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Early Childhood Signature Programs

Exploring Your World

Early Childhood is a time of discovery and hands-on learning. Children are developing key social and emotional, language, cogitative, sensory and motor, and creative skills that lay the foundation for success in the classroom and in life. Our Signature Programs foster these skills in a warm, nurturing environment with teachers guiding every step of the way.


Active Learning in Early Childhood 

Active Learning in our Early Childhood classrooms means stimulating and gratifying students’ curiosity about the world. Our classrooms and our outdoor learning areas are full of captivating, intriguing objects. Through hands-on exploration, dramatic play, observing, predicting, and measuring students construct, day after day, a deeper understanding of the physical world.

Active Learning in Action

Sensory integration and motor development play a key role in learning during a child’s early years. We design lessons that engage all of a child’s senses, while incorporating movement as much as possible. Our classrooms, muscle and activities rooms, gyms, art spaces, and music rooms have many resources that stimulate touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell. Children work with materials that require large and fine motor skills and allow them to explore texture, temperature, and weight. They may use play dough one day, and practice forming letters with shaving cream the next.

On the Doherty Campus, pre-kindergarteners may study the makeup of red blood cells using a variety of materials, including ping-pong balls. In a lesson taught by a visiting presenter, the parent of a Seven Hills student, a vascular surgeon filled a sensory table with water and red and white balls to illustrate how blood cells move through plasma. Excited eyes opened wide as the students listened to the beat of their own hearts and those of their friends through a stethoscope.

Lotspeich pre-kindergarteners study the human body using relatable resources to learn about complex systems. They draw full-size outlines of their own bodies, hang them in the halls of the Early Childhood Center, and decorate them with paper organs, one by one, as they explore the various systems. To learn about the function of lungs, they blow up balloons and release the air to represent inhaling and exhaling. 

Global Awareness in Early Childhood

In our Early Childhood program, we seek to expand our students’ horizons and broaden their understanding of the world.  In integrated weekly thematic units, through rich stories, information sharing, and imaginative play, students acquire a deeper understanding, first of their local communities (families, the school, the neighborhood) and then, of the larger world beyond.  Making maps, building cities, or simulating travel in costumed, dramatic play widens their world and promotes a deeper appreciation of the rich diversity of our community. Spanish language classes and food-filled cultural celebrations round out their global experience.

Global Awareness in Action

From the earliest age, your student will engage with the Spanish language through storytelling, conversation, gestures, movement, repetition, and active group participation.

Students explore a different countries and cultures through fun and celebratory activities during Cultural Connections Week. For example, the pre-kindergarteners on the Doherty Campus participate in a mock flight to Egypt, Chile, or Italy, exploring the country through décor, food tasting, and virtual tours.

During the holiday season, kindergarteners at Lotspeich enjoy the Festival of Lights. The celebration teaches students about the multitude of cultures from around the world that incorporate light into their holiday celebrations. Students learn about Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, and St. Lucia—all holidays that use light to signify hope, peace, and love. 

Design Thinking in Early Childhood

In engaging, stimulating Early Childhood classrooms, students have a wide array of opportunities to build, design, and discover, the foundation of their later formal work design thinking and creative problem solving. Circle time, pair and group projects, guidance lessons, dramatic play, and even sharing activities, like “show and tell,” help foster the empathy and creativity on which our signature Design Thinking program is built. Indeed, design thinking is almost instinctive for young children, who delight as fully in the process of discovery as in the results.

Design Thinking in Action

Pre-kindergarteners are introduced to STEM concepts through hands-on activities. During a six-week unit, students learn about simple machines and their usesIn a lesson about inclined planes, they create their own ramps using boxes, cardboard, and tape. Students experiment with the different types of inclines, learning what happens when the plane is moved by just a few, or even several, inches.

At our Early Childhood Center on the Hillsdale Campus, pre-kindergarteners work together as a class to build a city, complete with a road, the Ohio River, hand-painted buildings, and Cincinnati landmarks. Students talk about what they love about Cincinnati and what makes it unique before deciding on what structures to build.

The Doherty Campus’ Creation Studio is open to even our youngest students. The space is filled with hi- and low-tech materials that spark imagination. Pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners take part in design challenges that require creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. They may be prompted to craft a digging tool to aid in the search for buried treasure, or design a shoe and put their prototype to the test. These projects ask students to think critically and create an item with a real-world application.


Learning Support in Early Childhood

In the Early Childhood program, our expert faculty bring deep experience to understanding the unique learning styles of each child. Through keen observation of student’s daily work, teachers continually assess progress in the context of developmental benchmarks and guide each child toward those learning experiences which, at that moment, best meet his needs or provide the appropriate level of challenge. Teachers work with our guidance counselors and learning specialists to identify possible developmental lags and, where necessary, refer students for further testing or supplemental interventions.



Social and Emotional Learning in Early Childhood 

Social and Emotional Learning is a critical part of the Early Childhood program, especially the skills of self-awareness and self-regulation. Social and Emotional Learning is woven throughout the Early Childhood curriculum, in daily exercises and interactions, as well is in circle time discussions and teachable moments. The program is supplemented by formal guidance lessons and mindfulness activities that give the children opportunities to grow as individuals and practice being part of a group.

Social and Emotional Learning in Action

Our educators use works of children literature and the wisdom of many different authors to introduce children to social and emotional concepts. The book “Calm Down Time” is used with our youngest students to introduce feeling words into their vocabulary, begin the practice of noticing feelings, and recognize that there are appropriate ways to respond to feelings. Pre-kindergarteners explore their differences and similarities in a lesson guided by their school counselor. At this age, children are developing the language skills to express their feelings and recognize the feelings of others, as well as see how people are alike, and how they are different. In the Early Childhood Center, our school counselor uses the book “The Color of Us” to help students learn about self-awareness and social awareness in an accessible way.

Teaching mindfulness begins in pre-kindergarten. Our Lower School counselors educate students on how they can be mindful and calm their feelings. Counselors teach breathing techniques and help students visualize concepts with tangible objects, such as a Hoberman Sphere. Counselors believe mindfulness benefits children by teaching them to acknowledge their feelings.

Our teachers know that the best way for children to learn and understand the Seven Hills values is to teach by example. Our educators model kindness, caring, compassion, respect, and empathy in the classroom. This practice of demonstrating model behavior plays an important part in fostering students’ social and emotional development.

Experiential Learning in Early Childhood

In the Early Childhood program, Experiential Learning means providing the widest possible range of chances to try new things. We devote significant instructional time to a host of specials classes that are designed to pique students’ interests and to get them involved, excited, and engaged with their classmates. Students receive instruction in Spanish, physical education, visual arts, drama, music, library, and guidance. Class trips and outdoor learning round out this experience. 

Experiential Learning in Action

A visit from Sunrock Farm and its myriad animals gives our pre-kindergarteners an up-close look at goats, chicks, lambs, and even a pig, accompanied by an interesting lesson on mammal characterization. The visit also incorporates the children’s studies of the life cycles of plants and animals, as well as the importance of habitat and life cycle changes.

Pre-kindergarteners  learn “What a Wonderful World”  we live in through the study of a book named for the Louis Armstrong classic. Children spend time each day talking about a page from the book and research scientific facts about the world. As the lesson goes on, they craft puppets and stage a show for parents and friends, even visiting their older peers in kindergarten.

After kindergarteners study penguins, marine animals, and Antarctica, they visit the Newport Aquarium to see firsthand the creatures they’ve been talking about. Following the trip to the aquarium, students give presentations for their parents about what they saw and how certain species behave.

Students come to understand the world around them on Terrific Tuesdays. Per Lotspeich tradition, kindergarteners spend their Tuesdays exploring campus during a day of outdoor education. In the winter, students focus backyard birds as they search for nests and study their unique attributes. 

Immersive Arts in Early Childhood 

In Early Childhood, our Immersive Arts program takes the form of regular classes, taught by specialists, in visual arts, drama, and music. These early classes lay the groundwork for a life-long appreciation of the arts. Students have regular performance opportunities, including class plays and recitals in front of warm, enthusiastic audiences.

Immersive Arts in Action

Equipped with professional stage lights and ample resources for inventive costuming and sets, The Red Barn on the Hillsdale Campus and the stages of the Doherty and Founders Hall “cafetoriums” are the designated spaces for Lower School drama productions. Students in both divisions perform traditional class plays, as well as choral and instrumental recitals, giving all of our students multiple performance opportunities that supplement the formal instruction they receive in visual arts, music, and drama.

Lotspeich and Doherty students delight in their weekly drama classes with our dedicated Early Childhood and Lower School drama teacher, reveling in these opportunities to hone their performance skills. For our youngest students, our drama teacher focuses on improvisation games and practices, allowing students to make their own stories and tell them on stage.

In their visual arts class, Doherty kindergarteners participate in an all-ages art installation that goes hand-in-hand with Cultural Connections week. Students study a country throughout the year, then replicate a signature landmark in art class. During a study of Egypt, all of Doherty pitched in to recreate the Nile River. Kindergarteners filled the river with 3-D fish, making an important contribution to this all-school arts project.

An array of instruments is on display when Schoolhouse Symphony visits our Lotspeich Lower School. Schoolhouse Symphony, a Cincinnati organization that brings music to life, visits Seven Hills’ pre-kindergarteners and kindergarteners to teach them about instruments, instrument families, and how sound is made. The musicians play a variety of songs, both as an ensemble and solo, and encourage students to become a part of this hands-on lesson.

The Sassmannshaus Tradition is a staple of Lotspeich Lower School’s music program. Offered during After the Bell, our after-school enrichment program, students study the violin—embarking, for some, on a journey with this instrument that may take them through their senior year in the Upper School.