Specialists work with lower school students throughout the week.

With their specialists, students develop public speaking skills, art and music appreciation, foreign language foundations, computer literacy, and a respect for nature, among others.

Oak Hill is very proud of its World Language program. In grades K-2, students take Spanish, French, and Mandarin each week for 30 minutes each. In grade 3, students decide which language they want to focus on, and continue through 5th grade taking 2 45-minute classes each week. Students learn basic phrases, writing, and culture in a variety of settings, and develop an interest and understanding of our global community.


The Lower School French program introduces children to the language and culture of France and Francophone countries. Using pictures, movement, music, art, and drama, children learn new words and practice the pronunciation of this beautiful language. Through photographs, stories, videos, and cooking, children learn about the traditional culture of France as well as French-speaking countries in Africa and the Caribbean. In third, fourth, and fifth grades the students read poetry and short stories and create and perform skits in French.

Christiane Lamine, French


Songs, skits and stories entice the young child to playfully begin the process of acquiring a second language. Our two resident puppets, Rosco and Dora, are always available to liven up the classroom and challenge the kids to explore their imaginations…in Spanish! We are soon joined by the irrepressible Gabi, the kitty, as she takes us through episode after episode of imaginative adventures that include reading, writing, and creating new stories via cartoons, written expression, and acting.

Part of the language odyssey during the lower school years includes an exposure to all three languages found at Oak Hill: Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese. To foster a broader awareness, language instructors bring all students together at least four times a year to sing and share cultural highlights from the countries of the respective languages.


Oak Hill School is proud to have offered the Mandarin Chinese program to the students since September 2006. Our Mandarin classes teach students basic Chinese vocabulary, Chinese characters, Pinyin, grammar, sentences, and phrases. We teach our students to listen, talk, read, write, and type in the Chinese language. The classes offer a way for students to learn to speak, read and write Chinese while exploring the art and culture of China. Our activity-based curriculum enables students to acquire practical communication skills and experience the joy of learning another language.

For the Lower School Mandarin Chinese classes, we organize teaching and learning materials based on the needs and characteristics of students, with the goal of making the classes more interactive than just “teaching books”. The materials use Pinyin, Chinese characters, and English together with an emphasis on learning communication skills. The classes cover many topics in real life. Lessons are organized around themes such as family, food, and animals via class instruction and through songs, rhymes, calligraphy, stories, and games. Students study the Chinese language in small, hands-on classes.

Language strategies help students to meet the challenge of the unfamiliar. By rising to stiff linguistic challenges the student gains confidence as he or she discovers an entire new world both in language and in self. The Chinese language is a unique language, and the Chinese culture is one of the oldest and richest cultures in the world. We strongly believe that learning the Chinese language will enrich the Oak Hill experience of the children and guide them along the path of becoming world citizens and lifelong learners.

Sophie Wang, Mandarin

Music instruction is part of every K-5 student’s experience at Oak Hill School. Each grade meets 2-3 times per week for general music class where they sing, play instruments, compose, prepare for performances, dance, play musical games, and listen to music from around the world. In addition to general music classes, fifth graders meet for a weekly ukulele class and 3rd-8th grade students have opportunities to sing in choral ensembles either during or after school. Students participate in two major performances during the school year: a holiday program in December and a spring musical in March. They also perform for grandparents day, in an annual talent show, and as other opportunities arise.

Our music curriculum is designed to meet the following national standards established by the National Association for Music Education while encouraging each student to develop creatively, socially, and intellectually:


-Generate musical ideas for various purposes and contexts.

-Select and develop musical ideas for various purposes and contexts.

-Evaluate and refine selected musical ideas to create musical works that meet appropriate criteria.

-Share creative musical work that conveys intent, demonstrates craftsmanship, and exhibits originality.


-Select varied musical works to present based on interest, knowledge, technical skills, and context.

-Analyze the structure and context of varied musical works and their implications for performance.

-Develop personal interpretations that consider creators intent.

-Evaluate and refine personal and ensemble performances, individually or in collaboration with others.

-Perform expressively, with appropriate interpretation and technical accuracy, and in a manner appropriate to the audience and context.


-Choose music appropriate for a specific purpose or context.

-Analyze how the structure and context of varied musical works inform the response.

-Support interpretations of musical works that reflect creators’/performers’ expressive intent.

-Support evaluations of musical works and performances based on analysis, interpretation, and established criteria.


-Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make music.

-Relate musical ideas and works with varied context to deepen understanding.

Public Speaking for the Lower School includes exercises designed to meet the needs of the individual student. The teacher acts as a private coach working to give each child a successful public speaking experience every week. Classes often support the core classroom projects or current events. Other sample topics include, descriptive speeches, holidays, verbal and non-verbal communication, story-telling, interview techniques, research, persuasive speeches, self-introductions, use of visual aids and graphics, how to answer questions from the audience and humor. Each class is focused on allowing the student to discover his/her own voice, clearly communicate his/her objectives, maintain self-confidence as well as learn to give constructive criticism and become supportive audience members. In addition to public speaking, some basic acting techniques are introduced. Occasionally original student plays are written and produced during class time.

An after school acting class is offered at least one semester every year to form the Oak Hill Young Company. This intensive class is fun and culminates in a full scale production at the end of the semester. Interested Lower School actors are invited to join the Spring production at the end of the year in collaboration with the Upper School students.

Kitsann Means, Public Speaking

Students in Visual Arts Programs at Oak Hill School learn to communicate personal expression, cultural values, and heritage as they experience the power visual images have influencing human behavior. Art projects incorporate elements of problem solving, technical skills, and aesthetics in a variety of 2-D and 3-D media.

Lower School students in Kindergarten through 5th grade study art within an integrated curriculum which bridges subject matter with core-class units and themes. Holidays, field trip experiences, and performance programs are enriched with symbolic interpretative projects. Students master basic skills and are introduced to new mediums with technical applications. Individuality is respected, and the seeds of constructive open discussion and self evaluation are planted. Students explore line, color, form, shapes, and texture and learn the dynamics of rhythm, acute observation, shading, composition, and color theory. Famous artists and their works are reflected upon during project instruction when historical information and artistic styles correlate.

Diane Hill, Visual Art

The Natural World Program encourages an ecological perspective on all aspects of human life. By this we simply mean viewing the world from the basic understanding that human beings gain their sustenance and live out their lives through wonderful networks of interdependent relationships.

These relationships, whether they be social, cultural, environmental or inter-generational, show themselves through a range of complexity – from the very physical relations we share with things we depend on for life such as air, soil, water, and warmth; to the more abstract relations we share with each other in our social world, such as the processes where consensus is formed concerning objective facts, or the way agreement comes about concerning what constitutes reliable evidence, or the way language works to enable us to understand statements and share meaning.

A keen awareness of the depth of these mutual dependencies tends to generate a sense of obligation to them in the curious and eager-hearted mind.

In the Natural World Program, this is where our ecological focus ultimately leads us: to discovering and exploring these relationships through fun and equitable discussion, bursts of inspiration, and practical applications.



Kindergarten & 1st grades

Planet Explorers!  – At home in the Oak Hill forest and prairies seeing what we can see – nature journaling


2nd grade

Beekeeping – Honey Bee Sociology  – Caring for our bees, sharing in the honey harvest


3rd grade

Young Cartographers! The World of Mapmaking – Designing maps that explain the world – communicating landscapes and ideas through pictorial representations

Young Philosophers! –  Discovering the relationships between thought & world with children’s literature


4th grade

Mapping the Unknown! – Studying the Oregon Trail and westward expansion through exploration and advanced cartography


5th grade

Avian Flight – Understanding flight by building working bird and drone models

Where are We? – Landscape Geography – A look at our unique place on the planet through local geological, historical, and cultural perspective

5th Grade Recycling Crew – 5th graders collect and aggregate our weekly recyclables

Jim Luzzi, Naturalist

“Movement is the door to learning.”
– Paul Dennison

The fundamental philosophy of Oak Hill Physical Education is to teach the students the importance of physical fitness over a lifetime, to give them the tools to be able to be fit and healthy throughout their lives, and make it a fun and positive experience for every student. In essence, we are teaching them a lifestyle.

Every student knows that the two main goals of PE class every day is to get their heart rates up and to have fun. We spend very little time on sport specific skills; rather we focus on movement and small-sided games that allow every child to be fully engaged and involved. Only 3% of adults over the age of twenty-four stay in shape with team sports, so traditional PE programs fails most students (Spark, Ratey). We want every student moving at all times and having a great time doing it. We also know that there is a direct relationship between physical activity and the ability to learn.

“Emerging research shows that physical activity sparks biological changes that encourage brain cells to bind to one another. For the brain to learn, these connections must be made; they reflect the brain’s fundamental ability to adapt to challenges. The more neuroscientists discover about this process, the clearer it becomes that exercise provides an unparalleled stimulus, creating an environment in which the brain is ready, willing, and able to learn.”

This comes from a great website called Sparking Life, started by John Ratey, a Harvard professor and doctor, who has done extensive research into exercise and how it affects the brain.

We believe that through daily exercise, we can give our students the potential to be more successful learners.

There is a Physical Education program in Naperville,Illinois that has been putting this theory to the test for over 15 years and the results have been amazing. They went away from a sports-based program and turned to fitness based P.E. and offered their students the chance to take P.E. before their most challenging subjects. Across the board, the students classroom performance improved. The Head Physical Education Coordinator at the school likes to say, “In our department, we create the brain cells. It’s up to the classroom teachers to fill them.” You can read more about the Naperville program at: http://www.learningreadinesspe.com

We have a program called F.A.S.T. LAPS. This is a program designed to give the students another opportunity to exercise their bodies, which in turn will enable their brains to learn better. F.A.S.T. LAPS (Fun Activities Stimulate Thinking) is a running program that is strictly voluntary and done during recess, before or after school. I have laid out a roughly ¼ mile loop around the Lower School, and the students have been given punch cards and at anytime can run or walk around the loop. Each time they complete a lap, their card is punched. Six laps equals a mile and each card represents six miles. When they have completed the equivalent of a marathon (26 miles), they will receive a F.A.S.T. LAPS tee-shirt designed by our 2010 5th Grade class and art teacher Diane Hill. We invite the entire Oak Hill community to participate. This can be accomplished in a few weeks or over several years, there is no time limit, we just want to encourage moving. Harvard University just started a program called Harvard on the Move, which is somewhat similar.

At Oak Hill School, we seek to integrate technology into the classroom and into everyday life at the school in ways that are appropriate and which enhance learning and community.

In the Lower School, students have access to state-of-the-art Apple iMac computers and software in their classrooms and, beginning in the Second grade, weekly formal computer classes.

The technology program for the Lower School has two primary goals.

First, we seek to ensure that students leave the Lower School with a mastery of a range of essential computer skills and applications, from fluency with keyboarding to mastery of email and web browsers and word processors and desktop publishing and spreadsheets. Our intention is for computers and common applications to be as familiar to students as a pencil or a book, and, as they enter the Upper School, for them to be tools that they have mastered, like writing in cursive or doing multipication. Students have an opportunity to work with a variety of operating systems (Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X, and Ubuntu Linux) and computer applications, including not only Microsoft Office, but also Apple iWork and OpenOffice/LibreOffice. We believe that it is essential for students to know, not merely how to use, for example, Microsoft Windows 7 to type and save and print a document with Microsoft Word 2007 but rather to be comfortable and proficient enough with computers and applications in general that they can use a computer, any computer, to type and save and print a document using whatever word processor happens to be available.

In addition, we work to introduce students to as many different kinds of computer applications as we can, from animation to computer graphics to photography and video to CAD to programming. We do not expect that every student will be enthusiastic about every application – although most are – but we hope that some students will find a passion, something that thrills them, something that they want to pursue. We use cross platform and free, open source applications for these projects whenever possible, so that, if a student finds that he or she absolutely loves programming, for example, parents can easily install Scratch, the application that we are using in class, so that the student can continue to learn and explore on his or her own.