Skip to main content

Middle School Signature Programs

Discovering Your Path

In Middle School, students are starting to come into their own. They’re learning to embrace their full potential, hone their emerging talents, and stretch their imaginations. Our Signature Programs are intentionally designed with this critical time in mind and empower Middle Schoolers to be their best selves.


Active Learning in Middle School 

In Middle School, Active Learning requires students to frame questions that makes their learning engaging, even personal. As they look at the material world or historical phenomena or political questions, they are encouraged to seek root causes, to explore contrasting points of view, to weigh evidence, and eventually, to form their own points of view. Active Learning engages our students not only in seeking new information, but in applying that information to authentic problem-solving.

Active Learning in Action

Sixth-graders wrap up their intensive study of Asia with a day devoted to hands-on activities and lessons about cultures of many Asian countries, including India, China, and Korea. On Asia Day, students may learn how to play cricket, become amateur calligraphers, or enjoy a kung fu demo from a local dojo. The day ends with a celebration of Holi, the India Festival of Colors, that welcomes the arrival of spring. Students gather outside to throw handfuls of colored powder in the air, making for a fun and fascinating experience.

Using pasta, cardboard, and hot glue, seventh-graders create towers for the Shake Table Project to learn firsthand, basic architectural principles and to simulate how engineers in places like San Francisco design earthquake-resistant structures. Students learn what’s going on beneath the Earth’s crust, and how that affects what happens on the surface. They also begin to understand how people work together to save lives.

From mid-April to the end of the school year, eighth graders explore alternate energy sources through the Wind Turbine Project, a culminating exhibition that gives student teams a chance to apply all the physical principles they have learned for the year in an authentic design project. By designing turbine blades of differing shapes and re-configuring gear ratios, they seek the most efficient energy transfer to power lights and mechanical infrastructure of simulated micro-cities.


Global Awareness in Middle School

A robust yearlong, sixth grade geography experience, broad exposure to multi-cultural art, music, and literature, and an innovative, backward-designed Modern World history course, encourage Middle School students to see the world as an increasingly interconnected place. Moreover, our students learn not just to understand, but to act. History and literature units as well as supplementary immersion experiences, like Global Awareness Day, help students view national issues through a global lens, and sustained global service learning projects channel students’ empathy and idealism into active engagement. A broader exposure to world languages and cultures, in Spanish, French, Latin, and Chinese, deepens their global understanding.

Global Awareness in Action

On Global Education Day, the whole Middle School comes together to participate in a day filled with speakers, learning sessions, and a culminating activity styled after the television show The Amazing Race, that takes students around the world without leaving the Middle School. The day opens with a guest speaker and students break into sessions hosted by speakers from around Cincinnati and the Seven Hills community. The highlight of the day is The Amazing Race, an interactive experience where students work in groups to complete globally themed challenges. Students run with the bulls, build pyramids, and dance an Irish jig, just to name a few.

Sixth-graders learn about latitude and longitude with a hands-on activity. At the beginning of the lessons, students learn how the lines on a globe look different than what is on a map. Using blue tape and stability balls, students recreate latitude and longitude lines, giving them a simple way to visualize the imaginary points. The activity gives students an opportunity to learn by doing.

In the Human Rights and Responsible Authority unit, eighth graders explore the history of oppression and of freedom movements by making actual and virtual visits to museums, like the Center for Holocaust and Humanities Education, or by critiquing documentaries, like the groundbreaking 1968 “Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes” experiment conducted by third grade teacher Jane Elliot.

Design Thinking in Middle School

In Middle School, Design Thinking becomes a core activity, formalized in a three-year, structured curriculum with a dedicated facility and teacher. Sixth graders are introduced to the design thinking process and learn the building block skills — basic carpentry and construction, mechanical engineering and circuitry, and rudimentary coding. Seventh grade focuses on a sustained design thinking project, culminating in a formal exhibition to expert judges. Eighth grade offers extension activities in electronics and coding. Students come to see technology, engineering, and innovation as a vehicles to solve engaging real-world problems and better the lives of others. Engineering plus empathy — that’s innovation in education.

Design Thinking in Action

Our Middle School Innovation Lab asks students to approach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) with the mindset of problem-solvers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Because empathy and innovation are often linked at Seven Hills, the start of every project in our Middle School Innovation Lab begins with students asking themselves  and those around them, “How can I help?” “How can I make your life easier?” 

At the beginning of the semester-long Design Thinking course, seventh-graders interview people in the Seven Hills community and identify problems to solve. Working in groups, they examine a problem from all angles, and develop a prototype based on their ideas using the tools and materials they find in the Innovation Lab. Every step of the way, the students keep their “client” in mind, finding ways to put their empathy into practice. Students’ projects have ranged from a toy designed to engage animals in the Cincinnati Zoo, to a bracelet designed to remind elderly people to remain hydrated, and even a better toothpaste dispenser. The school year culminates for our Design Thinkers in a special presentation to a panel of evaluators with expertise in diverse STEM-related professions. The evaluators listen to student presentations, ask questions, and take a closer look at projects and presentations, providing students with invaluable feedback from real-world experts.

Sixth graders apply design thinking principles during their study of Mayans, Incans, and Aztecs. Using TinkerCad, a 3D design software, students create an artifact or temple from one of the three civilizations, designing their own or copying one they found through research. This cross-curricular lesson allows students to stretch their skills and create complex structures using computer software.

Learning Support in Middle School

In Middle School, the goal of our Learning Support program is to help students understand their own unique learning styles and needs, develop appropriate strategies, and to advocate for themselves. To serve the needs of the broad spectrum of students, the Middle School groups students, in some disciplines, by skill level, to provide an appropriate level of challenge. Guidance counselors and learning specialists help students identify and refine their preferred learning strategies and, if necessary, coordinate the work of private tutors in an active, working partnership with the faculty.

Learning Support in Action

During these years students with identified learning needs have the option to enroll in Learning Lab, a scheduled class taught by a learning specialist focused on identifying and understanding students’ particular learning styles, as well as helping them develop organizational and study skills. 

Math and eighth grade science classes are organized by skill level so that students have the extra time and space they need to best learn these areas of study.

All Middle School teachers are available to provide daily help outside of class. School-vetted private tutors may work with students on campus, in private space that best promotes focused learning.

Middle Academic Support Team

The Middle Academic Support Team, or MAST, course is designed to teach students specific study strategies and provide a place for them to practice using these skills. The course focuses on helping students develop executive functioning skills, active study skills, and self-awareness and self-advocacy skills.

During MAST class, with the support of MAST teachers, students are able to work on difficult homework assignments and study for tests and quizzes. The teachers guide student work during class and review course content as needed to support student understanding. Upon completion of the course, students have reviewed study skills to provide a sound foundation for future academic success.

Social and Emotional Learning in Middle School 

In Middle School, Social and Emotional Learning is a major focus, both in weekly assemblies and advisory meetings. In addition, our Second Step program delivered in advisory groups helps students develop the five core competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

Social and Emotional Learning in Action

Second Step is an advisory and guidance program that helps students understand the importance of managing their emotions. Using video tools and exercises, students learn that we experience many emotions throughout a typical day, and each of these emotions is often associated with a certain physical response. By learning to get their initial reactions under control and respond appropriately to what they’re feeling, students gain crucial skills for moving forward in the school setting.

Advisory and assemblies are an integral part of Middle School. During advisory, students are grouped by grade into homeroom-like classes, led by an assigned teacher. Our teachers work closely with the school counselor to develop programs and activities that meet the social and developmental needs of students at each grade level. Students are more than peers. In advisories, they become families. Once a week, sixth through eighth graders and faculty gather for student-led assemblies. In a manner similar to a town hall meeting, teachers make announcements, awards are given, important information about the upcoming week is shared, and students and teachers work on Second Step activities. Students are permitted to speak if they’re holding the talking stick, which emphasizes the importance of respect and good listening skills. While advisories may become students’ families, assemblies are where the Middle School comes together as a community.

Seventh-graders take part in the Courage Retreat, during which they spend the day participating in group discussions, games, and story sharing, all designed to build self-confidence and promote work with new and old friends. The retreat encourages positive leadership skills and courage, as well as the ability to make good choices. As the day goes on, students take more and more steps out of their comfort zones as they participate in activities that ignite self-reflection and insight.

Experiential Learning in Middle School 

In Middle School, we approach Experiential Learning by giving students required weekly exposure to physical education and health; library skills; visual art, music, drama; world languages; design thinking and technology, and social and emotional learning, as well as a host of optional interest-based clubs and after school activities in athletics, the arts, and other interest areas. The Middle School calendar also features host of fields trips, outdoor education retreats, and special events. Middle School students are encouraged to reflect on each of these experiences and to begin to make some choices, charting their own course to pursue emerging interests and talents.

Experiential Learning in Action

As students begin to discover unique talents or interests, they can pursue them in interest-based activities or clubs. These cover a wide range of performing arts, athletics, leadership programs, academic topics and more.

In Math Club, students with a love of numbers and completing math problems can attend club sessions during their lunch period. The meetings tie into MATHCOUNTS, a nationwide math enrichment competition program for middle school students.

Latin Club is open to any Middle School student interested in the mythology, history, culture, and language of ancient Rome. In addition to exploring and celebrating Roman life, students participate in Certamen, a highly competitive regional Latin competition.

Eighth-graders selected to attend the Bystander to Upstander: Youth Leadership Summit participate in valuable, interactive sessions about personal integrity, teamwork, and recognizing personal strengths. The leadership summit is an all-day program that encourages students to stand up to anti-Semitism, bigotry, racism, and bullying.

Field trips allow our Middle School students a chance to explore the world beyond our classrooms and truly see how what they’re learning applies in everyday life. Whether it’s interacting with professionals in a certain field, studying a new ecosystem, or putting themselves in someone else’s shoes for the day, our field trips are designed to push students out of their comfort zones, and introduce them to communities they might not otherwise encounter. Here are some examples:

Indianapolis, Indiana

Sixth graders spend two days and one night in Indianapolis, exploring the city’s museums and zoo. Chaperoned by our teachers, students have the chance to exercise independence and responsibility in a new setting and learn about a new city.

Middle School Retreats

At the end of the first full week of classes, sixth graders get the opportunity to learn about our campus, our facilities, and particular features of life in Middle School. The seventh-graders have their own retreat for play-based activities, both in small groups and with their entire class.

Around Cincinnati

Venturing into the city together, all Seven Hills seventh graders explore historic sites and landmarks that continue to influence Cincinnati’s story. What they learn reinforces the concepts and lessons students are studying in their history and English classes.

River Trips

As seventh graders study water quality and testing in their science classes, they venture out to gather, test, and analyze samples from local rivers. This experience teaches them about the influence that our environment has on the city’s watershed. This trip is an excellent example of taking concepts from the classroom and applying them directly to real-world situations that affect our well-being.

Adventure Treks

At the beginning of their eighth grade year, students travel to Pisgah National Forest, in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina, for a four-day camping trip. The endeavor is planned and designed by Adventure Treks, a national leader in outdoor education. In the company of their classmates and teachers, students take on a variety of challenges (like rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and overnight camping) that work to create a shared identity for the entire grade. Learning what it means to be both a member and a leader of a community, they return to campus with a renewed sense of identity and purpose.


Immersive Arts in Middle School 

In our Middle School’s Immersive Arts program, students participate in two arts classes per day, including yearlong required classes in visual arts, drama, and instrumental and choral music, each of which culminate in major performances or exhibitions. In addition, students can also opt into our after-school theater program, which mounts three open-cast performances each year. As the sophistication of the material increases, so does students’ level of ownership for artistic decision-making and technical work.

Immersive Arts in Action

Our Middle School choruses and instrumental ensembles give students a space to hone their musical craft. Guided by talented directors, students come into their own, discovering their voices, a passion for an instrument, or both. Months of hard work and practice culminate in an afternoon of choral and instrumental performances in the fall and spring.

Our theater program takes place both in and outside the classroom. Students learn important skills, such as improvisation and scene studies, in class and apply them during fall and spring musical productions. The Junior Thespian Club also gives students an opportunity to perform and practice their theater skills outside of school plays. The club is an international honors organization that recognizes the achievements of Middle School theater students. Club members attend workshops and perform for their peers, as well as compete in the state conference and the National Thespian Festival.

Eighth graders learn about the pop art movement through shoes. As part of the lesson, students meld pop art and footwear by painting shoes with images from popular culture, ranging from cartoons to films. The lesson ties into the Middle School’s fiber arts unit as well.

Full-participation Athletics in Middle School

At this stage, our competitive athletic teams are led by dedicated school coaches who foster teamwork, character, commitment, and leadership qualities year after year. This model produces strong, focused Middle School teams and promotes the skill-building that culminates in our highly competitive junior varsity and varsity teams.

To maximize our students’ skill development, we offer multiple teams in each sport, so each student has the opportunity to develop at their own skill level. Our no-cut policy allows every student who wants to compete a chance to play.

Full-participation Athletics in Action 

Middle School Spirit Night celebrates our athletes. During Spirit Night, students are acknowledged during halftime of the Upper School varsity game. The teams are announced over the loudspeaker and are greeted with enthusiastic applause from spectators.

Seven Hills is a member of the Miami Valley Conference. Our Middle School sports teams have moved through the ranks of the conference, including a co-ed swim team being named league champions. The swim team is comprised of both seventh and eighth graders.

Homecoming is a schoolwide event that helps kick off the fall season. Middle School athletes open the night, playing against local teams before Upper School varsity takes the field. The evening includes the traditional soccer shootout and ends with a pep rally and exciting fireworks show.