As part of the fifth grade’s community-focused project-based learning opportunity, conducted between October 2022 and March 2023, students wrote reflection essays about their experiences. We hope you will enjoy reading them.
The below essays have been organized by the project’s four areas of focus: environment, unhoused community, arts and community spaces, and trails and parks.
Clean Air and Sustainable Energy
By Grayce B., Sam C., Leila C., Tessa G., Tenzin K., Ollie M., and Nilas S.
The Rowland Hall fifth graders have been doing projects to help the SLC community. Our group focused on making SLC powered by clean energy. We picked this topic because we are very interested in pollution and how it can affect our Salt Lake City. SLC has a lot of pollution and dirty air.
Our group split and made different mini-groups. Half of our group made a prototype of a peloton wheel, which is a water wheel that turns in a river to produce energy. The prototype was supposed to be better than the ones that already exist. First we did research and made a website, then we built the prototype and wrote the proposal. The other half of our group tried to tell Tesla to make cars that are powered by solar panels that are on top of the car. This project was fun because we had a choice about what we wanted to do.
This project was also different because it was about changing the world for the better. We learned that it is hard to work in a group and always stay on task. One challenge was finishing on time. One success was researching and writing down our information.
By Jack G., Matthias M., Eleanor P., Taylor S., Dylan S., and Clara S.
As a fifth grade, we split up into four different groups to make positive changes in our community as part of the environmental group, a group interested in helping the environment. Our subgroup split in half, one half made a website to raise awareness and one half made a petition to take action. First, for the website, we picked different types of animals to write about. We studied and wrote paragraphs about the animals. Then, we pooled our paragraphs together and created a website to inform people about Utah’s endangered animals.We all chose to study about endangered animals because we all care about animals and are interested in helping the earth. This is a worthy cause because animals are such a big part of our ecosystem and environment and help. For the petition, we researched what we could do to help endangered animals and decided to protect land. Then, we started on the letter to protect land, and gathered signatures for the petition. The letter and the petition is going to be sent to the Utah Department of Natural Resources to protect land.The letter will help animals because one of the reasons they are endangered is habitat loss. If one of the endangered animals becomes extinct the whole ecosystem will collapse, making a bigger problem for the environment. We also hope to achieve protecting land to help animals and the environment, as well as the Great Salt Lake because it’s drying up and forests help reduce the pollution.
This project was different because we actually did something, like taking action, awareness, or advocacy. This project was different because we got to make a change.
This project was different from other projects because we actually did something, like taking action, awareness, or advocacy. Whereas in other projects we just learned about subjects such as tribes, changemakers, and explorers. This project was different because we got to make a change and we created a website to inform people about Utah’s endangered animals. One challenge was that people in our group were on different pages. Another one of the challenges is that it was hard to find some information. Some of the successes we had were that we finished a website and the petition helped protect land and made us part of something bigger than ourselves. To sum it up, this project was very different from our other projects.
The Community Project
By Kade C., Aaron C., Josey H., Alessa L., Annika S., Raegan T., and Adrian T.
Our goal for this project is to help the Great Salt Lake not dry up.We want people to know why people should help save the Great Salt Lake. We all started by reading a New York Times article for our project with a lot of our information and pictures from NASA, that showed the water level of the Great Salt Lake compared across different times.
Our group split up into three different groups to focus on different aspects of saving the Great Salt Lake. One of the groups made a website to raise awareness about how to save water for the Great Salt Lake, and why we should. Another one of the other groups also made a website, and are organizing a protest. They looked up some information about the Great Salt Lake. They put the information in a google site, and added information about a protest for conserving water and saving the Great Salt Lake that they are organizing. The last group sent an email to a website that had a lot of information about the Great Salt Lake and were looking at the possibility of building a reservoir. This reservoir would use water from avalanches and snow that would normally not melt into the Great Salt Lake. This group decided to research the project of a pipe that the government wanted to use to get water to Salt Lake City and the farms. They decided that they wanted to build a reservoir with a pipe so that it would be more beneficial to the Great Salt Lake.
A way this was different from all of our other projects is that we had a little more freedom and it actually helps the Earth and our environment. A challenge we had was working with a team because some teammates would get distracted, then the other would get distracted and so on. One of our successes was being able to convert the information into our websites easily. To sum it up we are all trying to help the Great Salt Lake in many different ways.
Tiny Home Village for the Unhoused
By Alia D., Evie D., and Emi S.
For the community project, everybody first went to The Bend In The River, then employees from Ruff Haven came and talked to us about their mission to help keep unhoused people and their pets together. After that, we split into groups based on interests of ways to help unhoused people. Our group was interested in spreading awareness about the Tiny Village, a village with small houses for the chronically unhoused. We decided that we could make a 3D print of a tiny village, and we made a poster explaining about it. We learned about the Tiny Village, zoning laws, and steps that Utah is taking to decrease the number of people who are unhoused. We also learned that, unfortunately, one thousand to three thousand people are unhoused in Salt Lake City alone. This project was different from others because we learned about the Tiny Village, and then taught others about it, instead of just writing a report on it that probably only our teacher would read. Another way this project was different is because, unlike other projects, we were pretty much in charge of what we wanted to do, instead of having a teacher tell us what to do. This project was pretty independent compared to other projects.
There were many challenges in this project, including due dates, staying on task, and technical difficulties. Another challenge was staying on task because sometimes you get off task and joke around with friends but then we felt rushed to get everything done. However, there were many successes as well, such as our poster ended up looking good and being pretty informative. We also got all our work done on time. Looking back, we would have focused more while working and would’ve put more effort into our 3D print. The 3D print is not as detailed as we wanted and we didn’t plan ahead for technical difficulties, our first model turned into spaghetti and we needed help from Christian Waters to fix it in TinkerCad.
Craft Bags for the Unhoused Community Hosted by Rowland Hall 5th Grade Students
By Meryam B., Brittan C., Kate J., Simone R., Lina S., and Sabrina S.
Our project was to help unhoused people get entertainment because we thought that people in shelters might get bored and it could act as a therapy to get their minds off of stress. Our project started by listening to adult speakers, including some people from an organization called Ruff Haven. They talked about how they made a change in unhoused communities by helping unhoused people with their pets. Their presentation showed us there are many ways to help and after that we started researching things that we could do for unhoused folks. We read an article about a ballet program for kids in shelters and this made us want to give unhoused children entertainment and art like they did with the ballet. This made us want to make craft bags to give to unhoused folks for entertainment. Our craft bags included materials for paper masks, handmade jewelry, rice snowmen, and cards. Together we found a place to donate called Family Promise. We wrote an email contacting Family Promise asking if they would like to have the craft bags that we made. Once they agreed we started gathering materials for the bags. If we had more time we would probably make more craft bags to donate to other shelters and find another shelter to donate them. In conclusion, our craft bags turned out alright and we will be sending them to Family Promise as soon as possible. We learned that if you put your mind on something, you can achieve anything.
Fundraiser for Crossroads Urban Center
By Henry D., Jaxon D., Grayson H., Elijah L., Alice S., Rory U., and Solin V.
Our group did a hot chocolate fundraiser and a non perishable food and warm clothing drive for Crossroads Urban Center to help the unhoused population in Salt Lake City. We also wrote and delivered letters to companies like Smiths, Harmon, and Global Supermarket to ask if they could give us supplies to donate. First, we as a group watched videos and read books on the experiences of unhoused people and families. Also, we learned about stereotypes and assumptions and why you should use the word unhoused instead of homeless. We wanted to get supplies to help unhoused communities.
We ... watched videos and read books on the experiences of unhoused people and families. Also, we learned about stereotypes and assumptions and why you should use the word unhoused instead of homeless.
At first, we thought about making goody bags but we didn’t have materials to make goody bags with supplies. Then, we decided to start a warm clothing and food drive. We emailed Emma and Brittney to ask if we could do the drive. Then we made flyers for the Friday Facts and got bins for Lower School and Beginning School Lobby. Alice wanted to raise money with a hot chocolate stand, so she filled out a grant application to get the supplies and emailed Emma and Brittney for permission. We made posters to advertise the sale and then we worked with Dani from the business office. She made a website and gave us a cash box and change for the sale. We made $304 to donate to Crossroads Urban Center.
Usually, our projects for school are independent but this project was a group project and this project was bigger than other projects. In this project we were sharing our work and our ideas with Salt Lake City so that we can help a community of people. Making a change in the world involved a lot more time and work than other school projects because we had to find issues in the community that we wanted to solve. At first, some of us wanted to make more affordable housing, but we realized that it was hard to have the power to make that change. Then, we changed our idea because we wanted to be able to do the research and make an impact on our own, without so much adult help. It was hard to cooperate because at first we all wanted to do our own thing and it was hard to figure out what each of us could do for the project. We voted to figure out which part of the project we wanted to do and that helped us get into smaller groups. The smaller groups helped because then we didn’t have so many ideas coming in at the same time and we were able to split up the work better. Some of us learned that we get frustrated when we are trying to collaborate and get everyone’s ideas included into the final project. Sometimes, you need to be confident in what you want to do but also be flexible and try to understand what others want to do. We also learned there are a lot of unhoused people in the world and we can’t help everyone. In the end, we feel like we helped a good cause, we would probably do things differently but we feel like we learned a lot and we are better people for our community. One kid or a group of kids can really make an impact on a community.
Zoning Ordinances and Affordable Housing
By Liam S. and Nate V.
This endeavor exposed us to problems in our neighborhood and got us to consider the enormous impact that students could have on the community. We learned the value of the people in our community through this project.
We developed an iMovie to teach numerous building companies about an underutilized rule that allows a dwelling under 400 square feet on a residential site alongside a full-sized house. This would result in more accommodation for unhoused people or those unable to purchase a full-sized home. We decided on this project because we wanted to help the less fortunate members of the Salt Lake City community have access to affordable housing. This project was distinct from others we've completed this year since it required us to consider actual people and actual problems in Salt Lake City. Formerly, the subject was either in another country or in the past. We searched the zoning laws of Salt Lake City on Google and then read through a long article about zoning. While reading through this article and going through tiny house websites, we found out about the ordinance that could help unhoused communities. It was hard to not jump forward, and follow a process in this project. When we were still researching, we wanted to call builders immediately and we practiced writing a script and making a video instead. It is important to do this because then you have things to say and you have a stronger argument for making change. This endeavor exposed us to problems in our neighborhood and got us to consider the enormous impact that students could have on the community. We learned the value of the people in our community through this project.
By Will H., Eli K., and Rose M.
The Community Project was different from other school projects because we were trying to help our community. Other research projects we have done this year weren’t about raising awareness, it was about getting a grade in our class or learning about the past. We wanted to teach other people about issues facing the unhoused communities in Salt Lake City.
Eli and Will wanted to stop people from making assumptions about unhoused people. So, we made a poster to share with parents, the school, and gyms. We want everyone to be treated equally and thought that our project would help do that. The thing that we learned about ourselves as learners is that we kept thinking that we were done but we still had more work to do. We started to make our poster, without making a plan or doing research first. We were rushing, and even though we thought we’d be done in a week, it actually took more time than that. At first, we were relying on just our own experience and we learned that while our own experience can help, we should also learn from others’ experiences. We read an article about 3D printed homes for a Tiny Village and then we found graphs that showed how the percentage of unhoused people has risen over time.
Rose wanted to raise awareness about Equine Therapy. Equine Therapy is horse therapy and it can help in many ways. One way is that horses can feel what you feel, so they are good therapy animals. It can also bring down your level of stress and anxiety. Unhoused people may have gone through a lot of stressful things in their lives so Equine Therapy can really help bring down the stress. Rose made a poster that shared the barns that do Equine Therapy with unhoused people and wrote an email to other barns seeing if they would be interested in adding a program to help unhoused people. I think this project was challenging because I was working on my own because I wanted to learn more about Equine Therapy. I really like researching horses because horses are half of my life because I am a horseback rider. This project let me research horses and connect it to helping unhoused people.
Arts and Community Spaces
Community Project: Chess Patio Mural
By Talia B., Neal N., Pierce P., Bodhi S., Victoria S., and Elliott S.
This project was different from many other projects that we have done, because we had a lot more independence. In other projects, we always knew how it was going to end up. But in this project, we did not know how it was going to end. ... We were the ones who got to decide the final product.
For our community project, we wanted to bring art to Rowland Hall by making a mural because we have noticed how little art there is here. We noticed that the only art is the glass collage at the beginning school. We feel like the kids in our school are great at expressing themselves through art, but we don’t have enough student art. We researched the benefits and impacts of public art in communities. Public art like murals is a part of a thriving community because it can help bring the community together. Public art can also spark conversations, brighten up areas, and more.
We proposed to make a community mural on the patio by the giant chess board. We wanted to bring in an artist to help guide the students in making our community mural. We like to see artwork that we have made displayed. We think that more student art, like the chess patio mural, can help us reach our goal of a thriving community.
This project was different from many other projects that we have done, because we had a lot more independence than other projects. In other projects, we always knew how it was going to end up. But in this project, we did not know how it was going to end. We were on our own to think independently. We were the ones who got to decide the final product.
Community Project: Monthly Student Mural
By Juliette C., Iris O., and Bella S.
What we are proposing in this community project is to add a student mural. This mural is going to be located on the wall by the chessboard behind the Chapel. We are thinking about a mural that fifth grade students will be able to draw on and it will have a monthly theme. For example, February would be Black History Month. Each class has its own section of the wall and they would change their mural every month. We think that the fourth graders will be able to get excited that they are going to get to draw on the mural next year.
We chose to do this project because we wanted kids to be able to express themselves through community art. We believe that art will make people come together. We learned that kids should have chances to express themselves sometimes through art or other ways.
This project is different from other projects because we got to choose most of what we were doing. The teachers were there to guide us and help us with our thinking. Unlike other projects which we knew what we would do, this project was one-of-a-kind. In this project we had the choice to either make something or design something to help our community. To sum it up, this is a very big but exciting project. We have never had this chance before, usually students do the research only and not come up with what they actually are doing, the project and the product. We got to choose whatever we wanted to do within the idea of community space and the arts.
By Liam B., Riley L., and Joslin S.
Gardens are a place for people to relax, admire the flowers, and to release stress. Nature is important for our mental health, like when you go to a place with flowers it can make you feel happy and relaxed. We proposed two kinds of gardens for our community. We would like to grow a flower garden by the friendship bench because it will be a good place for people to come together. It can help students with social anxiety.
We also wanted to have a community vegetable garden. Fresh vegetables are healthy. They are a good source of vitamins. We wanted to grow the garden on the patio by the dining room so the cafeteria people have fresh vegetables right outside the door. They can go out and pick them and wash them and cook them instead of buying the vegetables from the grocery store.
We learned a lot about how health and community benefits of gardening. The hardest part of the project was finding the cost and the things we would need to start building the gardens. Also it was difficult to figure out where we could put everything and make it happen. This project was different because we actually had a chance to have a positive impact to change our community. It was also a challenge because we were in groups of people from other classes, but we worked together really well.
Community Project: Tree Climbing
By Madeline H., Juliet V., Arly W., and Elle W.
When we were little, we loved to climb trees. We can’t climb trees on campus in fifth grade. We are planning to grow trees on the Northwest corner of the playground soccer field because many of us miss climbing trees. As older kids we need trees that can hold more weight. We also think there should be more trees on the Rowland Hall campus.
In this project we were more independent. The teacher was a guide, but we were mostly thinking of our own ideas. We weren’t assigned something everyone did. We created our own projects.
We learned that sycamore trees grow super fast and are very strong. They can take so many different types of conditions like pollution and bad weather. We presented our project to Mick and to Emma. Mick talked to us about the cost of planting the trees. He also mentioned that we might need people to place the trees. He said this was a legacy project because we wouldn’t be able to climb on the trees but the next generation would get to climb on the trees. When we talked to Emma, she said it was a good idea, but we need to talk to Anne Burnett. She is in charge of all the trees and nature on campus.
Our community project is different from other projects we have done. For example, in the past, projects were individual. In the community project we’re in groups. We were thinking of how we can help our community or Salt Lake City’s community. We focused on the Rowland Hall community. In this project we were more independent. The teacher was a guide, but we were mostly thinking of our own ideas. We weren’t assigned something everyone did. We created our own projects.
Music Creating Playground
By Avery B. and Ahmi F.
Music is an important part of life. It brings people together and just makes you happy. We watched a video about a music creating playground, this inspired us to learn more about them. We learned that music making playgrounds bring kids together to create music and inspire each other. There are one or two music playgrounds in Utah. There’s a really big one in Moab.
In school it is important to have places where people can be creative. We noticed that Rowland Hall doesn’t have many spaces for us to be creative at recess. We wrote a proposal to encourage the school to build a musical playground for the lower school by the rocks and wood chips. We think that lots of kids would use this. They might fight over it because they are bored of using the same thing every day, like the swings and slides.
This has been a long project. It was hard to find what we wanted to do, because we had to think independently. I liked that we could do what we wanted with the project. (Ahmi). I liked it when we got to the end and I got to use model magic to create musical instruments for kids.
Community Project: Community Sport Day
By Zipporah G. and Layla L.
My group decided to plan a Community Sport Day where the Lower School community could all come together. We thought of this because community is an important part of a school so why not make it extra important by bringing everyone together in celebration.
Zip and I learned during this project that community gatherings can not only bring people close together, but also to have fun by doing it. It makes it extra special for kids to play together and have fun with friends. It's different from what people usually would think about getting a community together, it’s not just a party, but it’s actually the same, it’s a party plus more. Meaning that having a sports fun day is usually seen as a party type thing, but what we were trying to do was bring the community together.
This project was challenging - coming up with what to do and talking to the right people. We talked to Kathryn and Laura about our project. We also talked to Mick. Mick told us to think about where and when to hold our sports fun day. Colleen said that it’s a way to bring people together because a lot of people love sports and having parents come is great because they need a break too. The best part of the project was researching and looking on Amazon for the prices of things we needed like face paint. It’s not everyday that you get to go on Amazon at school. We also enjoyed going around campus and taking photos, and practicing our proposal so we were prepared to talk to people.
Trails and Parks
The Trail Etiquette Group
By Milo C., Maia C., Elle H., and William P.
Trail etiquette is a very big problem in SLC. Many trail users disagree on who has the right of way. Our group (Maia C., Milo C., William P. and Elle H.) did some research and found out that bikers yield to all. Hikers yield only to equestrians and equestrians yield to no one. This is important information for trail users in SLC.
There was still one problem. The past signs that talked about trail etiquette are brown and bland. They blended in too much. People also didn’t pay attention to the signs because they just wanted to keep going on the trail. Our solution for spreading the info is making neon signs which one of us (Maia) made and we decided to put the signs in outfitting stores where they will be more noticed because then when people are waiting in line, they won't have anything to do.
Another thing that makes this project different is we can finally get involved with the issues in SLC. Many people in our grade have tried to get involved and finally we have the chance to make a change.
We hope that this whole project will benefit SLC trail users every time that they use a SLC trail. This project is different from the other projects that we’ve done because in the past we haven't been allowed to pick what the project is about. Another thing that makes this project different is we can finally get involved with the issues in SLC. Many people in our grade have tried to get involved and finally we have the chance to make a change.
All of us have started to notice what we can work on as learners. Milo learned a lot about different things. Some were about teamwork, some about himself. He learned that he could do some things that he never thought he could do. Maia learned that working in a team can be hard because you sometimes disagree, but can be useful to check your work and have support. She also learned that you can do a lot more than you think. Elle learned different things about herself. She learned that working in a group can have its pros and cons because everyone has different opinions and views. She also learned that it is important to listen to everyone's ideas even if she doesn’t always agree with their opinions. William learned that it was hard to work in a group with 2 people who had very high standards for the quality of work whom he got in arguments with.
In conclusion, our group learned a lot about ourselves and about our topic. We hope we make a change in the SLC community.
Sunnyside Park Cleanup
By Graham G., Mackenzie H., and Ella K.
Our names are Ella, Mackenzie, and Graham and we are doing a school project for the community. Tyler Fonarow, the recreational trails manager, who inspired us to try to figure out a way to help the parks and trails. Rowland Hall is connected to Sunnyside Park but there is a lot of trash there. The trash is not good for the kindergartners here, they go almost every day. The trash in parks also isn't great for the community. We want to send the message that all parks should be protected with cleanliness and cared for.
We learned that people can help by at least doing a simple mission like volunteering at a park cleanup day. We also learned what it’s like to plan big projects that other people will help with. Ella learned that working with people can be hard especially when we don’t agree but it is always better when people work together! Mackenzie learned how to be efficient with research and planning. She also learned how to plan really big events and keep people organized and focused. Graham learned that sometimes big projects have ups and downs, and sometimes you just have to start completely over, but they are usually pretty great if you try hard enough.
This project is different from other projects for us because we had to do something that involved the community and we had never done that before. We had to do a lot of planning and that was probably the most difficult out of all of our projects. It also would probably be seen by lots of people. We started by planning out what would happen. Then we talked to Tyler Fonarow for some advice about the plan and then we talked to Emma Wellman about the idea.
The Dog Doo Dilemma
By Alfie B., Lucas D., David K., and Tommy M.
When we were asked to draw a picture about something that concerned us or interested us about parks and trails Tommy, Alfie, Lucas and David all drew about dogs and dog poop. After that happened, Colleen put us in a group devoted to helping eliminate dog poop in Sunny Side Park. Then we researched dog poop and went to sunny side park with Fabi to count dog bag dispensers and we came up zero, although we did count twenty one dog poops and there were probably more under the snow. We thought this park needed a poop bag dispenser, so we made it our mission to get a poop bag dispenser at sunnyside. We emailed people about how to get a poop bag dispenser at sunny side park. Our group got two park rangers to come and tell us about who refills the poop bag dispensers. They gave us the email to the director of sunny side park: Mat Jones. We sent an email to him about meeting up with him at sunny side. We met him and he said maybe we could put the dispenser on the sunny side area.
This project is way different than any other project I’ve done. The reason is because the indigenous people project we were just researching and not brainstorming ideas, also we weren’t publishing our work in a global magazine that someone in Europe can get access to which is what we're doing with the community project. With no guidance from a teacher we really had no idea what we were going to do, with other projects it easy because the teachers told us what to do and we would just follow the directions and have the project done with, with this project brought a lot more stress because it was just me, Tommy, Alfie, and David brainstorming ideas to change dog poop in parks and trails.
David learned that I work better alone because I feel like there are less distractions and sometimes as a team you don’t always get along and you just don’t get any work done. Alfie learned as a Learner that you should always stay concentrated and that you should at least give ideas or help writing. Lucas learned that he is very flexible with group ideas and that if there’s an idea he doesn’t like he will make suggestions and work with it. Tommy learned that I should listen to my group members.