Developing Strengths

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Middle School: Grades 6–8

Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private Middle School, where we recognize and honor the growth and discovery that happen during this unique transitional period, when students move from the creativity and imagination of childhood to the abstract thinking and global perspectives of young adulthood.

In the Middle School, we provide an educational program that holistically supports early adolescent students in achieving academic success and positive personal growth. Rowland Hall's dedicated faculty create a supportive, caring environment that motivates and challenges students. The teachers are as knowledgeable in their subject matter as they are in understanding students’ unique needs, whether they're cognitive, emotional, or physical.

Our curriculum is relevant, challenging, and exploratory. Teachers use a variety of instructional and assessment methods grounded in research and best practices. We empower our students to be well-rounded, inspired, and compassionate individuals.


Pam Smith 
Middle School Principal

Independent Private Middle School Principal - Pam Smith - Salt Lake City, Utah

Pam Smith
Middle School Principalget to know Pam

Contact the Middle School

970 East 800 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84102

Middle School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Students Reflect on Creation of AI-Inspired Dance Concert, ‘Integrated’

In preparation for this year’s dance concert, Integrated, middle and upper school students researched topics related to technology, AI, and how we as humans relate to these machines in our everyday lives. Students thought critically about their personal experiences with tech and created pieces inspired by their findings and curiosities. Their works explore how we can utilize AI as a resource moving forward, while also giving space to the many moral and existential questions that come along with developing non-human intelligence. Two Upper School students, Hayley Trockman and Mattie Sulivan, reflected on their own processes and interviewed peers to give the audience an inside look into the complex questions underlying this year’s concert.

Reflecting on Process: Dance Students’ Voices on Integrated

By Hayley Trockman, Class of 2024, and Mattie Sullivan, Class of 2025

During the summer workshop our dance teachers, Sophia Cutrubus ’18 and Grace Riter ’18, presented us with the question: how can we express our thoughts about the advancement of technology through dance? At first, we were unaware of just how many different paths we could take to explore this growing industry. But as we dove deeper, we discovered that this topic left us with endless questions and conversations to have. Both our Intermediate and Advanced Dance Ensembles classes endeavored to answer these questions with open minds and a willingness to delve into our movement explorations.

How can we express our thoughts about the advancement of technology through dance?

Junior Mattie Sullivan decided to ruminate on their individual relationship to transforming technologies, using their piece to uncover a duality that often comes with spending huge amounts of time online.

“When I was presented with the theme of this year's dance concert I felt excited, overwhelmed, and honestly scared,” said Mattie. “Walking into dance class this year, I was full of ideas but really struggling to articulate them. Even a couple of days ago I was reminded of our initial question: can you really express all of these feelings through dance? But in the few weeks leading up to the concert, I feel confident that our relationships with AI and technology have and will continue to be voiced.”

They continued, “The Internet has been my primary form of communication with those I care about and my main source of entertainment. On the flip side, I have observed the detrimental effects an Internet addiction can have on a person. For my piece, I focused on both of these aspects of Internet usage. By manipulating the energy qualities of my movement I was able to portray both loneliness and connection. In our creative processes, we dove into the complexities of using the Internet and AI, and through movement we have been able to tell our unique stories.”

In Mattie’s work with the Iron Lions robotics team captain, junior Evan Weinstein, they discussed how technology has a different kind of intelligence than humans do. Evan highlighted that we don’t need to fear AI; rather, we should focus on how we set boundaries around its use.

He said, “AI is incredibly important because as we learn to harness the power of computing, technological strides become more accessible. When we don’t need to worry about spending time regulating budgets and doing mundane tasks, the future workforce will be able to put our collective energy towards doing new things while AI can maintain what we already know. Additionally, AI will be able to pick up on patterns that humans can’t. This level of pattern recognition can also help us predict and regulate our response to relevant social and environmental issues.”

While neural networks and AI are incredible tools, they are just that—tools. We can learn to use them as innovators and problem solvers, but at the end of the day they can only perform as well as we teach them.

Evan also pointed out, “While neural networks and AI are incredible tools, they are just that—tools. We can learn to use them as innovators and problem solvers, but at the end of the day they can only perform as well as we teach them. AI is an advancement that we need to understand and accept. I urge the support of AI and hope that we can help learn within our communities to set our generation up for success.”

Senior Hayley Trockman gave a look into what her process looked like as she learned about how AI-generated images are created.

“I believe in integrating technology into our lives with human intelligence guiding its role,” said Hayley. “I began the process of choreographing a piece that specifically looked into the ways that AI-produced images are created from our insecurities and unrealistic beauty standards. However, after speaking with Rowland Hall staff member Ashley Atwood, her advice of ‘accepting the new and upcoming’ resonated with me. I realized that we can’t put all of the blame on technology—because we are actually the ones feeding it the ideal body image through our engagement with social media. Whether it be likes and positive reactions, or critical comments, AI recognizes this trend in data and takes that information to generate its own images. My piece is a commentary on that process. The use of mirrors as props represents how AI-generated images become both reflections and distortions of our own insecurities.”

Senior Lauren Bates pivoted the conversation in a new direction, with her inspiration coming from the increase in the use of AI to help process grief.

“My initial idea dealt with how AI does not feel or process grief the same way that we do,” said Lauren. “However, as I did more research, I found a number of articles talking about ‘Grief Tech.’ I learned that there is already technology that allows people to feed information from their loved ones who have passed into AI chatbots. Subsequently, the software can recreate their personality and identity. This has brought up a lot of ethical and psychological concerns, along with questions about if this is a healthy way to process grief. I was initially inspired to create this piece after listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘United In Grief’ and applying its meaning to dance. For me, dance has always been a way to express ideas that are too difficult to express with words.”

I hope that our audience will resonate with both our fear and love of technology, and spend a minute thinking about their own relationships, both on and off the screens.

As we have reflected on the past months of choreographing, researching, and critically evaluating our relationship with tech and AI, we hope that the concert encourages our audience to turn inward and think about how they relate to technology in their own lives. As Mattie Sullivan said, “I hope that our audience will resonate with both our fear and love of technology, and spend a minute thinking about their own relationships, both on and off the screens.”  We want this moment in time to allow viewers to take pause and evaluate where we are and how we want to move forward.

Student Voices

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 middle schoolers stand in front of their mural in Salt Lake City.

Most middle school–aged students aren’t yet driving cars—but at Rowland Hall, some of them are already flying planes.

That’s because aviation is just one of the opportunities available to seventh and eighth graders as part of Rowland Hall’s expansive electives curriculum. And while some may think of electives as classes meant to give students downtime, or pad out schedules, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Electives not only enrich the core subjects students are taking, they also introduce new areas of study and interest,” said Middle School Principal Pam Smith. “Students can dive deeper into subjects they find interesting and discover passions they never knew they had.”

Middle School students use elective classes to look at the world and the skills they are learning in new and different ways. They discover competencies, and how to put them to work to become people the world needs.

Students use these classes to look at the world and the skills they are learning in new and different ways. They discover competencies, and how to put them to work to become people the world needs. Currently, seventh- and eighth-grade students have dozens of options to choose from when it comes to electives. Topics range from guitar to app design, and cover a range of diverse fields of study including fine arts, multimedia production, climate science, and public art and discourse. (Sixth graders, while not eligible for elective classes, are introduced to many of the concepts in their foundation classes with subjects like computer science, music, and debate.)

“Electives give students more of a voice and choice in the curriculum,” said Pam. “When they choose a class, it often leads to a greater investment in what’s being taught, as well as incorporates concepts they are learning in their other classes.”

Some of the electives offered are direct offshoots of core curriculum. Math teacher Jen Schones, for example, decided to start teaching personal finance as a Middle School elective after being told by several people that they wished they had learned about money management in school. Now she is helping students use addition, subtraction, percentages, and other math skills to discuss concepts like budgeting, investing, building credit, and taxes—skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives.

“The thing I stress to students a lot is that every decision you make with money has a consequence—both good and bad,” Jen said. “We do simulations looking at various choices like career, location, living expenses, and potential financial emergencies, and then students decide if they are willing to live with those choices, or if they would have done something different.”

The class also walks students through financial matters they are currently facing or will face in the near future. Paying for college is a topic of conversation, as is how to set a budget and save for a goal that is weeks, or even months, into the future. Guest speakers come in to talk about investment opportunities students could engage in now, including apps that allow them to buy stocks or money market accounts.

“I actually had one student ask their parents for a custodial IRA for Christmas after hearing about it in class,” said Jen. “Students are really responding well to the course, and not only learning skills for later, but putting some skills into action right now.”

Elective courses not only give students the opportunity to use skills they are learning in different ways, but also awaken them to aptitudes they didn’t know they had.

“There’s this misconception that you are either creative or you are not,” said visual art teacher Anne Wolfer. “I really try to help the kids push through and get to the mindset that we are all creative and that it just takes time, dedication, and a lot of hard work.”

In the public art elective, students unlock their creative minds by learning the many ways that art is created in communities, how a piece goes from an idea to a finished work, and the benefits of art in community spaces. It’s a great way for students to feel further connected to the community around them and to see themselves as contributors to a shared community. If you are walking through Salt Lake City’s 9th and 9th neighborhood, stop to take a look at the large mural that now graces the side of the Tower Theatre. The sweeping mountains, flowers, and a butterfly were all painted by Rowland Hall students. “It feels like we have a bigger connection to 9th and 9th now,” said eighth grader Callie L. “It’s like we are leaving a piece of ourselves there.”

Middle School artists pose in front of a mural they created in Salt Lake City, October 2023.

“The kids are really putting themselves out there with this mural,” added Anne. “And in doing so they are gaining confidence in their abilities and preparing themselves to move on to bigger and even more expansive projects.”

Students aren’t the only ones given the opportunity to take on more expansive projects in electives; teachers do as well. Bill Tatomer was teaching math and American studies at Rowland Hall when he decided to put his 20-plus years as a Navy pilot to use for the benefit of the students. He now teaches three different aviation courses in the Middle School, covering everything from basic principles of flight, aerospace science, and aviation design to engineering, careers in aviation, and flight training. During the course of the program, some students even earn their drone TRUST certification, while others take their first steps to getting their private pilot’s license.

“The exposure these classes create, especially as a Middle School student, is truly incredible,” said Bill. “Additionally, when I see students have fun and thrive in the environments created by these classes, whether they continue in aviation or not, my heart is full. I love what I do, and I so love sharing this passion with Rowland Hall students.”

I wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember, and the classes I took from Mr. Tatomer really gave me a leg up. I still use the information I learned today, and I utilize some of the lessons in my own teaching as well.—Davis Kahler ’17

The students love it too. Now-ninth grader Alexa Tracey admits she was a bit nervous when she found herself at the controls of a plane at the age of 14, but she knew she was ready for it because of all she had learned in Bill’s class. “It was nice to be able to know that I knew what was going on and that I was somewhat qualified to fly,” she said. “I would love to be a pilot someday, and taking this class made me realize getting my pilot’s license is an attainable goal.”

Alexa wouldn’t be the first Rowland Hall student to have found a career path thanks to the Middle School electives program. Alumnus Davis Kahler ’17 got his pilot’s license and is now working towards his hours as a commercial airline pilot while also teaching flying in Dallas.

“I wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember, and the classes I took from Mr. Tatomer really gave me a leg up,” said Davis. “I still use the information I learned today, and I utilize some of the lessons in my own teaching as well.”

The elective courses at Rowland Hall give students the opportunity to differentiate themselves as individuals while deepening their understanding of core subjects through additional knowledge. They allow them to explore and learn new things and develop lifelong interests in subjects they otherwise may have missed out on. They also are a lot of fun.

Electives allow students to take flight.

Banner: Students in the Middle School's metal arts class, another elective option, working on a project in spring 2023.

Authentic Learning

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.


You Belong at Rowland Hall