Ethical Education at Rowland Hall
Our actions affect others.
Ethics create community.
Ethics guide civic engagement.
In 1867, Rowland Hall’s foundation was built on ethical and spiritual principles and the clear expectation that every child should strive for personal excellence. Character has been nurtured and expected from our students long before character education became a trend at peer schools, locally and nationally.
We believe that no education is complete without a commitment to a worthy purpose and passion for making the world a better place. Therefore, Rowland Hall students are taught in a thoughtful, age-appropriate, sequential thread from Beginning School through the Upper School to identify ethical themes, recognize actions that build community, practice decision making, and live a meaningful, ethical life. All Rowland Hall students learn that character includes the development of self-discipline, drive, and grit, as well as the universal values embodied by the ethical principles of fairness, empathy, integrity, and altruism.
More important than core classes, exams, grades, or graduation requirements, are the people with whom students spend their days. Our teachers are insightful individuals who share their passion and dedication for knowledge, while also serving as role models in their communities.
You'll find few rivals to Rowland Hall’s community-engagement program, in the Intermountain West or nationally. Participation in community engagement, whether expanding on curricular themes or through stellar stand-alone projects, starts in the Beginning School and offers each student through high school a deep sense of personal responsibility and belonging.
Our school-wide chapel program encourages students to reflect on the values of honesty, compassion, altruism, and community engagement, and offers insights into the traditions of varied cultures and beliefs. Whether focusing on a Virtue of the Month in St. Margaret’s Chapel on the McCarthey Campus or hearing from a guest speaker on the Lincoln Street Campus, our students are immersed in concepts that lead to a life of honor and engagement with others to improve the community and larger world.
Teaching Ethics in the Classroom: Community, Inclusion, and Sustainability
The Beginning School promotes children’s social/emotional competency by equipping them with the necessary, age-appropriate tools to enable them to make informed, responsible, and empathetic choices and decisions. Classroom teachers weave ethics education throughout their curricula, classroom management, and student problem-solving. Kindergarten and 4PreK students are introduced to Second Step, a research-based social skills curriculum. Weekly lessons teach students skills for identifying emotions in themselves and others, labeling these emotions, and taking the perspective of others. In addition, students learn skills to manage strong emotions and to solve interpersonal conflicts with peers in a peaceful manner.
The Beginning School has two community-building goals for its classrooms: “I belong to a community,” and “I contribute to a community.” Students identify the diverse communities to which they belong and begin to practice being a responsible, contributing community member.
Students begin to learn cross-cultural competence: they celebrate the array of family histories and cultures they represent by bringing photos from home, and parents are invited to come into classrooms to share different faith traditions and cultural practices. Holiday celebrations feature African-American spirituals, Diwali celebrations of light, and the rituals of Hannukah. Even the Flat Stanley project encourages social connections across the nation and the world, fostering students’ early awareness of shared values despite geographical or cultural difference.
In chapel, kindergarten students are introduced to music, prayers, stories, and teachings from a variety of faith traditions to explore empathy, kindness, caring for our world, and generosity.
The Lower School promotes students’ social and emotional competency by introducing tools to help them make informed, responsible, and empathetic choices and decisions.
The Second Step curriculum continues in first through fifth grades to help students recognize and empathize with others’ feelings, practice peaceful problem-solving strategies, and manage strong emotions. Throughout the curriculum is an emphasis on inclusivity and friendship building. Through these lessons, students also develop the skills to recognize, refuse, and report bullying behavior.
By highlighting a Virtue of the Month, students are encouraged to recognize and practice a range of virtues that reflect core values of the school. Students are also encouraged to engage in the classroom exercise of Bucket Filling, which makes kind words and actions visible when students recognize peers who have filled their bucket.
Bi-monthly chapel gatherings use music, character-education lessons, intentional mindfulness activities, and teachings of multiple traditions to explore topics such as caring for our environment, and to reinforce virtues such as kindness and generosity. As fourth and fifth graders begin using one-to-one iPads and email accounts, teachers and staff introduce and reinforce lessons about responsible digital practices. Students adopt Common Sense Media’s T.H.I.N.K. test (is a statement true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?) to examine their online communication for appropriateness as they learn to be as thoughtful and considerate online as they are offline.
Lower School students participate in grade-level service-learning projects focusing on the local community and the wider world. They serve the Nature Conservancy’s Rainforest Project, Shriners and Primary Children’s hospitals, the International Rescue Committee, Sunnyvale Community Center, Tracy Aviary, the US military, the Mali Health Organizing Project, the Navajo Water Project, Tree Utah, the Utah Food Bank, and more. Teachers and administrators also give encouragement and support to student-driven initiatives such as recycling projects and the occasional charitable fundraising effort.
School-wide service initiatives include the October Food Drive, ongoing clothing and book drives, Hogle Zoo e-waste collection, the McCarthey Campus Service Celebration, the Be Idle-Free clean-air campaign, and the Go Green Days walk/bike/carpool to school initiative.
Middle School students learn to practice ethical decision-making and behaviors in the classroom, on athletic fields, and in the larger community. Encouraging students to take responsibility for their behaviors is at the heart of the Middle School’s philosophy.
Students are grouped in supportive grade-level advisories, where they build on social and emotional competencies by delving into common ethical dilemmas and hands-on activities that allow them to practice ethical decision-making. During the three Middle School years, our goal is for each student to develop a strong ethical and personal identity.
Students act to address larger community issues through integrated community engagement. Recent projects have included work with the Utah Food Bank, the Horizonte School, the Homeless Youth Resource Center, Choice International, Crossroads Urban Center, and Sunnyvale Community Center, and Earth Day work in the school’s community garden. Student-initiated projects are encouraged and individual advisories take on service projects such as Light One Candle for the International Rescue Committee.
Health education is a required class in which students explore how personal moral codes are shaped by family, peers, religion, and culture, and learn to articulate and safely test their own moral and ethical codes as they grow. Role playing teaches students appropriate skills for intervening and challenging an unethical or immoral decision, once one recognizes that it is wrong.
Week-long class trips put students in situations where they must take responsibility for their own well-being as well as the well as that of a larger group. Through sports teams, students practice commitment, responsibility, and respect for others. Coaches reinforce what good sportsmanship looks like as an athlete and as a fan.
A monthly chapel gathering broadens students’ understanding of world religions by introducing specific practices, philosophies, beliefs, and observances. Students practice intentional mindfulness activities and hear from community speakers.
Middle School students use iPads and email accounts for schoolwork and are expected to be responsible for their digital footprint. They continue to practice the T.H.I.N.K. test (is a statement true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind?) to determine whether their online communications are thoughtful and considerate.
Classroom teachers weave ethics education throughout their curricula, classroom management, and support for student problem-solving.
Ethical literacy means understanding that one’s actions affect others and that, while deeply held personal values may differ, we are each committed to the ethics that create our community: respect, integrity, and empathy. In the Upper School, students broaden their understanding of the historical arc of ethical paradigms in order to internalize thoughtful decision making. Recognition of good character occurs daily at school, whether celebrating student-to-student acts of kindness, engaging with guest speakers, or communicating about what we value as a community.
Contributions to the community, whether integrated in dance, science, or ethics class, address issues as diverse as poverty, hunger, autism, wildlife habitat, domestic violence, and racism. Juniors, through Project Action, identify a local need for which they feel passion, then devote time to one organization whose mission is to address that need. While 25 service hours is a requirement of Project Action, nearly 30% of our graduates give an additional 25 or more hours and are awarded a Community Builder distinction at graduation. View a list of organizations our students often choose to help, whether through Project Action or otherwise.
Students also participate in community-engagement activities that encourage them to live the mission of the school, such as mid-October's Half Day/Whole Heart, the International Rescue Committee's Light One Candle project, the Thanksgiving and Christmas food giveaways, and book and school-supply drives for Sunnyvale Community Center. Extracurricular clubs offer opportunities to develop leadership skills and initiative in community service. Institutional practices and curricular units focus on the broader ethics of sustainability, inclusion, and equity.
The Upper School gathers once a month for chapel, broadening understanding of the practices and philosophies of many world religions. A required world religions and ethics class also explores the history and traditions of faith. Cross-cultural competency is also acquired through learning to be an ally by interrupting discriminatory speech or acts whether or not one is a member of the targeted group.
Each spring, our week-long experiential program, Interim, gives students options of participating in a variety of in-town and out-of-town adventures. All Interim proposals explicitly articulate how the experience intersects with the school’s mission and core values.
Upper School athletics provide a platform for developing not just the skills to play competitively, but also the values of fair play and responsibility. We are very proud of our Winged Lion athletes, coaches, and fans, who are frequently recognized by the Utah High School Activities Association with awards for good sportsmanship.
Rowland Hall represents a diverse community that encompasses differences in the human experience including those of ethnicity, race, national origin, family composition, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and learning styles, among others. Read more on our Inclusion and Equity page.
A variety of guest speakers visit Rowland Hall to engage students with personal and professional stories of how one lives an ethical life. View our comprehensive list of past speakers.
Rowland Hall is dedicated to the promise of an environmentally responsible culture within our school and the larger community. We encourage all community members to engage in educational experiences that foster a deep understanding of our interdependent relationships with nature. As a result, we strive to identify, initiate, and implement projects and curriculum to increase environmental awareness and stewardship. Read more on our Sustainability page. The following are examples of sustainability initiatives at Rowland Hall.
As a charter member of the Green Schools Alliance, Rowland Hall has pledged to address climate change and environmental stewardship. The Green Schools is a national project with a mission of enhancing student health and learning, conserving natural resources, and empowering students to develop sustainable behaviors, thus enabling them to become the stewards of the future.
Go Green Days
Students are encouraged to walk, bike, carpool, and use mass transit once a month on Go Green Days.
Sustainability in the Curriculum
- Lower School: science-garden projects, Pennies for the Rainforest, and watershed studies
- Middle School: air-pollution education unit, and a sustainability elective in the seventh grade
- Upper School: individual service-learning action plans (iSLAP) projects on environmental science
A school-wide program is dedicated to recycling of plastic, paper, and aluminum on both campuses.
The Upper School student-led Environs Club is open to all students who are interested and passionate about environmental causes. The Environs Club provides a way for students to pursue their interests while supporting our sustainability efforts.
The greater community is invited to take the opportunity to dig deep, get involved, and participate in organic, sustainable gardening on the back of Rowland Hall’s Steiner Campus in the community garden.
Our composting initiative came to fruition with the acquisition of the Earth Tub used to compost food waste from both of our cafeterias.
We are committed to anti-idling and use our Curb Your Carbon Campaign to communicate this message and teach students about the effect idling has on our air quality.
The Rowland Hall Sustainability Committee is a faculty- and staff-led committee that invites input from students, staff, and administration. Through our efforts we endeavor to create a culture of conservation and sustainability through our curriculum, everyday practices and policies, and plant operations. Please email Sustainability Coordinator Andrew Hagedorn to get involved.