Custom Class: post-landing-hero

Lauren Samuels ’11—a Rowland Hall graduate who competed for Rowmark Ski Academy her senior year and two postgraduate years—served as the youngest panelist on a July 15 U.S. Ski & Snowboard virtual discussion on how to remedy the glaring lack of racial diversity in snowsports.

Lauren, who identifies as Black and multiracial, spoke candidly about how systemic racism and discrimination impacted her skiing career, and how the industry might better foster a love of skiing among people from more diverse backgrounds. Excerpts featuring Lauren—a newly named member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—are transcribed below. 

Though the COVID-19 outbreak cut the 2019–2020 ski season short, Rowmark was grateful to have Lauren return (if only briefly) in a new capacity: FIS assistant coach and academic liaison. This fall, she’ll head to the University of Oregon to start a graduate program in sports product management, and plans to pursue a career in the outdoor industry.

Lauren has a rich history in ski racing. While enrolled in Rowmark, she spent much of each season traveling as an invitee with the U.S. Ski Team. She’s a J2 National Super-G champion who also raced in the U.S. Nationals and World Juniors championships. After Rowmark, she attended the University of Utah and competed as a member of their prestigious alpine ski team. She captained the team her senior year when the Utes won the 2017 NCAA National Championship.

We’re proud to call Lauren an alum, and we'll be referencing and building on discussions like this one as we redouble our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and antiracist work.

Lauren Samuels ’11 ski racing

Lauren Samuels ’11 ski racing for Rowmark in Park City back in January 2012.

Transcription of Excerpts Featuring Lauren

In addition to Lauren, these excerpts feature moderator Henri Rivers, the president of National Brotherhood of Skiers and the CEO, president, and founder of Drumriver Consultants; and Forrest King-Shaw, a coach and staff trainer at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows Teams.

[49:28]

Not until I joined the National Brotherhood of Skiers and went to my first summit did I see another skier of color besides my dad and my brother.

Henri Rivers: Lauren, I’m going to go to you first. And I really want you to be honest with us. Has racism and discrimination altered or shortened your career as an athlete?

Lauren Samuels: This question is hard to answer. Altered, absolutely. Shortened, possibly. 

Henri: I don’t want to put you on the spot like that because I understand where you’re coming from, I do. If you want to answer, you can, but we could rephrase it.

Lauren: I’m open to speak about it, it’s just tough to talk about. But I would say in regards to altering, it’s more what Schone and you, Henri, spoke about. I was already exposed to skiing because of family. I grew up skiing, learned how to ski when I was two. But once I got into the more—I mean really, even at the grassroots level, my home club, not seeing other people who looked like me, [having] that lack of comfort and support. And I was lucky to be involved with NBS, the National Brotherhood of Skiers, from a young age, where we had other athletes who were older than me and better than me that I could look up to. But not until I joined NBS and went to my first summit did I see another skier or ski racer of color besides my dad and my brother. In the topic of shortening my career, again, that’s hard to say, but I think possibly that shortened my career. 

I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, ‘That's just because you're Black.’

Some language I was faced with at any level, specific stories with the U.S. Ski Team, being disrespected or being told that I wasn't working hard enough even though I would show up to our physical testing and break records. I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, “That's just because you’re Black.” And then I continued on, [being told] I'm not working hard enough, but my fitness and everything shows that I am working hard enough. These are things that, that’s racist language—as much as no one said I’m not working hard enough or it’s just because I’m Black that [I’m] not making it to the next step. But I do believe there is some ingrained racism in our sport, and in the people in our sport, and in the highest levels as well.

Henri: It’s hard to even comment on that because I’ve watched you grow up. I’ve watched you as such a spectacular racer and I'm really sorry to hear that you had to go through that. Do you think having coaches—and I know it’s also a gender thing as well—but do you think that having coaches (male and female) of color would have helped you adjust to some of the things that you were exposed to?

I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic style. Maybe if I had a coach who had an experience similar to mine, they would've come up with other ideas or not judge me for not braiding my hair.

Lauren: Yeah, I think it's more, again, about that comfort and belonging there. There comes a big relief, at least on my shoulders, when there’s another person of color on the hill that day. And it’s as minor as that: I know there’s someone else here who will stick up for me or speak out if something does happen or go that way. And same with being able to relate on other things. My hair: I can't braid my hair—it doesn't really braid—but I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic [style]. Well, maybe if I had a coach who had that experience similar to me, they would come up with other ideas or not judge me so hard for not braiding my hair. It's things like that that I think a coach of color and female would help with, but I don't even want to say that it has to be a Black coach or look exactly like me. Does that answer your question?

Henri: Yeah, it does. Wow, you know, I take a deep breath because you know I have young racers as well and they will start experiencing those things. That is why we’re here, that is why we’re having this discussion, so that we can stop this type of thinking and these thought processes because they are unfounded, they’re unnecessary, and they hurt young people. Lauren is a young racer that should not have to experience these things. But this is what we continually do year after year after year. We need to stop the cycle. Forrest, my question for you, same question I had for Lauren. Has racism or discrimination altered or shortened your career (I know it has) with [U.S. Ski & Snowboard or Professional Ski Instructors of America]?

Forrest King-Shaw: Well, it hasn’t shortened my career, that's for sure. It’s altered it, oh, absolutely. And before we go too deep into this I wanted to comment on a couple of things Lauren said. I have two daughters that ski race and if you knew the discussions I had with them about helmets, that was something I had to figure out. I'm a man and had to learn how to be a better man by raising daughters. So I think there’s a parallel here. You don’t have to be in our circumstance. You don't have to be whatever gender or whatever ethnicity to be better at understanding what people have to carry.

Getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will expand our talent pool and make it better.

[1:06:46] 

Henri: Lauren, what do you think the U.S. Ski Team or [U.S. Ski & Snowboard] can do to develop more athletes of color? Have you ever thought about that? Is there anything that you think they could do a little different that would help attract or bring in—you know, that’s a hard question to ask because the snow industry, it’s a difficult sport to get into, but what do you think? Have you ever had any thoughts about that?

Lauren: Yeah, I’m going to kind of piggyback on what Forrest said about how it’s the outward-facing portion of your association, your organization, and that outreach, and partnerships with organizations like Winter4Kids and with [Share Winter Foundation]. I’m going to speak about one that I know purely off of location, it’s within a mile of my house: the Loppet Foundation. They are getting kids from inner city Minneapolis out skiing and on the snow, and they focus on nordic skiing. And I think starting at that grassroots level is really, really important. And like Forrest said, if your first experience isn't great, you're not coming back. But this is more about getting the new athlete, the new member, to love skiing in one way or another. If they dont love skiing they're not going to work their way up and be a coach. Or even at a later age, if you get exposed to skiing when you're 20, 30, whatever it is, if you don't love it, you're not going to stay involved in the sport. And again, really, it's a lot of the same as [what Forrest said]. That interaction between the elite level and the younger or less elite level, between the current athletes on the U.S. Ski Team and reaching out and connecting with those younger kids. Or even coaches, newer coaches to the sport, feeling like you matter, feeling like you can make it to that next level, to that next step, whatever it is. It doesn't have to be the elite track, but it can be. And I don't think that should be disregarded that getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will, one, expand our talent pool, and make it better.

rowmark

Alum Lauren Samuels Lends Voice to U.S. Ski & Snowboard Panel on Racial Diversity in Snowsports

Lauren Samuels ’11—a Rowland Hall graduate who competed for Rowmark Ski Academy her senior year and two postgraduate years—served as the youngest panelist on a July 15 U.S. Ski & Snowboard virtual discussion on how to remedy the glaring lack of racial diversity in snowsports.

Lauren, who identifies as Black and multiracial, spoke candidly about how systemic racism and discrimination impacted her skiing career, and how the industry might better foster a love of skiing among people from more diverse backgrounds. Excerpts featuring Lauren—a newly named member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee—are transcribed below. 

Though the COVID-19 outbreak cut the 2019–2020 ski season short, Rowmark was grateful to have Lauren return (if only briefly) in a new capacity: FIS assistant coach and academic liaison. This fall, she’ll head to the University of Oregon to start a graduate program in sports product management, and plans to pursue a career in the outdoor industry.

Lauren has a rich history in ski racing. While enrolled in Rowmark, she spent much of each season traveling as an invitee with the U.S. Ski Team. She’s a J2 National Super-G champion who also raced in the U.S. Nationals and World Juniors championships. After Rowmark, she attended the University of Utah and competed as a member of their prestigious alpine ski team. She captained the team her senior year when the Utes won the 2017 NCAA National Championship.

We’re proud to call Lauren an alum, and we'll be referencing and building on discussions like this one as we redouble our commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and antiracist work.

Lauren Samuels ’11 ski racing

Lauren Samuels ’11 ski racing for Rowmark in Park City back in January 2012.

Transcription of Excerpts Featuring Lauren

In addition to Lauren, these excerpts feature moderator Henri Rivers, the president of National Brotherhood of Skiers and the CEO, president, and founder of Drumriver Consultants; and Forrest King-Shaw, a coach and staff trainer at Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows Teams.

[49:28]

Not until I joined the National Brotherhood of Skiers and went to my first summit did I see another skier of color besides my dad and my brother.

Henri Rivers: Lauren, I’m going to go to you first. And I really want you to be honest with us. Has racism and discrimination altered or shortened your career as an athlete?

Lauren Samuels: This question is hard to answer. Altered, absolutely. Shortened, possibly. 

Henri: I don’t want to put you on the spot like that because I understand where you’re coming from, I do. If you want to answer, you can, but we could rephrase it.

Lauren: I’m open to speak about it, it’s just tough to talk about. But I would say in regards to altering, it’s more what Schone and you, Henri, spoke about. I was already exposed to skiing because of family. I grew up skiing, learned how to ski when I was two. But once I got into the more—I mean really, even at the grassroots level, my home club, not seeing other people who looked like me, [having] that lack of comfort and support. And I was lucky to be involved with NBS, the National Brotherhood of Skiers, from a young age, where we had other athletes who were older than me and better than me that I could look up to. But not until I joined NBS and went to my first summit did I see another skier or ski racer of color besides my dad and my brother. In the topic of shortening my career, again, that’s hard to say, but I think possibly that shortened my career. 

I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, ‘That's just because you're Black.’

Some language I was faced with at any level, specific stories with the U.S. Ski Team, being disrespected or being told that I wasn't working hard enough even though I would show up to our physical testing and break records. I had the highest vertical jump on record when I tested at 15 years old on the development team and immediately I was told, “That's just because you’re Black.” And then I continued on, [being told] I'm not working hard enough, but my fitness and everything shows that I am working hard enough. These are things that, that’s racist language—as much as no one said I’m not working hard enough or it’s just because I’m Black that [I’m] not making it to the next step. But I do believe there is some ingrained racism in our sport, and in the people in our sport, and in the highest levels as well.

Henri: It’s hard to even comment on that because I’ve watched you grow up. I’ve watched you as such a spectacular racer and I'm really sorry to hear that you had to go through that. Do you think having coaches—and I know it’s also a gender thing as well—but do you think that having coaches (male and female) of color would have helped you adjust to some of the things that you were exposed to?

I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic style. Maybe if I had a coach who had an experience similar to mine, they would've come up with other ideas or not judge me for not braiding my hair.

Lauren: Yeah, I think it's more, again, about that comfort and belonging there. There comes a big relief, at least on my shoulders, when there’s another person of color on the hill that day. And it’s as minor as that: I know there’s someone else here who will stick up for me or speak out if something does happen or go that way. And same with being able to relate on other things. My hair: I can't braid my hair—it doesn't really braid—but I was told I had to braid my hair to ski downhill because it's the fastest, most aerodynamic [style]. Well, maybe if I had a coach who had that experience similar to me, they would come up with other ideas or not judge me so hard for not braiding my hair. It's things like that that I think a coach of color and female would help with, but I don't even want to say that it has to be a Black coach or look exactly like me. Does that answer your question?

Henri: Yeah, it does. Wow, you know, I take a deep breath because you know I have young racers as well and they will start experiencing those things. That is why we’re here, that is why we’re having this discussion, so that we can stop this type of thinking and these thought processes because they are unfounded, they’re unnecessary, and they hurt young people. Lauren is a young racer that should not have to experience these things. But this is what we continually do year after year after year. We need to stop the cycle. Forrest, my question for you, same question I had for Lauren. Has racism or discrimination altered or shortened your career (I know it has) with [U.S. Ski & Snowboard or Professional Ski Instructors of America]?

Forrest King-Shaw: Well, it hasn’t shortened my career, that's for sure. It’s altered it, oh, absolutely. And before we go too deep into this I wanted to comment on a couple of things Lauren said. I have two daughters that ski race and if you knew the discussions I had with them about helmets, that was something I had to figure out. I'm a man and had to learn how to be a better man by raising daughters. So I think there’s a parallel here. You don’t have to be in our circumstance. You don't have to be whatever gender or whatever ethnicity to be better at understanding what people have to carry.

Getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will expand our talent pool and make it better.

[1:06:46] 

Henri: Lauren, what do you think the U.S. Ski Team or [U.S. Ski & Snowboard] can do to develop more athletes of color? Have you ever thought about that? Is there anything that you think they could do a little different that would help attract or bring in—you know, that’s a hard question to ask because the snow industry, it’s a difficult sport to get into, but what do you think? Have you ever had any thoughts about that?

Lauren: Yeah, I’m going to kind of piggyback on what Forrest said about how it’s the outward-facing portion of your association, your organization, and that outreach, and partnerships with organizations like Winter4Kids and with [Share Winter Foundation]. I’m going to speak about one that I know purely off of location, it’s within a mile of my house: the Loppet Foundation. They are getting kids from inner city Minneapolis out skiing and on the snow, and they focus on nordic skiing. And I think starting at that grassroots level is really, really important. And like Forrest said, if your first experience isn't great, you're not coming back. But this is more about getting the new athlete, the new member, to love skiing in one way or another. If they dont love skiing they're not going to work their way up and be a coach. Or even at a later age, if you get exposed to skiing when you're 20, 30, whatever it is, if you don't love it, you're not going to stay involved in the sport. And again, really, it's a lot of the same as [what Forrest said]. That interaction between the elite level and the younger or less elite level, between the current athletes on the U.S. Ski Team and reaching out and connecting with those younger kids. Or even coaches, newer coaches to the sport, feeling like you matter, feeling like you can make it to that next level, to that next step, whatever it is. It doesn't have to be the elite track, but it can be. And I don't think that should be disregarded that getting more kids and athletes from all aspects of diversity will, one, expand our talent pool, and make it better.

rowmark

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Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson watches his tank of jellyfish.

Teachers have many strategies to help build students’ excitement around science. If you ask Rowland Hall biology teacher Rob Wilson for one of his, he’ll say to give them access to living organisms.

“Over the years, I've become more and more focused on providing students access to the living organism,” he said. “I want my students to have a really sensory perception and experience of living things.”

Over the years, I've become more and more focused on providing students access to the living organism. I want my students to have a really sensory perception and experience of living things.—Rob Wilson, biology teacher

To do this, Rob is always on the lookout for organisms that can help simplify or solidify the concepts he teaches to middle and upper schoolers. In a state like Utah, his students have access to a range of these resources, and Rob’s led them in conducting experiments on everything from birds to flower bulbs. But, Rob said, the state does have limitations.

“We don't have access to the ocean,” he said.

So Rob found a way to bring the ocean to Rowland Hall: in early February, he introduced three jellyfish, known as moon jellies, to his climate science and ninth-grade biology students. These small organisms—only about an inch in diameter across their upper bells—live in a two-gallon tank on Rob’s desk, where they’re serving as a powerful learning resource.

“My objective was to have a dynamic system that we could take care of, study, and use as a model for how larger systems work,” said Rob.

And for such a simple organism, the jellyfish are able to connect to loads of concepts around the life sciences. Since their arrival, Rob has led discussions around their tank environment, which lends itself well to topics like ocean currents and climate systems, and the jellyfish themselves, whose simple anatomy is easy for students to study. For example, said Rob, when the jellyfish arrived, his biology class was studying the respiratory system—how the body obtains oxygen and releases carbon dioxide—and the jellyfish provided an additional way for them to observe how other living creatures’ bodies process these gasses. They watched, amazed, as the jellies contracted their bodies to take in oxygen-rich water and then stretched to release carbon dioxide, causing a pulse that moves gases, nutrients, and waste through its tissues.

The tank’s neon lights help observers see details of the jellyfish anatomy. The mushroom-like bell is made of two tissue layers, between which are horseshoe-shaped gonads—the only part of the jellyfish that's not transparent—that produce egg cells in females and sperm cells in males. Adjacent to the gonads are the stomachs, which can be seen filled with brine shrimp larvae after a feeding. Radiating from the edges of the bell are tentacles, used to trap the food that the oral arms, which extend from the bottom of the bell, shuttle to the mouth at the bottom of the bell. A nervous system network can also be seen within the bell, which connects to poppy-seed-like eyes at the bell’s edges. “Symmetry, nerve networks, and multiple tissue layers are elements of jellyfish anatomy that provide evidence of shared common ancestry between jellyfish and other animals, including human beings,” said Rob.

In Rob’s climate science class, older students further benefit by helping to care for the jellyfish. “I wanted something that required us to monitor and maintain conditions within the system,” said Rob. “I've made sure that each class takes responsibility for it because it's way more valuable to them if they're participating.”

Students assist Rob with feeding the jellyfish brine shrimp larvae (hatched in a maze-like bowl referred to as the brine shrimp nursery) and monitoring water temperature and pH levels, which change as the jellyfish digest the shrimp larvae and produce ammonia, a toxin that builds up quickly in a two-gallon tank. “We want to make sure it's within a suitable range of pH and the metabolic products of the jellyfish,” said Rob.

Taking care of the jellyfish has put into perspective the actual scale and impact of climate change within our oceans. It only takes us one day of missing our chemical testing or transitioning water incorrectly to affect the mini-ecosystem in our classroom.—Katie Moore, class of 2021

At least once a week, students use a water-testing kit to examine ammonia levels, then condition the tank with a mixture of bacteria—one type consumes the ammonia and produces nitrite, a less toxic compound that a second bacteria then consumes, producing even a less toxic waste in the water called nitrates. Students help track these levels on a shared spreadsheet, an activity that’s helping them think about how variations in the environment can have far-reaching repercussions.

“Temperature, pH, nitrogen compounds—they fluctuate,” explained Rob. “Depending on what you add or take out, it'll push it in one direction or another. I use that as an analogy to better understand that the earth system works in similar ways. It builds the students’ ability to understand the flow of material through a system, and then how the balance of material in any one place affects how the system behaves.”

It’s clear when talking to students that these concepts are sticking. Senior Katie Moore, a climate science student, noted, “Taking care of the jellyfish has put into perspective the actual scale and impact of climate change within our oceans. It only takes us one day of missing our chemical testing or transitioning water incorrectly to affect the mini-ecosystem in our classroom. Now think about our ocean. How many days have we ignored the changes we've observed but not documented? How many days have our actions impacted the lives of ocean inhabitants with, or without, our noticing?”

It’s a significant way to think about the interconnectedness of all living organisms that share the planet, and a lovely reminder that those connections we share can bind us closer. Rob noted people only need a moment of observation before they start to feel a fondness for the jellies, and that many of his colleagues, as well as students who are no longer in his classes, like to stop by to enjoy them. “As soon as anyone comes in, I'll just sit back quietly and let them watch for a while,” he said with a smile.

Close-up of Rob Wilson's moon jellies, which he uses in his climate science and biology classes.

The jellyfish have charmed Rob Wilson’s students, who have even named them. In senior Katie Moore’s climate science class, the largest jellyfish (who, Katie said, has only three stomachs instead of the usual four) is known as Big Bertha, the medium-sized jellyfish is Gerald, and the smallest jellyfish is Bob.​​​​

It's fun to invite that kind of close observation—to go beyond glancing at something to taking a really close look.—Rob Wilson

“We are very concerned about their well-being. We absolutely love them like children and love to talk about their endeavors,” added Katie, who noted that the students, after many weeks of observation, can tell the difference between the jellyfish, have named them, and worry about their survival. “We have a full-fledged conspiracy theory about how they keep dying and Mr. Wilson keeps replacing them hoping we will not notice.”

Luckily, moon jellies can live up to three years if well cared for, and Rob and students are committed to making sure that’s the case at Rowland Hall. Rob even comes in on weekends and breaks to keep them alive, and he has designated a space in his home for them to live in during summer break, as he’s planning on bringing them back to school in the fall to continue to enhance lessons—and to inspire the kind of wonder that access to living creatures offers.

“It's fun to invite that kind of close observation—to go beyond glancing at something to taking a really close look,” he said. “There's so much to learn from watching the simple organism.”

STEM

Ski racer Mary Bocock, who competes with Utah's Rowmark Ski Academy, has been nominated for the 2021–22 US Alpine Ski Team

Since the age of six, Rowland Hall junior—and passionate ski racer—Mary Bocock has had a big goal: to join the US Ski Team. That dream just came true.

I’ve wanted to be on the team ever since I started racing, so getting the call felt like I was achieving a goal I’d had for over 10 years.—Mary Bocock, class of 2022

On May 3, US Ski & Snowboard announced that 44 top national athletes, including Mary, have been nominated for the US Alpine Ski Team for the 2021–2022 competition season (athletes qualify based on published selection criteria in the prior season). Mary is one of only three new members of the women’s Development Team, also known as the D-Team; she’s also the youngest addition to that team and the only new member hailing from the state of Utah.

“When I got the call from [US Ski Team Coach] Chip Knight congratulating me on my nomination to the D-Team, I was overwhelmed with excitement,” said Mary. “I’ve wanted to be on the team ever since I started racing, so getting the call felt like I was achieving a goal I’d had for over 10 years. I am looking forward to skiing with a group of girls who push me and who know what it takes to be the best.”

Mary had a sensational 2020–2021 race season, which included a November 2020 US Nationals performance with Rowmark Ski Academy that earned her an invitation to compete with the US Ski Team in Europe. After placing in several races in Cortina, Italy, and Garmisch, Germany, in early 2021, Mary returned to the United States to finish the season: at the FIS Elite Races at Sugar Bowl Resort and Squaw Valley, California, she took 10th place overall (second for U19s) in giant slalom, and 11th place overall (fourth for U19s) in slalom. At the FIS Spring Series in Breckenridge, Colorado, she won the giant slalom race—a win that currently ranks her second in the nation and sixth in the world in giant slalom for her age, as well as first and ninth in the world in super-G. Finally, she ended the season with a 12th-place finish in super-G at the US National Championships in Aspen, Colorado.

Mary's fierce competitive nature is among the best in the world and I'm confident that she will take advantage of this opportunity.—Graham Flinn, head FIS coach

“Mary has worked incredibly hard day in, day out, not only this season but for many years in order to put herself in a position to accomplish the goal of being named to the US Ski Team,” said Graham Flinn, head FIS coach for Rowmark Ski Academy. “I'm very proud of the way she carried herself throughout this past year's successes and challenges. She continues to impress with her drive and ability to be a student of the sport. Her fierce competitive nature is among the best in the world and I'm confident that she will take advantage of this opportunity.”

The US Ski Team’s alpine athletes have already kicked off pre-season camps, and the official team will be announced this fall once nominees complete required physical fitness testing and US Ski & Snowboard medical department clearance. We will continue to update the Rowland Hall community on Mary’s progress in this exciting new chapter in her ski-racing career—which she’ll balance alongside her senior year at Rowland Hall—through the fall and winter.

Congratulations, Mary!


The below video, first shared with the Rowland Hall community in April 2021, features Mary's reflections on competing in Europe earlier this year.

Rowmark

A Rowland Hall middle schooler in class

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.

Desmos algebra art by Rowland Hall eighth grader Rebecca M.

Click image to view on Desmos.

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.

Desmos algebra art by Rowland Hall eighth grader Jojo P.

Click image to view on Desmos.

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.

Desmos algebra art by Rowland Hall eighth grader Erika P.

Click image to view on Desmos.

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.”

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

Algebra art 2021

 

STEM

Salt Lake City-based Rowland Hall's princiPALS podcast shares more about how to talk to kids about race.

The princiPALS are back in the office to revisit one of today’s most essential topics: how to talk to kids about race.

Since recording their first episode on this subject—which won a silver InspirED Brilliance Award—in February 2020, princiPALS Emma Wellman and Jij de Jesus have often reflected on the importance of returning to this conversation. The need to do so was made especially clear after recent events, including ongoing violence against people of color, have continued to underscore our collective need to examine and talk about racism.

Demonstrations and discussions about racial inequity in this country initiated a massive shift in the conversations about race and racism.—Emma Wellman, Beginning School principal

“Demonstrations and discussions about racial inequity in this country initiated a massive shift in the conversations about race and racism,” said Emma.

And because these conversations don’t just happen among adults, the princiPALS wanted to give parents and caregivers tools that will help them teach children how to have thoughtful conversations about race and racial differences. With their trademark warmth and approachability—and their understanding of how children learn best during the early childhood and elementary years—Emma and Jij provide listeners with strategies to help kids develop positive racial identity and awareness and to teach the skills and vocabulary necessary to comfortably and respectfully discuss race.

“We’re talking about having the attitudes, capacities, and skills to navigate a diverse and dynamic world,” said Jij.

The princiPALS also give listeners tips to model antiracist behaviors for children, including simple steps that they can start using today to help dismantle racism, since, as Jij noted, “small choices can add up to make a big impact.”

Join Emma, Jij, and host Conor Bentley ’01, as they discuss “How to Talk to Kids about Race, Part II,” available now on Rowland Hall’s website as well as Stitcher and Apple Podcasts.

Podcast resources:

Podcast

You Belong at Rowland Hall