Custom Class: post-landing-hero

On March 20, seventh graders used illustrations, demos, dioramas, and even virtual reality to transport Rowland Hall community members to a different time and place—the Golden Age of Islam that started in the seventh century and stretched from Spain to China.

According to seventh-grade world studies teacher Margot Miller, last week's exhibition was driven by one question: "How can we showcase the Golden Age of Islam in order to educate our community about Islamic inventions and challenge assumptions and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims?"

The middle schoolers used the book 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilizations and conducted additional research to become experts on their topics. For the main attraction, they transformed the Middle School's upstairs art hallway, adjacent staircase, and the band room hallway into a funnel of knowledge—visitors snaked through topical sections dealing with food, fashion, medicine, school, astronomy, architecture, and more. The seventh graders also prepared oral and written presentations, and eagerly enlightened all who passed through the exhibition.

World Studies

Gallery: Seventh Graders Guide Parents, Peers Through the Golden Age of Islam

On March 20, seventh graders used illustrations, demos, dioramas, and even virtual reality to transport Rowland Hall community members to a different time and place—the Golden Age of Islam that started in the seventh century and stretched from Spain to China.

According to seventh-grade world studies teacher Margot Miller, last week's exhibition was driven by one question: "How can we showcase the Golden Age of Islam in order to educate our community about Islamic inventions and challenge assumptions and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims?"

The middle schoolers used the book 1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilizations and conducted additional research to become experts on their topics. For the main attraction, they transformed the Middle School's upstairs art hallway, adjacent staircase, and the band room hallway into a funnel of knowledge—visitors snaked through topical sections dealing with food, fashion, medicine, school, astronomy, architecture, and more. The seventh graders also prepared oral and written presentations, and eagerly enlightened all who passed through the exhibition.

World Studies

Explore More Academics Stories

Crustacean Legislation: Fourth Graders Petition Utah to Make Brine Shrimp a State Symbol

Introduction by Marianne Love, Fourth-Grade Teacher

Fourth grade at Rowland Hall is all about Utah. As we studied both brine shrimp and the legislative process this year, we thought, What better time than distance learning to combine the two?!

After learning how bills become laws, students took it upon themselves to petition our state government to make the brine shrimp the official crustacean of Utah. Who would ever think a landlocked state could possibly have a state crustacean? Students used their persuasive-writing skills to craft letters to our governor and state legislators. Below, Dean Filippone’s letter is one shining example of what a dedicated Rowland Hall fourth grader can create.


May 6, 2020

Dear Governor Herbert, State Representatives, and State Senators:

I am a student at Rowland Hall in fourth grade and I am writing to you because I love the state of Utah. I only have one suggestion to make Utah even better: we can become the only landlocked state in the United States of America that has a state crustacean. The crustacean l nominate is the brine shrimp.

Brine shrimp are like people of Utah in that we are both persistent and don’t give up.

Dean with his letter to state lawmakers.

   Dean with his letter to state lawmakers.

There are many cool facts about brine shrimp that remind me about Utah and the great people in it. For example, did you know that a brine shrimp is barely the size of a pencil eraser, yet because there are so many in the Great Salt Lake, their combined weight is more than 13,000 elephants? It reminds me of Utah because we are all very small in the face of the world, but when we work together we can do even the hardest things.

Another reason that brine shrimp should be the Utah state crustacean is because they’ve been around for over 600,000 years! Brine shrimp are part of this great state’s history, and should be acknowledged as a state crustacean!

Brine shrimp are like people of Utah in that we are both persistent and don’t give up. In fact, brine shrimp can survive at 221 Fahrenheit for two hours and still live. The cysts can even survive for 25 years without food! Utahns have survived a lot of persecution; not to mention challenges with the weather and having to form communities in the high mountains and mountain deserts. Brine shrimp and the people of Utah are tough!

Brine shrimp are very rare. Do you know that only Utah and California have brine shrimp in the United States?

It would be an honor to be the first landlocked state to have a state crustacean! Currently, there are only six states that have a state crustacean. They are: Oregon, Maryland, Texas, Maine, Alabama, and Louisiana. All of these six states are on the water. Unlike these states, Utah is landlocked so we would be unique as the first landlocked state to ever have a state crustacean. 

The final reason l hope you will consider is that brine shrimp are very rare. Do you know that only Utah and California have brine shrimp in the United States? It would be special to have them as our crustacean. These are dark days with COVID-19 so we should celebrate all nature and other things to make us feel better.

Thank you for your consideration, and l hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
Dean


Top image: Teacher Marianne Love wades in the Great Salt Lake during a fourth-grade field trip to Antelope Island in May 2018.

student voices

Debate Season Ends with Seniors’ Top-15 Finish at Virtual TOC, More National Qualifiers Than Any Other School, and a State Title

In the words of Rowland Hall debate coach Mike Shackelford, debate finds a way.

COVID-19 led school campuses across the country to shutter about a month before the April 17–20 Tournament of Champions (TOC), debate’s most prestigious national competition. But like so many annual events, TOC went virtual for the first time, pitting the country’s best young debaters against each other—Zoom style.

Seniors Steven Doctorman and Adrian Gushin (pictured above) finished 14th nationally in policy debate—a praiseworthy end to their careers considering it’s a feat to even qualify for the TOC. Adrian was also recognized as the tournament's 10th-best speaker—a special accomplishment for the senior, his coach said. Watch their final round below.

Steven and Adrian were naturally disappointed when the in-person TOC was cancelled, Mike explained, but they weren’t intimidated by the ensuing challenges. The duo was fortunate enough to have the time and resources to upgrade their technology, research new arguments, and practice online debate for weeks leading up to the TOC.

Trying to convince a judge or channel ethos was a difficult task over Zoom... It was fantastic to lead the charge for innovating new forms of argumentation.—Senior Steven Doctorman

“Online debate is twice as draining because it's still the same intensity, but with far more screen time,” Mike said, summarizing his team’s sentiments. 

Plus, debate is an inherently social activity, Steven explained, from “sneaking conversations in the hallway” to the competition itself. “Trying to convince a judge or channel ethos was a difficult task over Zoom because we weren’t physically in the room with them,” he said. Still, online debate may be a larger feature for future tournaments—Mike suspects the TOC will be a model for fall competitions—“so it was fantastic to lead the charge for innovating new forms of argumentation or strategies,” Steven said.

The duo’s adaptability and hard work paid off with a top-15 finish, which is approximately where they've ranked all year, Mike said. “They lost on a 2–1 decision in their last round, so it was a nail-biter the whole time, but they are in a good space in how they finished their careers. Some inspirational moments, some frustrating times, countless academic arguments...In the end it was a ‘regular’ debate tournament!”

Steven echoed his coach’s positivity. “The TOC, whether online or in person, serves as the culmination of four years of dedication and hard work, so it’s fantastic to see our hard work finally pay off,” the senior said. “Our final debate was one of the best of my career and was ultimately a satisfying end despite the loss. We couldn’t have done it without Mikee’s fantastic coaching and consistent support from our team throughout the season.”

Going digital didn’t dull Winged Lion team spirit: throughout the TOC, several teammates encouraged Steven and Adrian by watching their rounds and giving them feedback, Mike added. “It was a rallying point for the program.”

Indeed, going digital didn’t dull team spirit: throughout the TOC, several teammates encouraged Steven and Adrian by watching their rounds and giving them feedback, Mike added. “It was a rallying point for the program.”

Pre-TOC triumphs also contributed to yet another successful debate season. For one, juniors Sophie Dau and Auden Bown took home the state title in policy debate for the 3A classification, the only group to finish their state tournament prior to COVID-19 closures. And at the national qualifying tournament, senior Zoey Sheinberg and sophomore Emery Bahna qualified in public forum debate, and sophomores Samantha Lehman and George Drakos qualified in policy debate. Plus, earlier this year, the already decorated Mike won Speech Educator of the Year for Utah.

The 3A state tournament, the national qualifying tournament, and the TOC represent the trifecta of the postseason, according to Mike. “It was incredible to have consistent excellence from different students,” the proud coach said. Whether fall competitions happen in person or online, we know that excellence will endure under the expert guidance of coach Mikee.

Debate

Jericho Brown talks to Rowland Hall Upper School students.

Editor's note: On November 1, 2018, acclaimed poet Jericho Brown visited Rowland Hall to talk shop with Upper School teacher Joel Long's creative writing students. Several months later, Mr. Brown published The Tradition, and on on May 4, 2020, he won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for that collection. The following biography and transcribed discussion, lightly edited for clarity, ran in the 2019 edition of Tesserae, our Upper School's literary magazine. This isn't a first for Tesserae: students also interviewed Frank Bidart in 2014, and that poet won a Pulitzer in 2018.

Biography

Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and worked as a speechwriter for the mayor of New Orleans before earning his PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. He also holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of New Orleans and graduated with a BA from Dillard University in 1998. Brown is the author of The Tradition (Copper Canyon Press, 2019); The New Testament (Copper Canyon Press, 2014), which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and Please (New Issues, 2008), which received the 2009 American Book Award. Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award and has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Krakow Poetry Seminar in Poland, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. He is currently an associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Discussion

I became a poet because I like listening to people talk much more than I am interested in what they have to say.

I became a poet because I like listening to people talk much more than I am interested in what they have to say. I am interested in the way things were delivered or the way people say things. I grew up in the black church where people were always going the extra mile to say something in a way that is beyond just saying. It was never, “Pass me the program.” It was, “The program that you are holding I would also like to hold.” 

The first time I finished reading a book of poems, I said, ‘Mommy, I read a book’ and the face my mother made was amazing. 

I became attracted to poetry in particular when I was a kid. I was very fortunate to have a mother who couldn’t afford child care. She was an improvisational genius. She would take me and my sister to the library when she had to be somewhere. We spent a lot of summers in the library. The librarians and my mother didn’t have to be worried about us tearing anything up. We weren’t going to run crazy in the library. The other wonderful thing about libraries is there were no computers, at least back then. So where we would go in the library there was nothing there but books. We didn’t have the internet to distract us from reading. Poems were interesting because they were short. I would look a page of prose and I’d be so worn out. I thought, “How am I supposed to do all that?” I would look at a poem and be like, “Oh Lord Jesus that’s only a fourth of the page! I can do this!” 

The first time I finished reading a book of poems, I said, “Mommy, I read a book” and the face my mother made was amazing. It was the only time she ever made it. She said, “My baby, my baby read a book?” I’ll never forget that. I wanted to see that again. So, I would be in a rush to get to the library and I would read every book of poetry I could find. I fell in love with poems then because I wasn’t under the impression that I had to explicate the poem. There was no need for interpretation. I just needed to read them and enjoy them for the music of language. I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t feel like I needed to know what was going on. 

I write poems asking questions of my life. At the root of my poems I don’t have any intentions. I don’t have any designs. 

I write poems asking questions of my life. At the root of my poems, I don’t have any intentions. I don’t have any designs. At the root of them I’m thinking, “Well, let me figure this out. Let me see where I’m wrong. Let me see where they’re wrong. Let me just blow that thing up.” I guess that some people don’t like that. I don’t think that many people who don’t like how I do what I do are looking at me. I think the people who are looking at me are the people who want to hear what I have to say. 

At the root of my poetry is tenderness, not politics. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to be more tender and put more tenderness into the world.

The part of my life that has the biggest influence on my writing is the willingness to fall in love and fall out of love and make love and be a romantic, intimate person. Ultimately, I’m a love poet. People like talking about me being a political poet and that’s fine. But people don’t really have much to say about me being a love poet because they have to think before writing their essay or what not. I think it also has to do with the fact that I’m black. 

When I say something about the police or something everyone is like, “Oh let’s see what he’s got to say about the police.” I think on the whole that people still have a hard time understanding that black people walk around here falling in love, that they are in a rush to get home so they can cuddle with somebody. There’s a wholeness to being that I know among black people. But I don’t know if people looking at black people see that. They see the ways of the black people can be offended, but they don’t necessarily see the fact that we can fall in love. At the root of my poetry is tenderness, not politics. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to be more tender and put more tenderness into the world. 

academics

A Rowland Hall Lower School class

The princiPALS are back.

In the second episode of Rowland Hall’s new podcast, Beginning School Principal Emma Wellman and Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus are tackling the subject of academic rigor.

What exactly is it?

Is it a good thing?

What does it look like for students during their early childhood and elementary school years?

While, for many, the term academic rigor is simply a way to describe curriculum difficulty, the princiPALS show how it encompasses accessing, evaluating, and using knowledge—and what that looks like today, when students can instantly retrieve vast quantities of information on the internet.

In an ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to teach students how to think, not what to think.

In an ever-changing world, the princiPALS explain, it is more important than ever to teach students how to think, not what to think. “We need students who know their academic content, but also can apply it in new and novel ways,” said Jij. In other words: it’s less about what students know, but when and how they use knowledge that will best prepare them for the future. While traditional education methods focused on memorizing and regurgitating facts to display knowledge, today’s students thrive when they joyfully engage in the learning process, successfully evaluate and apply knowledge, and collaborate with others.

We invite you to join Emma and Jij, along with host Conor Bentley ’01, as they discuss the ways educators, parents, and caregivers can help children become engaged, flexible, deep thinkers. Listeners will also enjoy practical tips that will help them raise lifelong learners and future innovators. 

Episode 2 can now be found on Rowland Hall’s website, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. And be sure to check out episode 1, “Building Resilience in Children,” if you haven’t already.

Podcast

You Belong at Rowland Hall