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Lower School Signature Programs

LeaVing YouR Comfort zone

In Lower School, every lesson takes a creative, interactive, activity-based approach. Teachers support students so they feel ready to welcome challenges and quickly recover for any setbacks they may encounter along the way. Our Signature Programs give students the opportunity to expand their boundaries and learn in the process.


Active Learning in Lower School 

In our Lower School labs and classrooms, Active Learning involves inquiry, exploration and discovery. Students learn to frame questions to guide their search for information and to broaden their understanding of the world around them. They learn to research, to observe, to gather and present data. They use technological resources to broaden their reach. The goal is to use intriguing questions and compelling problems to inspire students to explore the physical and social world with curious, active minds. In individual and group projects, research, experiments, our Lower School students learn by doing.

Active Learning in Action

In their Fourth-grade Living Biographies, students use their research to transform themselves into a historically significant character of their choosing. For example a fourth-grader might become a mustached Albert Einstein, confidently and dramatically sharing his life story and wisdom with his peers.

In their Inventions Unit, hats that zap static from your hair, indoor clotheslines, wheel enhancements for lawnmowers, remote-controlled bird feeders and shoes that also serve as stepstools ­–­­ absorb students’ attention for hours on end. After learning, in social studies, how early technologies helped navigators solve the challenges they faced in the new world, students research and brainstorm ways to solve modern-day problems, conceptualizing designs, creating cardboard models, eventually building full-size prototypes.         

Learning to read critically and proficiently are crucial skills that can accelerate your student’s education at any level. Our Reading program places great importance on developing a lifelong love for reading, and in a way that is integrated through the student’s entire academic journey. Our youngest students learn letter-sound relationships through a multisensory approach, and because 85 percent of the English language is structured orderly and predictably, children become aware of phonetic patterns even at this early age. These patterns are then taught systematically and children begin decoding words for reading and writing practice. We also introduce children’s literature, whether read aloud by teachers or selected independently by students, bringing with it a wealth of vocabulary awareness, differentiation in reading levels, and a growing appreciation for the written word. These skills continue to build through the grades, turning your student into a highly successful reader and writer and prepared for what’s ahead.

Global Awareness in Lower School 

In our Lower Schools, literature, library, Spanish, and social studies units are designed to broaden students’ worldview and to cultivate a dawning awareness of the rich diversity of human experience. Robust geography and social studies units, research projects, and cultural comparisons foster our students’ understanding of and respect for how people, in other parts of the world, live their lives. High interest inquiry projects, group research and presentations, assembly programs, and even periodic electronic interactions with students in other countries, build cultural connections, which are amplified by their engaging immersion in the Spanish language and culture.

Global Awareness in Action

As part of a yearlong intensive India Unit, first graders at Lotspeich study the Taj Mahal and the Statue of Liberty, taking a virtual tour of each landmark and sharing the results of their comparison research. They also dive into the lives and philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and how they approached peace in their societies. The students also toss brilliant streams of color powder into the air during a celebration of Holi, just before spring break.

Lotspeich second-graders complete an extensive study of bridges. Students begin the unit with a basic geography lesson called “Me on the Map,” which asks second-graders to look at their streets, cities, state, country, continent, and planet. Students study the different types of bridges and learn about bridges located everywhere from Cincinnati to a different continent. Each student then presents a bridge of their choice to their classmates and parents.

Spanish students on the Doherty Campus learn new vocabulary while helping the community. Through Doherty’s service-learning curriculum, students collect food for Open Door, a local nonprofit organization in the neighborhood. Students make lunches and practice their Spanish vocabulary as they work.

Design Thinking in Lower School

In our Lower Schools, Design Thinking projects are spiraled into our students’ experience. The Math Lab and the Creation Studio, engaging, well-equipped spaces, encourage students to take things apart, to understand how they work, and to reimagine or reinvent them in another form. Moreover, a series of Design Thinking projects are also layered into math, science, and social studies classes. Through these repeated, increasingly sophisticated experiences in invention and creative problem solving, students become increasingly comfortable with the skillsets associated with design thinking: developing empathy; identifying a core problem; isolating variables; visioning; and eventually, designing, testing, and modifying prototypes.

Design Thinking in Action

Our Lotspeich students participate in Project Math, an innovative math enrichment program that spans first through fifth-grade. This program includes many long-term projects that connect the quantitative concepts students learn in the classroom with real-world applications. This might include a Cincinnati Council member visiting the classroom, designing a four-block region above Fort Washington Way, transforming classrooms into an arcade by using recycled materials, or developing platforms for making Seven Hills a more environmentally sustainable campus.

Our Everyday Mathematics program, designed by the University of Chicago, is inspiring and fun, making math something that students are excited to apply. At Seven Hills, we want each student to understand mathematics at the most fundamental and conceptual level, so solving problems creatively and confidently is part of the experience from the beginning. The “spiral design” of the program means that material resurfaces repeatedly and that students are continually building on previous experiences. This gives students a strong base for high-level problem-solving in later grades, as well as a chance for recurring assessments to track progress.

The Doherty Campus features the Creation Studio, equipped with Apple computers, 3-D printers, hand tools, and well-organized shelves that provide all the materials an inspired mind can desire. A highlight of the program is the Passion Project, a student-led assignment that asks fourth- and fifth-graders to identify what they love and explore it in-depth—a budding artist may draw a self-portrait and render it on a 3-D printer. A future fashion designer may test an idea for a raincoat on a sewing machine. Along the way, students delight in the process of discovery as much as in the results.


Learning Support in Lower School 

In Lower School, Learning Support means having an expert faculty, keenly attuned to the unique learning styles of their students. It means grouping students by skill level to provide an appropriate level of challenge. Moreover, guidance counselors and learning specialists help students develop effective learning strategies and, if necessary, coordinate the work of private tutors in an active, working partnership with the faculty.

Social and Emotional Learning in Lower School

The Lower Schools provide comprehensive social-emotional learning through regular classroom guidance sessions, facilitated by the school counselors as well as mindfulness practice and periodic retreats.

Social and Emotional Learning in Action

Both Doherty and Lotspeich provide comprehensive socio-emotional learning programs through classroom guidance sessions. These are regularly scheduled 30-minute classes, provided by the school counselor, for all the students, from 2-years-old to fifth grade. We also have added training in mindfulness practice to our classroom guidance programs.

Students study different types of breathing, learn about the different parts of their brain, and explore the concept of growth mindset. Growth mindset is introduced in third grade, integrating the concepts of brain science and mindfulness. Students discover that the best way for our brains to grow is through challenges and mistakes.

Fifth-graders at both Doherty and Lotspeich participate in the annual Kindness Retreat. The retreat is a tradition that brings students together for a day of dancing, music, and group work dedicated to community building while illustrating the value, and power, of kindness. Students leave the retreat inspired and empowered, taking with them a new sense of character and understanding of their peers.


Experiential Learning in Lower School 

In Lower School, Experiential Learning continues students’ broad exposure to a host of special classes in art, music, drama, Spanish, library, physical education, guidance, and technology. Beyond this, the school calendar is built around a host of fields trips, retreats, and special events, each of which helps students discover and develop hidden talents.

Experiential Learning in Action

The excitement to innovate starts at a young age, so both our Lowers Schools provide students makerspaces to inspire and nurture students’ curiosity. At our Doherty Campus, students design and build in a well-equipped Creation Studio, bringing their ideas to life with 3-D printers and assembling recycled materials, and with the support and guidance of their teachers. Our Lotspeich students participate in Project Math, an innovative enrichment program designed to engage students in applying quantitative and geometric skills to address real-world challenges.

Our After School Enrichment Programs offer the space and supervision for your student to stay involved in learning after the bell rings. Eight-week programs like Move & Groove, Creating with Clay, Bricks 4Kidz or Mad Science offer fun opportunities during the fall, winter and spring sessions. There are also mini-sessions, which run for two weeks and will offer a one-day special event, or programs that can meet on a short-term basis.

Our Summer Camps and Programs reflect many of the same qualities of our regular school programs: hands-on, adventure-filled experiences where they can reach further and learn even more. Our Honeybee and Stingerbee programs are designed for our youngest campers, from ages three to six. Weekly special-interest programs provide a great framework for appealing activities that support academic, social, and emotional growth. Whether it’s painting or drawing, chess or tennis, acting or creative writing, every program contains countless opportunities for new discoveries and unforgettable summer memories.

Even at a young age, we like to give our students opportunities to take the lead in a team or group. Leadership roles offer invaluable experience with working with peers, learning new skills, and stepping a bit out of their own comfort zone. An important part of the Seven Hills education is the rich tradition of students presenting and speaking in front of their peers. Students assume leadership roles over their projects and hone their public speaking skills in the process. They may transform into the subject of a poem in third grade, when students present verses they meticulously memorized. Or, they may become project leads while collaborating as a member of a team project to design a theme park ride and make a presentation to classmates and teachers about their design process. In fifth grade, students take center stage in the yearly musical and perform in front of an audience of teachers, parents, and peers. Children may also participate in the Good Apple program, spending an afternoon a week aiding the Lower School community with various helpful projects. There is no shortage of opportunities for students to gain leadership skills.

In Lower School, field trips help our students to understand how their classroom conversations come to life outside the school’s walls. These tailored trips encourage discovery, foster curiosity, and take experiential learning to new heights. Here are some examples:

Dearborn, Michigan (Lotspeich)

Our fifth-grade trips to Dearborn date back to 1938. At Greenfield Village, actors recreate daily life during historical periods; students visit two working farms and travel in a Model T. At the Henry Ford Museum, they learn more about the Revolutionary Era, the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, and modern Civil Rights movements.

City Hall (Lotspeich)

Our third-graders’ trip to City Hall launches their unit on Cincinnati history. They discover the city’s infrastructure and architecture, as well as the importance of civic responsibility. Students leave the day with a better sense of their community’s past and their own role today in local government.

Newport Aquarium (Lotspeich)

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.

Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center (Doherty)

Fifth-graders spend three days at the center, located near Yellow Springs. The program at Glen Helen provides an excellent hands-on experience in nature, where students gain a better understanding of themselves and their peers, and an overall respect for the environment.

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Doherty)

Fourth- and fifth-graders visit Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to learn more about the history of slavery, broadening their historical knowledge and better understanding its affect on our society.

SunWatch Indian Village (Doherty)

At SunWatch, third-graders explore both indoors and out in nature, including 13th-century-type structures rebuilt in their original locations. In the Interpretive Center, students view artifacts and learn about the rich history of the village and its inhabitants.

Immersive Arts in Lower School

In Lower School, our students’ Immersive Arts experience is more frequent, carefully sequenced classes in visual arts, drama, and instrumental and choral music. Students at each grade level showcase their work in class plays or musicals, instrumental and choral concerts, and art exhibitions. They also explore our rich arts community, both on field trips and through performances by visiting artists.

Immersive Arts in Action

Our music teacher on the Doherty Campus teaches fifth-graders how to bucket drum. Students use the makeshift instruments to learn the popular street music style, just one of the many styles of music children learn in our Lower Schools. Fifth-graders use their music-reading skills to tap out the drum notes, as their teacher excitedly conducts from the front of the classroom.

In art class on our Hillsdale Campus, second-graders learn the intricate world of patterns and patternmaking. Students create an array of vibrant koi fish and stylized feathers. They expand on their knowledge of design and color, and learn coloring techniques, such as outlining and staying in the lines.

Fifth-graders in our Lower Schools learn the importance of performance during the staging of their annual musicals. Each campus mounts a full-scale production, complete with costumes and lighting. The productions are directed by our Lotspeich and Doherty music teachers and shared drama teacher.

Full-participation Athletics in Lower School

In Lower School, our athletic programs emphasize active participation by athletes at all skill levels. Under the guidance of skilled and supportive coaches, our youngest athletes develop the mental and physical skills that will help them succeed on and off the field for the rest of their lives. Teams are coached by experienced parent volunteers who are trained and supported by our own expert coaches.

Boys and girls play on competitive teams through the SAY (Soccer Association for Youth) and CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) leagues, bringing together students from both of our Lower Schools in an effort to broaden and develop new relationships.

Athletics in Action

Lower School athletes shine on Spirit Night. Our youngest athletes are celebrated during an Upper School varsity game. The Lower School students take the field during halftime, as their teams are announced over the loudspeaker. They are greeted with enthusiastic applause from spectators.

Many Lower School students take part in SAY Soccer, a citywide soccer program that promotes participation and skill development. Several Seven Hills’ teams play during the fall season, and some have advanced and won tournaments.

 Homecoming is an all-school celebration of athletics at Seven Hills. In addition to an exciting slew of Middle and Upper School games, Lower School students participate in sports clinics. They learn, from their older peers, the fundamentals of a variety of sports, including volleyball, soccer, golf, and cheerleading. The evening ends with a rousing pep rally and fireworks on the lower fields.