SALEM, N.H. — The laughter of about 240 students filled the hallways of the Soule School Thursday morning after students returned from summer break.

They were greeted by new principal Angela Markley and some new educational programs — shared by students across the district.

With the back to school picnic and the first few hours of school under her belt Thursday, Markley was optimistic about the year to come as a group of first-graders walked by.

“They are learning the important things today — how to eat and how to get home,” she said with a chuckle, as the students walked back from lunch with smiling faces.

This is Markley’s 10th year working in the district, and her 21st year in education. Her first three years in the district she was an assistant principal at Woodbury School. For the past six years she has been the math and science curriculum coordinator for the district.

“I wanted to get back to working with students and parents and a smaller group of teachers,” Markley said.

This year there will be new science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs offered at Soule and throughout the district, Markley said — adding there were lots of new things for younger children, in kindergarten through second grade.

First day lessons were pretty fun, especially with the promise of no homework, according to students in Gina Taigh’s fourth-grade class.

Their first official assignment was to draw, Taigh explained. Each student started with a worksheet bearing the same squiggle, then they each drew something incorporating that squiggle, she said.

“It’s a lesson on individuality, each student made something special of their own,” Taigh said.

Taigh’s students were excited to be able to take advantage of new opportunities as some of the older students in school, including sitting in the back of the bus, they said.

Students were also looking to forward to taking part in chorus and the school musical, as well as reading new books — including classics like "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and the Harry Potter series.

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