Daily Life in the Middle School

Middle school student with teacher in art class at Rowland Hall, an independent private school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Middle School Sample Schedule
School Starts/Block 1 8:30 am
Block 2 9:50 am
Staggered Lunch 11:10 am
Block 3 12:35 pm
Block 4 1:55 pm
School Ends 3:15 pm
students doing math at board

Curriculum

art teacher with student

Meet the faculty

Middle School Stories in Fine Print Magazine

Rowland Hall middle schoolers with their original mural on the Salt Lake City Lincoln Street Campus.

Rowland Hall Middle School’s annex, a blink-and-you-might-miss-it room located just a few steps away from the cafeteria, may seem like it can’t contain much.

But if you happened to walk by the annex this October, when it was serving as a studio for visual art teacher Anne Wolfer’s public art class, the small room appeared to have magically expanded: passersby could catch a glimpse of more than a dozen students, a collection of paints and brushes, and, leaning against the perimeter, sixteen 18-by-48-inch medium density fiberboard panels—the building blocks of a 24-foot-long mural, titled Outer Space, that the students designed for the Lincoln Street Campus.

Public art, a class in which middle schoolers study media created for the general public’s enjoyment, covers everything from murals, sculpture, and architecture to graffiti, environmental art, and digital art. Students learn how to look at public art critically, said Anne, as well as work together on one or two of their own public art pieces each semester, deepening their understanding of what they have been studying. Past classes have created a community tree and wall hanging, but this is the first time a group has taken on a mural.

“The projects are getting bigger,” Anne laughed.

Participating in the behind-the-scenes steps of a large-scale art installation is beneficial to students, as it helps them confidently build artistic, collaborative, and even cross-subject skills.

It’s not just the mural’s dimensions that are large; the process for a project this size is too. But letting students participate in the behind-the-scenes steps of a large-scale art installation is beneficial, as it helps them confidently build artistic, collaborative, and even cross-subject skills. For instance, before ever putting brushes to fiberboard panels, the class collaborated on a theme (nature or space) and then voted on mural designs they each submitted. (The winning design, a colorful take on the solar system, was created by seventh grader Mina G.) The students also tapped into math skills to transfer their chosen design from paper to panels, twice gridding Mina’s drawing to enlarge it to mural size.

And because this project required a balance between individual and group work, students additionally learned how to showcase their own styles while also ensuring cohesion among the mural’s sixteen panels. To help guide the class through this part of the process, Anne enlisted help from her friend Trent Call, a Salt Lake City-based professional artist known for his murals, who joined the class for two periods to share his artistic approach as well as to coach students during their final days of painting.

Rowland Hall public art students hang their original mural, Outer Space.

Public art students hanging their original mural on the east fence of the Lincoln Street Campus.


“It’s fun to see the different styles,” said Trent, as he watched the middle schoolers add color to their boards. Periodically, he would stop next to a young artist to offer a technique for creating texture and movement—then encourage that person to share the knowledge with students next to them.

“Personalize it, make it your own, but collaborate,” said Trent. “Look at the panel on each side and see how you can work together.”

Across the room, the three eighth graders tasked with painting the Saturn panels, Chase D., Kendra L., and Samuel L., were taking Trent’s advice. Standing side by side facing their boards, they discussed the best methods for adding pink, white, and yellow clouds across the surface of the planet—an unplanned addition, they said, but one that made sense after Samuel recommended it.

“They have been working as a unit together,” said Anne of the group, with a smile.

Without [public art], our communities would be dull.—Student Nathan L.

It’s clear that helping students build the kind of collaborative skills that will benefit them not only in art class, but in life, drives Anne, and this type of project, with its intrinsic focus on teamwork—of teaching students to find solutions as a group and to take turns in leadership roles—brings her joy. “I want them to experience what it means to do collaborative work, intentionally and artistically,” she said.

It’s also clear the unique atmosphere of this class—with its focus on the art that injects pride and personality into the places we call home—is providing a special benefit to the community-builders of tomorrow. Eighth grader Nathan L. certainly believes this. As he added yellow and orange paint to the tail of a shooting star, he noted that public art not only makes a statement, but contributes to people’s enjoyment of the places where they live.

"Without it,” he pointed out, “our communities would be dull.”

Outer Space, an original mural by Rowland Hall Middle School public art students.

The Middle School public art students hung their finished mural on the east fence of the Lincoln Street Campus on Wednesday, October 20, where it’s adding a splash of color above the playing fields. The Rowland Hall community is encouraged to enjoy the mural in person—but onlookers may wish to drop by soon, said Anne, as winter weather will take a toll on it. “It’ll stay up as long as it can,” she said.

Visual Arts

High school students wave to the camera on the first day of school

Welcome, Winged Lions!

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)

Community

Valedictorian Zach Benton speaks at Rowland Hall's 2021 senior graduation.

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.

Student Voices

Middle School students gather around the 1920s magazine project display on the Lincoln Street Campus.

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. 

Close-up of one magazine cover from the eighth-grade 1920s project.

A close-up of one of the group's finished magazines.

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.”

Close-up of the bulletin board displaying the eighth-grade 1920s 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.

Academics