Ashley Hall Admin, Author at Ashley Hall

From wordly to intelligent, discerning to compassionate, there are many traits that every Ashley Hall student and alumna can proudly claim. But there are two in particular that just may evoke more pride than all the rest: Purple or White.

For over a century, Ashley Hall students have been split into two teams to inspire Panther pride, and of course, some friendly competition. Now, for first time in history, educators have officially joined in the Purple and White team tradition.

“We felt that getting teachers and staff involved would help raise school spirit by given everyone ownership as a Purple or White,” says Department Chair for Physical Education Jodie Runner who led the initiative. At the start of the school year, teachers drew a purple or white piece of paper at random to determine their fate. Then they kept their new team color a secret until last month’s Upper School pep rally on October 13 when Head of School Dr. Anne T. Weston ’73 announced that every Ashley Hall educator is now officially a Purple or White.

“As a senior this year, it means a lot to me that the teachers are now a part of our community through the Purple and White tradition,” says Jania Seabrook ’23. “It allows us as students to make a greater bond with our teachers knowing that they are truly a part of our team, no matter if it’s purple or white.”

Seabrook, who has been a proud member of Team White since second grade, kicked off the School’s new era of competition during the pep rally by participating in the first-ever arm wrestling contest against Purple Upper School faculty member Grant Vatter. “Arm wrestling Mr. Vatter was actually extremely hard,” Seabrook says. “He is very strong, but I’m glad to say I did take home the gold medal.”

As Purples and Whites, Ashley Hall teachers and staff will participate in different challenges throughout the school year, as well as many more skill competitions during future pep rallies. Let the games begin!

History of the Purple and White Tradition at Ashley Hall

The Purple and White team tradition dates all the way back to 1917. It began when Ashley Hall founder Mary Vardrine McBee divided the School in two to encourage good sportsmanship, teamwork, loyalty, and friendly competition. Today, students contribute to their team by earning points through academic and extracurricular activities and competitions. The team with the most points at the end of the year is awarded the coveted Team Cup.

DID YOU KNOW | Former First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush, Class of 1943, was a proud Purple! Another alumna to follow in her footsteps? Head of School Dr. Anne T. Weston was captain of the Purple team and was co-First Honor Graduate of the Class of 1973!

At Ashley Hall we believe that a school for girls is completely different to a school with girls. Join us and hear from Ashley Hall’s leadership team, parents and student ambassadors about why a school for girls is the only way to go!

November 16 | 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. | For prospective and *current students and parents in rising 7th through 11th grades (both current students and applicants and their parents are encouraged to attend).

Register Now

*Current Ashley Hall students and families are welcome to attend by contacting the Admission Office at [email protected].

Join Ashley Hall for
An Evening With Author and Ashley Hall Alumna Rossi Anastopoulo ’13
Thursday, November 17
6:00 p.m. | Book Signing and Dessert Tasting
7:00 p.m. | Discussion
Burges Auditorium

Thank you for your interest but registration for this event is now closed. 

Join Ashley Hall as we celebrate the release of Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of America in 11 Pies by alumna Rossi Anastopoulo ’13. This special evening will include a lively discussion moderated by fellow Ashley Hall alumna and arts contributor for The Post and Courier Maura Hogan ’82 preceded by a dessert tasting (including pie, of course!) and book signing sponsored by Charleston’s Buxton Books 

In Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of America in 11 Pies, Anastopoulo cracks open our relationship to pie with wit and good humor. For centuries pie has been a malleable icon, co-opted for new social and political purposes. Here, she traces the pies woven into our history, following the evolution of our country across centuries of innovation and change. With corresponding recipes for each chapter and sidebars of quirky facts throughout, Sweet Land of Liberty is an entertaining, informative, and utterly charming food history for bakers, dessert lovers, and history aficionados alike.

Listen to Rossi’s recent interview with NPR  

Parking is available in the Smith Street parking lot.

About the Author

Rossi Anastopoulo ’13 is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in TASTESaveurFood52Bon Appetit, and Eaten Magazine. In 2019 she was the recipient of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Award for Narrative Food Writing for her piece on the bean pie and the Nation of Islam. She works as the blog editor for King Arthur Baking Company and is based in Los Angeles.

Early Praise for Sweet Land of Liberty

“Food history is rarely this much fun to read—Rossi Anastopoulo condenses extensive research into a sharp, clever volume that powerfully reframes what it means to call any food ‘American.’ ” —Mayukh Sen, author of Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America

“A well-researched exploration into not only what fills the crust, Sweet Land of Liberty takes the reader on a delve deep into the historical, social, and political significance of pie in America.” —Kate McDermott, James Beard Award-nominated author of Art of the Pie and Pie Camp

As sponsor of this evening’s book signing, we thank you for supporting independent bookstore Buxton Books. We ask that you honor their request to not bring books purchased elsewhere to this event. If you’d like to reserve more than 5 copies, please let them know in advance at [email protected]. Thank you! 


Research shows that if girls do not develop interests in science, technology, engineering, arts, or math (STEAM) before or during their middle school years, they will most likely avoid future classes and careers in these areas altogether. At Ashley Hall, STEAM activities are an integral part of the Lower School curriculum to give girls the chance to fall in love with STEAM–and they don’t just happen in the classroom.

Science and math start inside the classroom and are a large part of students’ core studies. But students get a secondary layer of learning outside of the classroom by attending weekly enrichment classes designed to apply their new math and science concepts. Once a week, students also come together as an entire grade for a special STEAM class. “We do hands-on science and hands-on math to enrich what they’re doing in class,” says Lower School STEAM and science teacher Meghan Ward. “It’s seeing those skills that students are practicing, and saying, ‘Now let’s put it in place in the lab.’ It’s actually really cool to see both disciplines.”

Last month, the School opened a brand-new beautifully renovated 2,100-square foot Lower School STEAM Lab designed to host these enrichment lessons. Inside are stations for experiments, moveable furniture, risers for presentations, a sound-proof room for break-out teacher instruction, and so much more. But the added space and state-of-the-art tools for hands-on experiments and collaboration is just the start of how the STEAM education is evolving at Ashley Hall.

More Space, More Collaboration

Research by UNICEF shows that studying STEAM helps girls develop skills in collaboration and self-development which gives girls tools with which to become informed citizens and effective leaders. The new Lower School STEAM Lab, which can support a whopping four classes at one time, was designed specifically to be able to support the opportunity for girls to work together.

“Why STEAM is so powerful is it is focused on giving the girls a challenge to try and solve a problem,” Ward says. “We always have them begin the process by sketching their own idea, then they collaborate with a group and come up with one design. They always have minimal materials, just a little bit of time, and they have to problem solve. They debate the best design and have to learn how to bring each other together and come up with one idea. But then on the other side, they support each other, too.”

“They’re learning to communicate and be respectful communicators,” adds Lower School Math Specialist Allison Jordan. “It’s hard for them. It’s such a hard skill for anyone to learn. But they are doing it every day.”

A New Perspective on Mistakes

According to the Goodman Research Group, girls’ school graduates are 6 times more likely to consider majoring in math, science, and technology compared to girls who attended coeducational schools. Why?

“We’ve created a safe place to make mistakes so that young girls can learn,” Ward says. “We call them ‘oops-ortunities’ or oopsies that you can turn into opportunities. They happen all the time in STEAM. A student will say something is not working. Okay. So we go back and try again, try it differently.”

The confidence that comes with not being afraid to make mistakes is everything, explains Jordan. “All you need is confidence. We have a lot of tears in the lab. It’s sometimes due to frustration with your team, but a lot of the time it’s because students don’t have the faith in themselves. If they get a math answer wrong, it makes them feel bad. But if they have the confidence to say, oops, I made a mistake, and ask for help, then there goes all that intimidation. That’s my biggest goal in here with math at least is to make them feel safe to figure it out. This is your safe space to make mistakes.”

Integrating a Empathy

Science, technology, engineering, arts, and math are at the core of our STEAM education in Lower School. But as the program continues to grow, so do the pillars of Ashley Hall’s STEAM curriculum. “One of the things we’re adding is the idea of empathy,” Ward says. “Everything we’ve done in STEAM, we’ve encouraged them to think with empathy.”

For example, when Lower School students studied the body, they had to create a stethoscope out of basic materials like cups and paper towel rolls. Then Ward asked the girls a question: Who would use a stethoscope? “We talked about people who take care of us who use stethoscopes. Then I took it a step further and asked if they thought everybody in the world uses a stethoscope. We have great medical devices in our country, but does everyone have that? And what if you lived in a country where they didn’t have stethoscopes and these materials were all you had to work with to hear a baby’s heartbeat? Suddenly, we were talking about real people and real issues in the world.”

And again, research supports just how much of an impact STEAM education for young girls can have on global issues. According to research presented by UNICEF in a report entitled Towards an Equal Future: Reimagining Girls’ Education Through STEM:

“Learning to think and solve problems like scientists and engineers can equip girls with the knowledge, confidence and creativity to address major challenges in their communities, such as generating sufficient energy, preventing and treating diseases, maintaining supplies of clean water and food, and solving the problems of environmental change.”

By adding a focus on collaboration, confidence, and empathy throughout every level of STEAM education in the Lower School, Ashley Hall is creating not only future scientist and engineers, but girls equipped to be the best version of themselves.

Green River Preserve, a summer camp located on 3,400 private acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, has come to symbolize the exciting start of fifth grade at Ashley Hall. Every fall, students pack their sleeping bags and bathing suits for an overnight adventure designed purposefully to allow them to connect with the great outdoors and one another.

Green River Preserve’s educational philosophy is based on the belief that four specific types of experiencesdiscovery, growth, independence, and communitydirectly impact four important predictors of a healthy and happy life: curiosity, resilience, autonomy, and connection. With that in mind, their staff designs an 3-4 day itinerary for Ashley Hall students to explore their camp while feeling safe, secure, and confident.

“From the Polar Bear plunge to caving and climbing Lower Bald and Upper Bald, each student, parent, and teacher on the trip are given the opportunity to push themselves to challenge their minds and bodies at a comfort level that suits them,” says Intermediate Program STEAM teacher and trip leader Kiki Sweigart. The goal of the trip for every fifth grader is three-fold, according to Sweigart:

  1. Have fun challenging yourself.
  2. Take the opportunity to get to know others that you might not necessarily be in your friend group.
  3. Learn from others about the natural world as well as a variety of interesting tidbits of information.

Through each day’s adventures also comes incredible learning opportunities. “The academic part of each day comes with the amazing pieces of nature they are exposed to through their hiking mentors, from identifying and eating plants to the early geography of Long Rock,” Sweigart says. “Every day is always about having fun, taking in what you can in the moment, enjoying each other’s company, working as a team, and feeling the energy of inspiring each other.”

Here’s a snapshot of what a typical day looks like for fifth graders at Green River Preserve:

7:15 a.m. | Wake-Up Bell + Breakfast

The girls’ day starts with a full gathering for a family-style breakfast which they enjoy sitting together as their cabin groups.

9 a.m. | Morning Hike

The first morning hike starts about 9 a.m. “They are grouped in a hiking team that is a mixture of girls from all the different cabins. That way they are truly mixing it up!” Sweigart says. “Each group does all the same hikes at different times and different days.”

12:30 p.m. | Lunch + Afternoon Adventure

After a delicious lunch, students and chaperones head out again for an afternoon hike full of adventure options. “The girls have the opportunity to do the climbing wall, create a clay piece, and this year, we had the pleasure of meeting a Cherokee family member who taught us basket weaving,” Sweigart says. “Each day there is also 45 minute free period for swimming, zip-lining, board games, and just relaxing.”

6:30 p.m. | Dinner + Night Exploration

Nights at GRP are full of s’mores and stories around a campfire. The girls also learn outdoors skills, and love learning how to build a fire themselves.

9 p.m. | Reflection + Lights Out

“Each night, cabin mentors walk the girls back to their cabins and meet for their ‘Rose, Bud, and Thorn’ for the day.” For rose, the girls identify the best part of their day; for bud, something that they are looking forward to; and thorn, something that didn’t go too well.

Flying monkeys. Ruby slippers. Rainbows over a long yellow brick road. 

It was a slew of hints drawn in chalk by Ashley Hall theater arts students in seventh and eighth grade for the entire School to see that revealed the March 2023 spring musical selection this September: The Wizard of Oz. Students were let in on the secret during class, then were tasked with sharing the exciting news with the student body by decorating the wall in the middle of campus with elements from the show.

“Our chalk wall is a collaborative space to share news,” says Performing Arts Chair and theater arts faculty member Aimee Phelan-Deconinck. “We wanted to build some anticipation around what the next school play will be, and I also wanted all our students to know that it wasn’t just decided. I wanted our oldest theater arts students to announce it in a big way.”

The original method for announcing this year’s performing arts production was only fitting for a show that is planned to be uniquely Ashley Hall. “We’ve imagined it for our time with our students,” says Phelan-Deconinck. “Obviously we’re going have points of reference, but, how do we make it original to Ashley Hall? How do we transform Davies Auditorium into the flats of the Kansas prairies? What I am most excited about is where this is going in terms of reimagining in terms of originality.”

We sat down with Phelan-Deconinck to hear more about how Ashley Hall will be transforming into Oz this spring.

How was The Wizard of Oz chosen to be this year’s spring musical?

APD: Looking at themes for Girls with the Will and specifically, looking at protagonists that are willful, Dorothy stood out. She can grow, yet she still feels there is purpose for her and she sees the potential in everyone. She speaks to goodwill. Not just my will or strong will, but community will. 

What grades will be involved in the production? 

APD: Grades 5-12 will all be involved, and we’ll audition during the Christmas Play auditions. Grades 5-8 will be auditioning in class and we will be doing an audition unit to help the girls find their unique skill set. An auditioning unit helps students understand that they don’t have to be afraid of an audition. They just have to be prepared. Then grades 9-12 will audition during the school day during flex periods. 

How will the story be adapted for Ashley Hall? 

APD: Davies Auditorium is a space that lends itself to huge amounts of creativity. It’s a beautiful space and neutral in the best sense. It’s a blank palette and that’s how we’re looking at it. I’ll be doing the set, and the conceptual side of things, and Loretta Haskell will serve as music director. I’m so excited to be collaborating with her. She’s immensely knowledgeable and passionate. She’s really nimble, and I feel like we’re really going be able to find this balancing point. 

When it comes to the characters, we’re talking about all three divisions being very involved. Who is Dorothy at these ages? How does she interpret life? Dorothy’s not going to have to fit into this one mold. We will see her at different ages. I’m envisioning our show having three Dorothy’s, one from the Intermediate Program, one from Nautilus, and one from Upper School. 

Do you see Dorothy as an Ashley Hall girl? 

APD: Absolutely. She grows and she can grow because she can let other influences come in. That doesn’t take her off her place, but it’s a community will. She has no ill will towards anyone, even this person who tries to kill her. And then success happens; success beyond what she had imagined. What’s on the other side of the rainbow is just her with a bigger point of view. That’s PQV.

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Ashley Hall is a private school for girls located in Charleston, South Carolina enrolling students in kindergarten-grade 12 with a co-educational pre-k program.