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Upper School Signature Programs

bECOMING yoUr best self

Upper School students are excited and eager to learn, test themselves, and truly stretch their abilities. They’re prepared for more challenging curriculum and activities that help them accomplish all this and more. Our Signature Programs give students the space and guidance they need to discover their capacities—and themselves.



Active Learning in Upper School 

In Upper School, students are ready to take an even more active role in their own learning. Their increasingly nuanced understanding of the world comes through sustained inquiry and investigation. They learn to pose complex, inter-related questions, to seek reliable information from a variety of sources, to become skeptical about loose reasoning or unsubstantiated claims. The hallmarks of Active Learning in our Upper School are lively, impassioned class discussions and debates, thorough data gathering and analysis, and creative, often collaborative, problem-solving, engaging activities that prepare student to excel, not only in college, but in life.

Active Learning in Action

The Tournament of Greatness gives our Upper Schoolers the opportunity to research and articulate the historical impact of a particular historical figure. In a month-long competition, freshmen and sophomores go head-to-head in a battle of historical significance. After each presentation, the combatants field audience questions about their figure’s historical impact, drawing from their extensive knowledge of the political, social, scientific, or religious context in which that figure operated. A jury of students rule and select a debate winner.

Global Awareness in Upper School 

In their study of history, world literature, political science, economics, and environmental studies, Upper School students probe the historical and cultural antecedents of our complex, global world. A diverse, multicultural learning community; a robust, immersive, world language program; a wide array of travel and study abroad options; and the chance to purse a Concentration in global studies all help foster the cultural competence our graduates will need to thrive in a globally interconnected world.

Global Awareness in Action

In Upper School, the world language program culminates in a host of immersive classroom experiences designed to put students on a path to functional fluency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Each of the Upper level language courses contains a host of cultural and learning experiences, designed to heighten students’ awareness of those areas of the world in which that language is spoken or read. 

To supplement classroom learning, students in all four languages can enrich their linguistic and cultural experience through a host of study-abroad opportunities aligned with school vacations. On a two-year, rotating basis, Seven Hills students travel to Spain, France, China, Italy, and Greece.

Seven Hills students can participate in an exchange trip to Spain. Chaperoned by Spanish teachers, the group takes day trips to Toledo, Madrid, and Segovia, as well as workshop days at Spanish universities. Students stay with their host families on the weekends, experiencing day-to-day life of the culture in Spain.

French students from Lycée de la Croix Blanche, located in Bondues, France, visit Seven Hills as part of an exchange between the two Upper Schools. As part of the exchange, students travel to France and tour Paris and Belgium.

Our Downey Scholars Program extends our Chinese curriculum, enabling students to visit China in the summer, to immerse themselves in Chinese life, and to use what they have learned to communicate in the real world. Students learn about the culture, eat local foods, visit important landmarks, attend school, and build relationships with their host families.

Guided by our classics teachers, both trained archaeologists, Upper School Latin and Greek students travel to Greece and Italy, exploring many of the richest cultural sites in the ancient world.

In ninth and 10th grade, students study World History I and World History II, respectively. These courses build a solid foundation of global history that covers the dawn of civilization to present day. Students practice critical literacy skills and examine history through a worldwide lens.

Students with a passion for history can choose from electives that explore historical and social-science topics in depth. In Global Issues: Asiastudents study the history of east, south, and central Asia, exploring events that shaped the continent from 1945 and on. Students examine the same time period in Global Issues: the Non-Asian Worldwhich covers Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Other history electives include Introduction to Archaeology, Economics, Environmental History, Honors Modern Political Theory, and Postmodern America Since 1968.

Design Thinking in Upper School 

Design Thinking in the Upper School involves more robust, integrated projects that encourage students to apply their knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and computer science to identify and address authentic, real world problems. Students acquires these concepts in the core science classes as well as in electives in engineering, computer science, biotechnology, and entrepreneurship, and hone them in culminating projects which require them to apply design skills to craft solutions to address a “client’s” needs.

Design Thinking in Action

Our Upper School offers two project-based engineering courses that introduce students to STEM-based disciplines such as biomedical, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering through engaging assignments with real-world applications. Our engineering students collaborate to solve a problem, sometimes one found in the Seven Hills community. For example, students devised, prototyped, and built tools and a specially designed backpack to help a graduating senior with a medical condition as he prepared to head off to his freshman year in college.

Our four-course Computer Science sequence offers some of the best opportunities for students to learn problem-solving techniques and the freedom to design their own work. In Programming I, students learn RealSoftware’s implementation of Visual Basic, design an MP3 player, and games like hangman, blackjack, or Pong. Programming II introduces the Java programming language, the standard for large commercial developmental projects. In AP Computer Science, students encounter more advanced Java topics such as inheritance, polymorphism, and recursion. Computer Engineering students learn what makes a computer work as they explore hardware, digital electronics and the tools computer engineers use to design and test. This course is hands-on and students use computer engineering tools to create a real-world learning experience.

In our Entrepreneurship elective, students visit a local business and then work in small groups to solve an issue facing it, ultimately presenting their solutions to the owner. The students do this for several Cincinnati businesses, gaining experience in developing a strategic plan, pitching ideas, and reading relevant publications. Students apply their new entrepreneurial knowledge toward developing their own products. The course culminates in the Upper Schoolers presenting their ideas to a panel of business experts, who provide valuable advice and feedback.

Biotechnology, an elective class, introduces students to biotechnology career pathways and business applications. Young scientists learn about DNA, RNA, and protein technologies, as well as genetic diagnostics and forensic science. Discussions center around a host of topics, including bioethics, stem cells, and environmental management.


Learning Support in Upper School

In Upper School, students are ready to take on the bulk of the responsibility for their own learning. In small group and individual tutorials, classroom teachers and our Learning Support specialists help students understand their learning styles, develop an arsenal of strategies for varying learning tasks, and advocate for themselves. In most disciplines, students can be grouped by skill level to provide an appropriate level of challenge. Guidance counselors and learning specialists also provide classroom teachers with customized strategies to guide students toward their full potential, and, where necessary, recommend testing, and coordinate the on-campus work of private tutors.


Social and Emotional Learning in Upper School 

In Upper School, grade level and advisory meetings and the required tenth grade health class provide structured time for discussions of such issues as: health and nutrition, drug and sex education, forming healthy relationships, cultural competency, and stress management. Student leaders also get formal leadership training through the The Seven Hills Athletic Leadership Team (SHALT).

Social and Emotional Learning in Action

In addition to serving as the ninth-grade class advisor, the Upper School counselor plans a number of class meetings for students in all grade levels on social-emotional learning topics, including mindfulness practices, healthy relationships, diversity, stress management, executive function, and inclusion.

Health classes offer a holistic approach to wellness, encouraging students to actively maintain and even improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being. These courses also provide critical information about physical education, nutrition, stress management, drug education, healthy relationships, and sex education, as well as the chance for American Red Cross certification in first aid and CPR.

The Seven Hills Athletic Leadership Team (SHALT) is based on “The Team Captain’s Leadership Manual” by Jeff Janssen, who is nationally known for sports leadership training. The program brings together coaches and select student-athletes for workshops and guided discussions, with a focus on creating successful leaders and promoting sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and integrity.

Advisory and assemblies play an important role in the lives of our Upper School students. During weekly, student-led  assemblies, the entire Upper School gathers in the Hillsdale Commons for announcements and presentations. These meetings build a sense of community, bringing the Upper School’s youngest and oldest students together in one place. In advisories, students are grouped in homeroom-like classes to participate in exciting activities, including the month-long Funuary. Advisories compete to earn points and be declared the Funuary winner. The Upper School goes all in, collaborating and creating, and having fun in the process.


Experiential Learning in Upper School 

In Upper School, our signature Experiential Learning program is designed to help students find “a path to purpose,” a process of guided self-discovery involving three main stages:

Introspection: activities that expose students to a range of career and service possibilities and help them reflect on what interests them

Exploration: guidance toward exploratory experiences, both through our program (e.g. course selection, Community Service and Challenge Experience projects, May Term Intensives) and beyond (e.g. on-line courses, camps, summer work, study or internships, travel and exchange programs).

Concentration: an  option to recognize some students, who choose to focus their elective coursework, summer enrichment, and Challenge Experience and Community Service on a particular interdisciplinary area. Presently concentrations are available in: Community Engagement, Engineering and Design, Environmental Stewardship, Global Citizenship, Political Engagement, Technology and Innovation, The Arts, Wellness, and Written Expression.

Experiential Learning in Action

In addition to our core curriculum, we offer electives that appeal to a wide variety of student interests, whether in arts, science, history, English, or a combination of them all. Students can delve into music, art, and theater with a slew of Fine and Performing Arts electives, including Ceramics, Theater Directing, Chorus, and Instrumental Ensembles. Science students can explore Psychology, while learning about the inner workings of stem cells and DNA in Biotechnology. Young historians can take Introduction to Archaeology as well as Honors Modern Political TheoryAnd for budding writers, Journalism and Creative Writing are opportunities to expand on different writing styles they learned in the classroom.

Our student clubs meet during lunchtime and feature topics like new chess strategies, the environment, activism, and more. They’re a great way for students to share their interests with others, or discover a new group of friends to connect with. Many of our clubs are fueled by the students themselves: born out of their own interests and organized by their efforts.

Volunteering opportunities are another great way for students to get some hands-on experience in topics they care about, and to help others at the same time. Seven Hills students support local food banks, shelters, clinics, rehab centers and literacy programs.

Students can connect with Seven Hills parents and alums to find summer internships or job shadowing experiences that align with their career or what they would like to pursue in college.

For those students who wish to pursue an area of interest in more depth, Seven Hills offers the option of graduating with a concentration. Students can request a specific or unique area for their concentration, but some include Community Engagement, Engineering and Design, Environmental Stewardship, Global Citizenship, Political Engagement, Technology and Innovation, The Arts, Wellness and Written Expression. To earn a concentration, it’s required students do one of the following:

  1. Core course requirements plus an elective, an online course, a summer course, a college course, or some other educational experience.
  2. A  combination of job shadowing, internship, interviews with professionals, public lectures, conferences, and workshops.
  3. A Personal Challenge project, community service, a job, an internship, a student project, or a student competition.

They also must write a reflection paper, perform an oral defense, and keep a log or journal of their activities.

May Term Intensives offer students the opportunity to explore their academic interests in further depth. After spring exams, when all regular classes are finished, our ninth, 10th, and 11th graders participate in these courses for five days during regular school hours. Some examples: furniture design and construction, food production and processing, medical careers, architecture and murals, and more.


Immersive Arts in Upper School 

Our Immersive Arts program finds its fullest expression in the Upper School. The talented arts faculty offers more than 20 elective courses, and most students, having built a deep appreciation for the arts, far exceed the three-semester graduation requirement. All courses are performance-based, and most culminate in a significant production or exhibition. In Upper School, students often initiate or lead their own productions, including one-act plays that they write and direct, art exhibitions that they create and curate, or original music or improvisations that they perform. In addition to frequent on-campus performances, students also perform in regional arts competitions and on travelling tours.


Immersive Arts in Action

The artistic talents of our Upper School students are recognized outside the walls of Seven Hills. Throughout the year, students compete in major arts competitions, most notably the prestigious Cappies, a student-directed theater competition similar to the Tony Awards. Seven Hills has received and been nominated for several important Cappies awards, including student acting and directing.

In the winter, our Upper School chorus travels and performs around the community. They also travel to New York City in the spring, performing and experiencing the many sights the city has to offer.

Sometimes the talent comes to Seven Hills. Our instrumental music teacher often invites musical talent from the community to visit Seven Hills to teach and play with our Upper School instrumental students. The visiting musician gives a master class in their musical genre, and offers tips to help our student musicians better understand advanced music concepts.

Full-participation Athletics in Upper School

Fielding 34 teams in 14 different sports, divided by skill level, our athletes and facilities are championship quality. Our freshman and junior varsity programs ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate. Our varsity teams compete at the highest level in the Miami Valley Conference, often winning league championships and bringing home state championship titles. Through the dedication of our athletes and the extensive knowledge of our coaches, our teams maintain a hard work ethic, strong commitment, and true sportsmanship.

Full-participation Athletics

Seven Hills has claimed several Miami Valley Conference championships. In one school year alone, the golf team claimed a state championship during the fall season. In that same year in swimming, Seven Hills claimed one team runner-up title and an individual, two-state champion. In the spring, a junior was named state champion in tennis.

The boys swim team claimed the district swimming championship in the Miami Valley Conference two years in a row. Under the guidance of great coaches, the boys team made Seven Hills history.

Many Upper School students are recognized as three-season athletes throughout their time at Seven Hills. These students participate in a sport each season, showing their passion and dedication to athletics.