Cover Stories

Explore & Learn: Rossman School

For Rossman School science teacher Julie Laconte, it’s easy to understand that scientific principles are at the heart of every experience we have. She passes that awareness on to all of her students at the independent, private elementary school in Creve Coeur and promotes thinking of the world as a huge science lab to encourage their curiosity, experimentation and problem-solving skills. “It’s how we connect with each other,” LaConte explains. “We do a lot of hands-on, discovery-based learning and treat students like young scientists from the day they arrive. We write and speak in scientific terms all year, which helps kids get into a mindset of exploration and accountability to each other and the planet.” It also helps them weave critical thinking into other subjects they study.

LaConte, who teaches fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade science, recently was honored for her dedication to expanding young minds. She earned second-place honors for the Loeb Prize, an award through the Saint Louis Science Center that recognizes five teachers for excellence in science and math education. After being nominated, LaConte gave a presentation about her teaching methods to a panel of judges. “I told them that I want to make sure each child is educated as a whole person—heart, mind and character,” she says. “Being part of Rossman allows me to do that fully.”

Head of school Elizabeth Zurlinden says it’s inspiring to watch young minds develop through classroom, outdoor and field trip experiences. “Our students see the world through two lenses—those of learners and leaders,” she notes. “I love how they apply knowledge to solve real-world issues. Their great minds activate their kind hearts.” Rossman has a calling to ensure kids care about the planet and its people, LaConte says. Recently, a group of students learned about global water crises and raised funds to help build wells in African communities. “Their ideas and actions are so hopeful,” Zurlinden says. “They never doubt that they can make a difference.”

LaConte says Rossman students become comfortable with responsibility at an early age. “I’m always impressed by the initiative of children here,” she says. “They are leaders on a lot of projects, and they run student gatherings every Monday morning. They are expected to share what they learn with others. It teaches them strong public speaking skills and helps them be accountable to the community and each other.”

She adds, “When I started at Rossman, I was told that the school mixes tradition with innovation very well, and that really is true. There are some methods we have been using for years because they work well, but we also look for modern connections and patterns that help kids see the bigger picture.” Teachers often partner with each other so their lessons can lead to a fuller understanding of the world. Whether kids are reading fiction, doing math or learning about the Cold War or the U.S. space program, there are human experiences and technologies that spill over into other areas of study, LaConte explains. “We all collaborate on a deep level with other disciplines,” she says. “It helps children make key connections between their studies and the wider world.”

Rossman School is an independent, private elementary school in Creve Coeur that offers innovative, hands-on learning to help students succeed. It serves children in junior kindergarten (age 4) through 6th grade. Pictured on the cover: Students work on a water quality project on the school’s 20-acre campus. For more information, call 314.434.5877 or visit rossmanschool.org.

Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured above: Rossman students learn to respect the natural world.

Recommended