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Welcome, Parents of Alumni!

You're valued members of our community, and we hope you enjoy a rewarding association with the school even after your students graduate. You're invited to attend community events, join volunteer committees, and remain connected with other Rowland Hall families!

We hope you will join us for our annual Parents of Alumni gathering this spring. Save the Dates will be emailed in the fall, so please update your contact information using the link below.

Resources & Important Links

Parents of Alumni Co-Chairs

Janes Family

Greg and Anne Elliott, parents of alumni Keith '99, Michael '01, and Elizabeth '07.

School Stories from Fine Print Magazine

Two Rowland Hall fifth-grade interns welcome visitors to Grandparents Day 2023.

Signs of spring are beginning to show on the McCarthey Campus, which means people are already hard at work preparing for end-of-year festivities. What might be surprising, though, is that not all of these people are grown-ups.

This year, fifth-grade interns have been playing important roles in planning some of Rowland Hall’s most exciting events, including the upcoming Richard R. Steiner Campus groundbreaking and Lower School Spirit Game. But events aren't the only way fifth graders are making a difference. That’s because the 2023–2024 school year is the inaugural year of the 5-I Fifth-Grade Internship Program, a first-of-its-kind optional leadership program that connects fifth graders with McCarthey Campus staff, administrative, and leadership teams for a yearlong authentic learning experience in which students make real impact on campus.

The in-school 5-I Fifth-Grade Internship Program is designed to help fifth-grade leaders:
• Take initiative
• Individualize learning
• Develop interests
• Impact the community
• Be inspired

In this first year alone, the program’s 34 interns are supporting 19 departments and teams, making it difficult to find an area of the beginning and lower schools that students aren’t impacting. They’ve helped to plan, execute, and lead Community Sings, Roar and Soar assemblies, Grandparents Day, and Maker Night. They’ve observed teachers and supported younger students with their math, reading, and writing. They’ve welcomed prospective families on campus tours. They’ve surveyed their peers to learn what they want to see on the new campus. And they’ve provided necessary behind-the-scenes support, from sorting the mail to answering technology support tickets.

“I think it’s cool seeing how the school works,” said fifth grader Anna F., one of three interns who’s helped create Lower School Spirit Nights, new opportunities for lower schoolers to come together to cheer on the Winged Lions. Classmate Bergen S., one of two interns who assisted with Grandparents Day and is now weighing in on the upcoming Steiner Campus groundbreaking festivities, added, “It’s a really good learning experience. It’s nice to know how much people in the offices contribute to our daily lives.”

Beginning School and Lower School Assistant Principal Brittney Hansen ’02, who led the design and rollout of the 5-I program, knows this kind of opportunity is developmentally appropriate for fifth graders, and right in line with the school’s strategic priorities, which emphasize authentic learning that increases student choice and voice. As the oldest students in the division, fifth graders are ready to stretch their leadership skills while also exploring their budding interests. They want to put into practice their talents and knowledge to better their school. And they’re interested in what it’s like to have a job, with many ready to explore the type of right-fit challenges that internships provide—and which can help prepare them for the next stage of their education.

“We’re looking at the trajectory for what they’ll need by middle school,” said Brittney. “What skills do they need to be successful?”

Photos by Charlie P., marketing and communication intern

And because Brittney and the Lower School principals team wanted to emphasize the real-world nature of the program, they kicked it off with an application process that echoes what students may one day see when applying for positions outside of school. Prospective interns were asked to write essays explaining why they wanted to join the program, what they hoped to learn, why they were strong candidates, and any areas of the school in which they’d like to work and why. They also needed a parent or guardian signature, as well as a letter of recommendation from an adult who wasn’t a relative or homeroom teacher because, as Brittney explained, “We wanted to give the kids practice in appropriately asking a grown-up for help in completing an application process.”

Building these kinds of life skills is important to the 5-I experience. “This program builds skills that are hard to learn in a classroom or traditional curriculum, like writing a professional email and responding in a timely way, or writing thank-you notes to express gratitude for someone giving their time to you,” said Brittney. Students also had to take on responsibility for their applications; although plenty of grown-ups were on hand to provide support and guidance, applicants were in charge of ensuring that their essays and other materials were completed and turned in on time. But the fifth graders weren’t deterred.

“I always get my work done and never say no to a little challenge,” read one aspiring intern’s essay. Another shared, “I am a hard worker. I always take my best shot at every challenge that comes my way.”

Thirty-four fifth graders—more than half of the class—submitted applications in which they made clear their excitement for this new opportunity.

And though the idea of the 5-I program had been met with enthusiasm by fifth graders, Brittney didn’t expect a big group for the first year (she originally envisioned a pilot program of 12 participants). However, 34 fifth graders—more than half the class—submitted applications in which they made clear their excitement for this new opportunity. Since October, these interns have been hard at work, connecting with mentors monthly and taking on tasks across campus that both teach them how the school runs and help them learn more about themselves.

For Anna, one of the interns behind Lower School Spirit Nights, a major takeaway from the program (so far) is an understanding of the effort it takes to transform big-picture brainstorming into a real community event. “It’s important because kids see how much work and effort go into major events, from thinking big to making it happen,” said Anna. She also shared how exciting it’s been for students to have a hand in creating school events. “It’s not a little bubble; it’s more real-world scenarios,” she said. “It really improves teamwork, and trying hard, and dedication.”

It also improves connections across grades. Fifth grader Katie P., one of two interns for the Student Support Team, gives mini lessons to kindergartners and third graders every week and is learning that working with kids is one of her passions. “​​It’s fun. We get to have a different experience every time,” she said. And as a longtime Rowland Hall student, Katie can also apply her own experiences to this work. “I remember when I was that young,” she said. “I remember when I was so confused or when I understood things.” By tapping into what helped her, she’s making concepts easier for students and building connections, especially with the third graders. 

Importantly, 5-I also helps interns learn the value of their voices. Bergen, one of the interns who helped plan this year’s Grandparents Day, shared that he helped write the program script in collaboration with intern Zoe Y. and under the guidance of Associate Director of Alumni and Donor Engagement Marc DeCoste, and that being a part of that process was really fun. “They listened to me and asked me to contribute my ideas,” he said. Additionally, using the script to welcome visitors to campus for the event boosted Bergen’s public-speaking confidence. “I never spoke to a group that large before,” he said. “I felt like I knew what I was doing.”

These benefits go both ways. Adult mentors across campus are full of stories about how wonderful it’s been to have the interns’ support. Director of Enrollment Management Shuja Khan, for one, said his intern, Mila P., greatly benefited his team during the admission season, when she helped build the Rowland Hall community by giving time during recess every Tuesday morning for 12 weeks to welcome prospective families to campus. “Every family was surprised and happy to see her,” said Shuja. “Parents have so many interactions with teachers, administrators, and other parents, but it’s harder to have authentic interactions with kids.”

And Mila’s willingness to share her own experiences opened opportunities for Shuja and his team to have deeper discussions with families about curriculum and the school’s strategic vision. The Admission Office is so impressed they're already thinking about how they can expand opportunities for next year’s interns—and they’re not alone. Chief Information Officer Patrick Godfrey, whose team is supporting three interns, also looks forward to the future of 5-I.

Photos by Charlie P., marketing and communication intern

“This is a fantastic program,” said Patrick. “It’s a way for students to connect outside the classroom with people like me that they wouldn’t ordinarily connect with, and see other sides of the school that they would never see otherwise.” As a result, many members of the staff, especially those who don’t regularly interact with students, feel a deeper commitment to Rowland Hall’s vision. “It’s a more direct path to the why behind the work we do each day,” added Brittney.

This internship program is one example of how we're thinking creatively about learning.—Brittney Hansen ’02, Beginning School and Lower School assistant principal

It’s also a rewarding way for staff to see firsthand how authentic learning successfully builds skills and confidence in students, and helps those students actually see themselves as problem solvers and critical thinkers. For Patrick, who’s watched his team’s interns blossom as they’ve taken on tasks such as basic troubleshooting, running a light board, and beta testing software, this is the ultimate end product for a school.

“I have three students now who can troubleshoot classroom tech for teachers,” he said. “Kids are talking about it all the time when they go home; they’re really jazzed about it. There’s no cost but extremely high reward for students who participate. It’s a huge win for the school in my book.”

And it’s already promising to become a top experience for Rowland Hall’s fifth graders (younger students are even asking when it’ll be their turn to intern). Brittney said she could see it turning into a capstone-like project for this grade, marking the end of their Lower School careers—and serving as just one example of the exceptional outcomes of a Rowland Hall education.

“The Lower School team really does take the work of providing authentic learning experiences seriously and in a way that’s appropriate for our young learners,” said Brittney. “This internship program is one example of how we're thinking creatively about learning, in the broad sense, on this campus.”

Authentic Learning

Banner photo: Interns Zoe Y. and Bergen S. welcome visitors to Grandparents Day.

Rowland Hall high school students work on a water tower engineering project.

If you’ve walked by Robin Hori’s science classroom during periods 2 or 7 this semester, chances are you’ve caught a glimpse of students in the middle of a project build.

From water towers to bridges to trebuchets, students in grades 10 through 12 have been putting science and math to the test this year in the Upper School’s first ever, and student-requested, engineering class. Titled Integrated Engineering I and II (Engineering I and II beginning in 2024–2025), this lab-based course deeply emphasizes the engineering design cycle while exploring a variety of engineering fields: civil, mining, and chemical engineering in the fall, and mechanical, electrical, and materials engineering in the spring.

The Upper School engineering class is a lab-based course that emphasizes the engineering design cycle while exploring a variety of fields: civil, mining, and chemical engineering (fall), and mechanical, electrical, and materials engineering (spring).

“For years, we’ve been getting feedback from students that they want an engineering class,” said Upper School Principal Ingrid Gustavson. By designing a fresh approach to the Upper School’s earliest science courses (taken in 9th and 10th grades), Ingrid and her team made room for more subjects that students are interested in, including engineering. Longtime physics teacher Robin Hori was also game to take on this new opportunity—though he wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming reaction from the student body.

“It’s been more successful than I expected,” laughed Robin, whose fall class was filled with students who wanted to continue the course into spring semester—in addition to an entirely separate group of students who wanted to join the spring class. (Upper School students can take engineering during either fall or spring semester, or they can enroll in both semesters consecutively.) The Upper School had to add a second spring class to meet demand.

“The kids were so excited about it that we were approved to open up another section,” said Ingrid, “and Robin took on the class to give everybody that experience.”

It’s clear that this experience is meaningful to these students, many of whom were excited to share their gratitude, particularly about the hands-on nature of the class. As junior Spencer Brady put it, “Engineering is something you do; it's not something you just learn in theory,” and it was important to Robin to structure the class so students fully experience that doing of science in ways that stretch their brains and build their confidence.

Rowland Hall high schoolers work on an engineering project.

“A lot of students have never built anything before and they’re really impressed they can actually build something that works,” said Robin. “Kids are really making an effort to understand why something works. And I’m trying to give them a sense that they can build things out of almost anything, and as long as they follow the science, they know it’ll work.”

To nurture these skills, Robin has structured the class around projects that support each field of engineering, such as building bridges during the study of civil engineering or building trebuchets during the study of mechanical engineering. Students are placed in small groups to promote real-world collaboration and given plenty of room to lead their own learning. Though Robin decides on assignments and parameters—for example, the first-semester bridge-building final required students’ projects to span 100 centimeters and support a moving load—he gives students plenty of freedom, acting as a coach and guide while they problem solve.

There’s lots of freedom in the class to explore.—Andrew Johnson, class of 2024

“He provides materials and concepts, then it’s up to the students to decide what path they want to take—and they can push outside guidelines,” explained senior Andrew Johnson. “There’s lots of freedom in the class to explore.”

For senior Kelton Ferriter, there’s also very low pressure. “It's kind of a perfect, stress-free, good way to get into engineering and explore various areas,” he said. “There’s so much creative freedom.” And this low-pressure approach is beneficial when it comes to practicing the engineering design cycle, from conducting research to creating a prototype to building a final project—and moving back and forth along that path through trial and error.

“These are big concepts, but being able to put them into a physical project and to really see how that works, and to watch where failures happen and when, it’s just a different dimension for learning,” said Kelton.

It’s also helping students become more comfortable with mistakes. “This semester, kids are more patient with failures because they know failure in engineering helps them become more successful,” said Robin. As a result, he continued, “final products are getting a lot better in terms of design, and students are better at explaining the mechanics of how and why a machine works or doesn’t work.”

To help his students become better at learning from mistakes, Robin requires them to keep professional engineering notebooks in which they record projects, including notes, observations, steps, designs, and corrections. All work is done in ink and students are trained to never tear out pages so that they can refer back to what they’ve done. For Spencer, an aspiring engineer and member of the school’s Monochromats robotics team, this is a key takeaway from the class. As a young builder, Spencer said he’s always been told to write down what he’s working on, but he never quite knew how until this year. “I really like how the class has taught me how exactly you write everything down and what you put in an engineering journal,” he shared.

A Rowland Hall high school engineering student works on calculations for a project build.

“It’s nice to be able to go back and see where we made a mistake,” added Kelton, who’s acted as project manager for his group at times, a role that’s also helped him better understand how many ways there are to tackle a problem. “Everyone has a different idea and way to approach it, no matter what the project is,” he said. “The class is so open and creative.”

These are big concepts, but being able to put them into a physical project and to really see how that works, and to watch where failures happen and when, it’s just a different dimension for learning.—Kelton Ferriter, class of 2024

And the class isn’t just for one type of student. Every person brings to the table their individual talents and ideas, strengthening each project and even helping the students better understand where they may want to go next in their education and careers. Senior Rosie Schaefer, for one, said that the engineering class, which she’s taking after a summer 2023 internship with biomechanics professor Dr. Brittany Coats at the Utah Head Trauma Lab, has helped her better identify her career path.

“I realized I want to go into biomechanics—to help people with engineering,” she said. “I really enjoy research and I think that’s what I ultimately want to end up doing.” And, continued Rosie, in-class opportunities to share her evaluations of her group’s projects have helped her identify a talent of conveying science. “Where I’ve excelled is in the explanation of how things work: putting into words why what we’re doing makes sense,” she said.

Whatever their individual takeaways, though, many of the students agree that the class isn’t just for aspiring engineers. It’s for anyone who wants to learn more about the field, to build like a kid again, and to discover more about themselves. And because there are no prerequisites for the class, it makes what can often be thought of as a rarefied subject more accessible, opening doors to students who may not have tried it out otherwise. It’s just one example of how the team is putting Rowland Hall’s vision into action.

“As we evolve new courses, we’re offering new opportunities for students to go really deep,” said Ingrid. “And we’re offering life-changing and skill-building opportunities that are accessible to everyone.”


Rowland Hall eighth graders hold a Salt Lake City event to celebrate Black changemakers.

Black History Month is in February, but Black history is being made every day by people taking action and building on the work of their predecessors. Reconciling the two can be a tricky process, but recently eighth graders at Rowland Hall not only made the connections, but were able to bring them to life in an afternoon of art, spoken word, and other expressions.

Resist: An Arts Cafe was a community event where each student presented about two Black activists, one from the past and one from the present. Students were encouraged to find not only what the two had in common, but also where their work or ideas differentiated, and how the idea of resistance may have morphed or changed over time.

With activism in the past, it was more focused on speaking out and protesting. But my present-day changemaker focuses on working on the system and trying to change injustices within the law.—Yara B., eighth grade

“With activism in the past, it was more focused on speaking out and protesting,” said eighth grader Yara B. “But my present-day changemaker focuses on working on the system and trying to change injustices within the law. It gave me different perspectives.”

“This was an amazing opportunity to further our commitment to equity and inclusion,” said Director of Strategic Initiatives Jij de Jesus. “The students were not only talking about what change looked like in the past but what it looks like now in our local community.”

For the project, numerous members of Utah’s Black community were invited to come into the classroom and speak to the students about their work, their influences, and their lives. This was an important element of the project for eighth-grade American Studies teacher Eve Grenlie, who wanted it not only to be about learning but also about creating community.

“This was a way to build authentic relationships with changemakers and activists, and let the students find similar elements of resistance or resilience on different historical timelines to kind of blend together a narrative,” she said. “I don’t think it would have been impactful if we hadn’t had these people get involved.”

Two Rowland Hall eighth graders dance at Resist: Arts Cafe in February 2024.

Eighth graders chose how they wanted to communicate subjects, including through dance.

James Jackson, author and founder of the Utah Black Chamber, welcomed the invitation to meet with the students. He saw this as an opportunity not only to introduce them to activism but also to lift students of color.

“Projects like this are critical, especially for underrepresented students, because they don’t usually see professionals that look like them walking around,” James said. “This was a way to bridge that gap, by inviting community members in to share their backgrounds and their experiences.”

This project was about expanding the mindsets of all of the students, not only through the subject matter but also in how they would present their projects at the event. Everyone was allowed to decide on how best to communicate the lives of their subjects and their impacts on resistance efforts. Some chose to write, while others composed dances, built art pieces, or even cooked up gumbo.

“It wasn’t about writing an essay. It was about students being able to make connections and create pieces to explain their message and their takeaways,” said Middle School Principal Pam Smith. “The students really had to grapple with different topics and ideas, do personal investigation, and then decide how to display.”

“There were some pretty profound pieces created that showed empathy and understanding and personal connection with both historical and current-day figures,” added Middle School Assistant Principal Charlotte Larsen. “This project pushed and stretched students in some really wonderful ways.”

Rowland Hall eighth graders share art with community members at Resist: Arts Cafe in February 2024..

Students shared their art with Resist attendees.

Many of the people interviewed by the students attended the cafe to view the finished projects—and were blown away by the work the students had done. Melanie D. Davis, Rowland Hall parent and mental health care activist, was amazed that one of the students compared her work helping people carry grief and other emotions with how Harriet Tubman helped people carry themselves as they were escaping enslavement. She also was excited by the possibilities this event created for the future.

It was so inspirational. It gave me a whole new perspective on how I can get involved in the community.—Yara B., eighth grade

“It was pretty cool, not only for the community to realize that this is what’s happening at Rowland Hall, but for the kids to realize that there are these really amazing community organizations that they can be a part of too,” she said. “I think it’s amazing for the kids to meet people of color doing cool stuff and know they are invited to take part.”

The presence of their modern-day mentors at the event was an important part of this project for the students. Having their finished pieces viewed by their subjects gave the work they had done a greater gravitas.

“It was so inspirational,” said Yara. “It gave me a whole new perspective on how I can get involved in the community, talking to these activists and having them see what I think and what I can do.”

Experiences like these are ones Eve hopes will be repeated through a strengthening of community ties. “You don’t want to do a one-off; you hope you are building strong roots within a community so you can continue moving forward and have further depth of knowledge,” she said. “Everything gets hopefully stronger in time.”

Community Engagement

A Rowland Hall preschooler sketches a class-created model of the Utah State Capitol.

Have you ever watched a child play with blocks? 

It’s something that almost every child does. There is something innate in the human brain that makes us want to stack and position items from our earliest age. Building with blocks is such an important skill that is tracked as a child development milestone. In the Rowland Hall Beginning School, though, blocks are more than that—they are the foundation of a transformational education. 

In the work we are doing you can see all the skills we teach the students at Rowland Hall, no matter what their age. Making a plan, organizing it, sticking with it, learning to fail, learning to make mistakes, listening to others, it’s all there.—Isabelle Buhler, 4PreK lead teacher

“We have been doing block study and block building for many, many years,” said 4PreK lead teacher Isabelle Buhler. “In the work we are doing you can see all the skills we teach the students at Rowland Hall, no matter what their age. Making a plan, organizing it, sticking with it, learning to fail, learning to make mistakes, listening to others, it’s all there.” 

Block study starts out with the basics: the names and shapes of blocks, their functions, how to care for them, how to work together to build with them, and how to put them away. It doesn’t stay simple for long, though: by four years old, students in the Beginning School have transformed into miniature architects. 

“We start looking at how to make structures more stable and learn building techniques like plank and pillar, and staggering,” said 4PreK lead teacher Ella Slaker. “We start looking at buildings in books, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and talk about how we could make it better. And we look at buildings locally to see where we can identify the building techniques we are learning.” 

This year the 4PreK took advantage of the school’s central location and visited the Utah State Capitol as part of their block study. Accompanied by their fourth-grade buddies, the students walked up and down the grand stairs, counted the beehives that dot the grounds, and marveled at the high domed ceilings covered in beautiful murals. They also noticed how the marble walls are built in a staggered pattern to make them stronger, and how the soaring pillars support the planks of the ceilings and roof. They took in all these details for their next project: building models of the capitol themselves. 

“The idea was to get them thinking about it,” said 4PreK lead teacher Kirsten White. “We wanted to start with inspiring them by seeing the capitol firsthand, the inside and all around.” 

Rowland Hall preschoolers work on their Utah State Capitol project.

Left: 4PreK students work on blueprints. Right: Students draw and label their finished capitol.

Like any good architects, the students didn’t start building immediately. First, they had to draw up blueprints. Using pictures from books as well as those taken on their field trip, the students drew plans to build their capitols. Then, they decided which blocks and techniques to use to build the levels, the columns, the dome, and other aspects of the structure.

The great thing about this project is that it goes across the curriculum. When we drew the blueprints from memory and photos, it required tracing straight or curvy lines and orienting them correctly. The building process required knowing shapes and counting blocks, which falls under math skills. Building a balanced, stable, and symmetrical building engaged physics skills.—Kirsten White, 4PreK lead teacher

“The great thing about this project is that it goes across the curriculum,” said Kirsten. “When we drew the blueprints from memory and photos, it required tracing straight or curvy lines and orienting them correctly. The building process required knowing shapes and counting blocks, which falls under math skills. Building a balanced, stable, and symmetrical building engaged physics skills.”

Social-emotional learning concepts came into play during the construction of the capitol models. No child built their model alone; they all had to work either in small groups or as a class. That meant using cooperation and letting everyone have a say in how they were going to proceed. It also meant learning to deal with setbacks. 

“The collaboration is huge. It takes a lot of stamina and a lot of coaching,” said Isabelle.  “And when it falls down what do you do? You start again and you don’t give up.”

The wide range of skills being explored in this project meant that every child could have a role, no matter their learning style or talents. It’s an excellent example of how voice and choice are promoted in the classroom. Students with an eye for detail helped perfect the plans and guide the builders, while those with more adept motor skills placed blocks so they balanced perfectly in the trickier parts of the structure. 

Of course, when you ask the four-year-olds what their favorite part of the block study was, they won’t mention any of these lessons initially. The first thing they all say is that they had fun. Of course they did—they were playing with blocks. When you dig a little deeper, though, they will start telling you about the ways they built, showing you the blocks they used, and telling you how they solved problems when something went wrong. That’s when it becomes obvious that they are taking away knowledge to help them build a lifetime of learning.

Rowland Hall preschoolers collaborated to build a miniature Utah State Capitol.

A final Utah State Capitol model in Ella Slaker and Claire Shepley's classroom.

Experiential Learning