Why Seven Hills?

We Know Boys.

At Seven Hills, we know that adolescent boys’ brains are wired differently. Their minds move a mile a minute, and so do their bodies. They tap their pens, jiggle their legs, squirm in their seats, and gaze off into space. Traditional schools tell boys to sit still, stop tapping, pay attention. But we know that minds and bodies in motion don’t equate to a lack of focus. They equate to curiosity and enthusiasm: two things that we believe are essential in the classroom.

Our approach is largely shaped by the latest in academic research and our own understandings of what we witness every day on campus. 

An Advanced Approach to Teaching Boys

Confusion, bravado, restlessness, a preoccupation with peers, and questioning of authority aren’t manifestations of poor attitude; they are hallmarks of a particular time of life.

Nancie Atwell, In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning

Imagine the educational possibilities in a setting where educators welcome the spirit that boys bring into the classroom. Boys whose bodies are in perpetual motion, who are bored in half the time, and who want to touch everything.

At Seven Hills we take advantage of what makes middle school boys different, and we find meaningful ways to channel their energy and social needs instead of trying to legislate against them. More independent activity, more say in what happens in the classroom, more responsibility for their learning, more peer instruction, and more hands-on experiences that help them organize concepts and reality.

The Teacher as a Model

Most importantly, I take off the top of my head and [learn] in front of the students. I show them how I plan, change my mind, confront problems, weigh options, make decisions, use conventions and [adjust] to compose my life.

Nancie Atwell, In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning

Each Seven Hills teacher is challenged to model curiosity based on her or his own spirit of inquiry. Teachers embrace each boy’s achievement, from his slightest observations to his most stunning accomplishments. Learning is fun at Seven Hills because the joy of it is modeled throughout our community. High fives are common here and are considered an appropriate gesture when boys make connections across the curriculum and share experiences.

Why Single-Gender Education Works in Middle School

Middle school boys shuttle back and forth between everything. Physically, [they] are antsy. They tap pens, jerk their legs and feet, squirm, gaze around the room and into space while apparently doing little, but doing everything all at once. Emotionally, the students experience wide swings of mood. When they like something, they love it; when they dislike something, they hate it and all of this for only a short season until a new fancy arrives. They don’t want to be weird, therefore, they see weirdness everywhere.

Nancie Atwell

A nationwide study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology confirmed what the majority of studies suggest: at every age, boys in coed schools are less enthusiastic about school than girls are. And, as boys get older, the “enthusiasm gap” widens. The older boys get, the more they tend to perceive doing well in school as “geeky.” At this age, being an “A” student generally does not raise one’s status with other boys, and in fact may lower it.

At Seven Hills we tailor our curriculum to the way boys learn. Our teachers understand that the best way to get boys energized to learn is to keep the classroom personal and lively, with each student involved.

Rigid gender stereotypes are common in traditional school environments. Research consistently shows that boys who attend single-gender middle schools typically do better in terms of maturity and social adjustment, than boys who attend coed schools. It also supports the conclusion that boys in single-gender schools feel more free to be themselves and follow their interests and talents.

A School Designed with Boys in Mind

If you look around the school, you’ll notice it’s not very fancy. It’s not like places where everything is sectioned off and you can’t touch stuff. Everything at Seven Hills belongs to all of us. Our leaders never stop putting the students first. What I really love about Seven Hills is that people are put ahead of stuff, students before grades, acceptance before perfection. That’s why I like to say that, at Seven Hills, I’m learning life!

Jared Shanks, Former Student Government President

Simply put, Seven Hills is a school that boys love. We keep the boys at the center of every choice in designing both our instruction and campus spaces. That effort pays dividends in making this a place where boys are comfortable to work, play, learn, and grow in amazing ways.

A Focused Learning Environment

In American education, the numerical assessment of student performance inordinately influences curriculum and methods of instruction. From kindergarten to graduate school, educators 'teach to the test.' The transformed middle grade school will require new assessment approaches that promote disciplined inquiry among young adolescents.

Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, TURNING POINTS: The Report of the Task Force on Education of Young Adolescents

Teachers at Seven Hills are encouraged to reduce teaching time at the front of the classroom and instead to work side-by-side with students during class periods. We employ a variety assessment tools to measure student learning and progress. Tests function as learning exercises that deepen the learning experience rather than generate performance-based comparisons.

Seven Hills is Organized Differently

All of these ideas sound great, but other schools have the same research, right? Some even make the same claims? Is Seven Hills really different?

Prospective parent

Seven Hills is about more than vision and innovation. Seven Hills has two transforming gifts that help it deliver on its promises. First, Seven Hills is small. Second, Seven Hills is based on an intentionally dynamic model that adapts to the changing reality of its students. Combined, these two characteristics produce the responsive environment that middle school boys need. Committed to a class size not to exceed 16 students, Seven Hills is and does what so many schools can only imagine. We firmly believe that class size matters and that smaller is better.

Our Board of Trustees, Head of School, faculty, and staff believe that the most vital changes necessary for transforming classroom settings and learning experiences for middle school-age boys occur best in settings where the entire school community is involved and instruction approaches are based on the finest, most credible research available.