focuses on performing, improvising, reading, and writing music, and the connections of music with dance, drama, and art.

Music integrates with the classroom curriculum in various ways. Second graders make musical instruments to explore vibration and sound waves in science. Likewise, music coordinates with third-grade geography when students learn songs from different continents. Fourth graders add the recorder to their instrumental repertoire, and fifth graders are challenged to create a theme-based stage performance in black light.

Students work with traditional songs, texts, and instruments from multiple geographic regions and historical periods to gain a better understanding of music’s role in culture.

Opportunities for performance include a holiday production and a grade-level show each spring. Students who choose additional performance opportunities can join the third- through fifth-grade after-school chorus, participate in an evening recital night, or take the stage in a talent show.


The Spanish program provides exposure to the language and Hispanic cultures, while encouraging an overall interest in learning world languages. The curriculum follows a thematic approach that integrates classroom subject matter when possible and combines creative self-expression, real-world communication, and cultural exploration with academic purpose. Developing basic language skills establishes a foundation that will lead to fluency with future language study.

Excited student raises hand in Spanish classroom.

We believe that students learn language by using language. As recommended by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), our students engage in thoughtful language practice that focuses on developing the four macro skills of communication: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Our Spanish teachers speak almost exclusively in Spanish during class, while employing a variety of strategies such as gestures, visual aids, and cognates to support student understanding.

Speaking abilities develop through conversation and role-playing activities, performances, and song. Reading comprehension advances through individual and group practice, and writing proficiency grows through descriptive exercises that emphasize foundational grammatical structures. Opportunities to develop basic interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication skills are plentiful in an interactive and student-centered environment.

Exposure to Spanish includes exploration of cultures in the Spanish-speaking world. From first through fifth grades, the Spanish program fosters an understanding of cultural events, such as Día de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo, and recognition of distinctive practices and products from a variety of Hispanic cultures. In addition, the Spanish curriculum seeks to help students draw connections to and contrast with students’ home cultures.

Personalized Attention

Our Lower School has an average class size of 17 students, compared to 24 in Utah's public elementary schools. Every child is well-known and supported in the ways that best meet their needs.

You Belong at Rowland Hall