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Middle School: Grades 6–8
Welcome to Rowland Hall's independent private middle school. Our teachers recognize the years of growth and discovery that happen here. It's a unique transitional period from the creativity and imagination of childhood to the abstract thinking and global perspectives of young adulthood.
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 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.
Rowland Hall was excited to welcome students to our two campuses this week as we kicked off the 2021–2022 school year on Wednesday, August 25. As they arrived, students and families were greeted by a golden sunrise, old and new friends, a peppy group of faculty and staff, and an overall air of excitement. (Some even met Roary, our trusty school mascot, as they made their way to classrooms.) Below, please enjoy some of the images captured on the first day of school.
We look forward to a wonderful year together filled with deep learning, joy, and new memories.
First Day Photo Gallery: McCarthey Campus (PreK through Fifth Grades)
First Day Photo Gallery: Lincoln Street Campus (Sixth through Twelfth Grades)
At this year's fifth-, eighth-, and twelfth-grade graduation ceremonies, student speakers shared funny, reflective, and inspiring stories.
Seniors Maddy Frech and Zach Benton (pictured above), as well as Senior Celebration speaker Chiara Kim, expressed their gratitude for the positive ways the Rowland Hall community shaped their lives. Eighth graders Tessa Bartlett, Jojo Park, and Ainsley Moore reflected on the importance of friendship through their middle-school years, and several fifth-grade students thanked their teachers, family, and friends for creating a supportive and engaging learning environment in the Lower School—especially during a pandemic.
We have posted their speeches here for you to enjoy.
It’s been 100 years since the 1920s, but eighth-grade American studies teacher Mary Jo Marker believes the nuances between then and now have never been more relevant.
An interest in the parallels in time inspired Mary Jo to create a centenary project for her eighth graders in which she broke students into small groups and asked them to create a magazine based on the 1920s. Each group was asked to choose an overall theme for the magazine—this could be anything from fashion to politics to technology—and, within that theme, to focus on one aspect, like makeup or the stock market in the 1920s.
“I thought it might be interesting to have the kids explore the 1920s more in depth,” explained Mary Jo, “and to do that in a more creative way that gave them voice and choice in how they approached their research around the 1920s.” To the students, this concept of voice and choice is invaluable when it comes to learning—it not only empowers them to be independent but it also builds engagement and allows them to broaden their interests and skills.
After deciding on their groups’ themes for the magazine, the students were instructed to each write a 1,000-word article on their particular topics, each of which would appear in the finished publications. “One thing they all did really well,” reflected Mary Jo, “was meet the thousand-word limit, which was really a challenge for them.”
When students are granted creative and academic freedom, they can produce some truly wonderful results.—Eighth-grader Milo B.
When it came to the magazines’ details, Mary Jo asked the students to use the Library of Congress to find advertisements, letters to the editor, and political cartoons to add to their projects to round them out and create end products that looked like actual magazines. Eighth grader Milo B. excelled in this project and credits much of his success to the great deal of creative liberties Mary Jo allowed the students. “When students are granted creative and academic freedom, they can produce some truly wonderful results, like the magazine,” Milo reflected. “Ms. Marker did a fantastic job in managing this project.”
When all was said and done, the eighth graders delivered some truly impressive pieces. Upon perusing the display of their work on the second floor in the Middle School, it is hard to not be blown away by the variety of topics and the immense creativity each group brought forward in both their design and in their writing.
“It was great to see the personality of all the groups come out,” said Mary Jo. “I was really proud of them. I set a high bar, and by and large the majority were able to meet the learning targets and goals of the project.”
And in doing so, the students were able to recognize how history can be reflected in our own modern world by highlighting connections between society 100 years ago and today. The work the students created reveals a lot about their work ethic, creativity, and the outstanding guidance they received from Mary Jo, but it also reflects the collaborative nature of the Middle School—both among students, and between students and faculty.
“I think this project reflects the willingness to be vulnerable and take risks to really set a high standard and work to meet it,” reflected Mary Jo. “This goes across the board, in the Middle School for students and adults alike.”
Mary Jo also noted how it is worth remembering, when looking at this project and future projects, that kids will rise to whatever occasion you set for them, so we mustn’t forget to create challenging opportunities for them to aspire to.
In mathematics, students learn the definition of an equation: a statement that shows the values of two mathematical expressions are equal (for example, x – 5 = 10).
But math teachers, including Garrett Stern, who teaches in the Middle School, want students to understand that an equation isn’t just numbers and letters on a page. “An equation,” said Garrett, “relates to an image on the graph.”
For many of our math students, this piece of algebra art represents their pinnacle achievement in middle school math.—Garrett Stern, math teacher
These images can take a variety of forms—such as lines, parabolas, and circles—which, when placed together on a graph, can do something exciting: they can create art.
To help illustrate the visual beauty in mathematical equations, Garrett has for the past six years assigned his students the task of creating their own algebra art using the Desmos graphing calculator, a free resource used by educators around the world. Every year, he’s found that Rowland Hall students are able to produce inventive, and often very impressive, works of art.
“For many of our math students, this piece of algebra art represents their pinnacle achievement in middle school math,” said Garrett.
At an April 15 student assembly, Garrett highlighted algebra art as well as recognized the accomplishments of this year’s crop of artists. He was joined by three students, Rebecca M., Jojo P., and Erika P., who created some of the most outstanding pieces in this year’s unit. Below, these students share their algebra art experiences with the Rowland Hall community.
“Star Destroyer” by Rebecca M.
Rebecca’s drawing of a Star Destroyer is one of this year’s most complicated pieces. In fact, the Star Wars fan’s subject was so detailed that Garrett said he initially attempted to talk her out of it.
“I tried to dissuade Rebecca from trying her idea,” he remembered, “but she rejected my advice.”
Rebecca—who was inspired to tackle the Star Destroyer after viewing an algebra art drawing of an AT-AT, or All-Terrain Armored Transport, that now-junior Dillon Fang created when he took Garrett’s class—admitted that, although she was able to complete her chosen subject in the end, the process of creating the Star Destroyer was very challenging.
“I was quite confident going into this project, but my confidence began to dwindle after doing some equations,” she said. Rebecca especially remembers the difficulty of creating the ship’s bridge. “It has many small pieces that you don’t think about until you have to trace it with algebra equations.”
Rebecca said the time-consuming three to four weeks it took to complete her project required a lot of patience and resilience—but that it was worth it because it taught her she can do difficult things.
“I am super proud of it. I would gladly do it again,” said Rebecca. “I managed to push through and made a really cool design.”
“Simplicity” by Jojo P.
Jojo loves line drawings, especially of people, and discovered that she could successfully recreate the curves of a traditional ink-and-paper line drawing in the online Desmos format—an accomplishment that caught her math teacher’s attention.
“What impresses me most about Jojo's piece is the stylish curvature,” Garrett said.
But creating her project wasn’t easy. Jojo remembers feeling far behind her classmates in the early days of the assignment.
“I didn't really know how to make the equations,” she said. “In the beginning, all I had was about five lines, when everybody else had way more done. I was scared I would be behind.” Instead of panicking, however, she persisted, figuring out the equations she needed and building on her skills as she moved from long lines and wide curves to nail and flower details, which she said were definitely the hardest part of the drawing.
“When it was finished, I felt proud,” Jojo remembered. “I felt awestruck because I didn't think I could do anything like this.” It’s clear that the experience built her confidence in a way that will continue to benefit her.
“The project was challenging, but it showed me, as a mathematician, what I actually was capable of,” Jojo said.
"Ornate Owl" by Erika P.
Garrett chose to highlight Erika's piece at the assembly because she managed to include texture—although she said that hadn’t been her original plan.
“I wanted to create an owl because owls are my favorite animal, but I hadn’t planned on making it so detailed,” Erika explained.
After experimenting with equations for the owl’s body, beak, talons, and eyes, Erika said she felt like she needed to add more to her drawing and started on what turned out to be its most complicated component: feathers.
“I had to try out multiple numbers in order to get the feathers—which were created out of parabolas—to be thin and long enough to look good if I consistently spread them throughout the wings,” she said. The feathers alone took Erika over two hours to complete, and are just one example of the experimentation she had to do to create a piece that she was proud to turn in.
“The hardest part was getting shapes and lines to line up and intersect, as well as experimenting with equations to get shapes that looked at least somewhat realistic,” she remembered. “I just had to jump into it.”
Now, Erika said, she can’t imagine her drawing without those detailed additions, and she’s proud she challenged herself.
“I was glad I decided to add detail because I was thinking about submitting the work before then, but it just didn’t feel like a finished piece,” she said. “After finishing, I felt quite accomplished!"
Altogether, this year’s eighth-grade class created 75 pieces of algebra art. Below are some examples of their work (click each square to see the artwork larger on Desmos).
“Our students deservedly feel proud of their achievements,” said Garrett. “They ambitiously attempted challenging images, embraced sophisticated equations, attended to detail, and, above all, persevered.”