Oak Hill School is ripe with traditions. From Oak Hill Day, field trips, cooking activities, the Halloween parade, and the Pirate Treasure Hunt in the Lower School to retreats, Prom and the Jr/Sr Kidnap in the Upper School —
Oak Hill offers students, and their families, opportunities beyond what are available elsewhere, making each year at Oak Hill a memorable, exceptional experience.
All School Traditions
Oak Hill celebrates spirit weeks twice a year, the first culminating in Halloween and the second in Oak Hill Day. Spirit week is a chance for the entire school, but especially the Upper School, to show their love of the Oak Hill community through advisory competitions, crazy costumes, and service projects.
Oak Hill Day is an all-day, all-school event that happens every Spring and brings the entire community together for a day of fun and service. The day starts off with an all-school Jog-a-thon to raise money for a worthy cause, followed by service projects. In the afternoon the Upper School shows off their skills in the talent show, followed by the Spring Fling: an all-school carnival, Upper School dodgeball competition, and Big Glove Boxing Ring.
The Halloween costume parade is a long-standing Oak Hill tradition that takes place at the end of the fall spirit week. The parade is an annual tradition for the entire school, from Kinder to 12th grade. On the Friday of Halloween, the entire school gathers in a circle in the gym to show off their fabulous Halloween costumes, starting with the Kinders and going all the way through the 12th graders and faculty. After the parade, the seniors walk the Kinders back to their classroom before returning to class.
Lower School Traditions
Each Spring, the entire Lower School comes together to perform in the Lower School Musical, directed by the music teacher Olivia Johnson. The 5th grade performs main roles, and the other grades become the supporting actors. Students spend time learning about acting, singing, and what it means to be a good performer.
The colonies are the domain of our staff naturalist and the 2nd graders. Every fall, in the third or fourth week after the school doors open for the new year, a swarm of six and seven year olds don white smocks and bee-proof hoods. The naturalist explains that there might be ten thousand bees in any one of the hives. He teaches the kids how to use the smoker to calm the bees, how to remove the the frames and get at the comb. He shows them the way to process the honey and they get to take it home to their families.
Fourth graders at Oak Hill spend the year studying Oregon History and the importance of the Oregon Trail and the pioneers who traveled in wagons over a thousand miles to reach Oregon. We take field trips, read books, and then prepare our own Oregon Trail experience. The students are responsible for loading up the wagons with necessary equipment for the journey, planning a safe route, overcoming obstacles, and finally enjoying a hot campsite lunch. After a brief rest, the wagons need to be loaded again for the trip back! It is an exhausting but very fun for the students and adults as they experience a tiny bit of life on the trail!
A major part of the 5th grade curriculum (and over-all fun) culminates in Pirate Week. As part of their study of the 13 original colonies, they learn about the golden age of piracy and many of the notorious pirates of that time. Students do research reports on pirates such as Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Mary Read, and Stede Bonnet. They create a treasure map using skills learned in geography, and also design their own pirate flag. Ms. Kim and her students read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island together, and then participate in a treasure hunt on campus; filled with secret messages, pirate lore, and buried treasure.
Upper School Traditions
Oak Hill believes that advisory is an important part of the school experience, and each student is placed into an advisory upon arrival to the Upper School. Oak Hill has 8 total advisories, 4 in middle school and 4 in high school. Advisory meets every Friday from 9:30-10:15. In advisory, students and advisors tackle a theme or activity related to school life or the OH community. In high school, students also meet in grade-level advisories to discuss grade-level issues, including adjustments to high school and college planning.
In the spring of 1999, the faculty was discussing how we could do a better job integrating new students into the high school. Steve Robinson, our science teacher, and Anne Sterling, our history teacher, hatched a plan to take the entire high school on an educational retreat in September.
For our first trip, we were incredibly fortunate to secure a week at Camp Moran, an environmental education institute located on Orcas Island, Washington. Camp Moran provided housing in rustic cabins, a dining hall and commercial kitchen which we could use to prepare our meals, and an incredible crew of educators who taught our students about the environment on Orcas Island as well as group building and leadership skills. It was a great week, punctuated by Steve Robinson deciding at midnight one night that we all needed to drive up to the top of Mount Constitution to see the stars. We all felt a bit naughty, but the stars really were spectacular, and the students never forgot it.
When we first proposed the trip, many high school students said that they didn’t want to go, so we took the unprecedented step (for Oak Hill) of requiring all high school students to attend. We thought that if everyone went, and had a great time, that enthusiasm for the trip would then be handed down year to year. We were right about that. Our alumni from that time still talk about our trip to Orcas, and the yearly High School trip continues to be a high point for our students.
Since that first trip, we have tried to vary the experience so that in their four years of high school, students will attend a different program each year. We have gone to Camp Ramblewood on the Olympic Peninsula, ropes challenge courses, an OMSI camp at John Day, the Olympic Park Institute, and a tree-climbing clinic on the Oregon Coast, among others.
Wherever we have gone, whatever program we have been involved in, the trip has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for new students to make friends with current students, and for students and faculty to get to know each other in an off campus context. Every place we have gone, the resident staff have complemented us on our fantastic students. Every year, the ability we have to take the entire high school on such an adventure underscores our belief that sometimes small really is beautiful – even in a high school.
In 2014, seeing the high spirits and camaraderie that the High School students entered the year with, Middle School teachers decided to organize a similar yearly retreat for Oak Hill’s Middle School students. They have since gone to…
Recent Oak Hill Fall Retreat locations:
2013 – Camp Tillikum
2014 – Cascade Mountain School at Mt. Adams
2015 – Black Butte Ranch
2016 – Olympic National Park
2016 – Twin Rocks, Rockaway Beach
2015 – Camp Kiwanis, Hood River
2014 – Camp Tilikum, Newberg
2013 – Camp Collins, Gresham
2012 – Opal Creek, Willamette National Forest
2011 – Camping in Bend and river rafting
Oak Hill School provides students with a rigorous academic program designed to prepare students for college. We believe that students who excel in academics, the arts, athletics, or leadership should have their achievements celebrated by the community.
Oak Hill School offers the following honors:
Students in grades 6-12 earning a 4.0 GPA or higher (or equivalent) will be placed on the Headmaster’s List. This honor will be put on students’ transcripts. They will receive a certificate at the end of each semester. Each spring the Headmaster conducts a special activity with the high school award recipients.
National Honor Societies
Students in grades 6-12 earning a 3.67 GPA or higher for more than two consecutive terms at Oak Hill School are eligible to participate in National Honor Society (NHS) (grades 9-12) and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) (grades 6-8). NHS and NJHS are the nation’s premier organizations established to recognize outstanding high school and middle level students. More than just an honor roll, NHS and NJHS serve to honor those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character.
Students in grades 6-12 earning a 3.5 GPA or higher will be placed on the Dean’s List. The Dean’s List recognizes students that are achieving a high average GPA in their rigorous academic studies while at OHS. This honor will be put on high school students’ transcripts. They will receive a certificate and additional recognition at the end of each semester. Each spring the Dean of Students conducts a special activity with the high school award recipients.
Student of the Month
Each month of the school year, the Register Guard honors a student of the month from every area high school. Oak Hill also selects a middle school student of the month. Students of the month are nominated by a faculty member based on how they have embodied Oak Hill’s mission, to be a caring, responsible critical thinker, and are then selected by the OHS faculty and staff based on student achievement, citizenship, and behavior. Every high school Student of the month receives a certificate from the Register Guard and several copies of their column in the newspaper. The high school Student of the month has a parking space in the pavilion parking lot.
The High School Beach Trip is a yearly tradition that takes place towards the end of the year as a way to relax and blow off some steam before Spring finals. Several faculty members and all of the high school head to the coast for a day of fun in the (hopefully) sun and sand.
In 2015, the group took a mental break day to go to the Strawberry Hill tide pools and then went to Picnic Beach to each lunch and play in the sand with kites, sand castles, sand soccer, and frisbee. A group of high schoolers created a small, short-lived society that was housed in a driftwood structure they built. Everyone returned from the trip refreshed and ready to tackle finals!
The Junior/Senior Kidnap is an Oak Hill tradition where the juniors “surprise” the seniors and take them for a fun day towards the end of the year. The juniors work throughout the year to fundraise in a variety of ways to afford the trip, and can be seen selling homemade goodies at lunch and during events.
In previous years, the group went to Putters for the day to play miniature golf, lazer tag, video games, and, of course, gobble pizza. The juniors have also taken the seniors to OMSI for a show, followed by a picnic lunch at Multnomah Falls.
On the OH Campus
Beginning in 2014, grades 7-12 have studied Shakespeare plays with the goal of performing them in a day long, all Upper School assembly. With support of the core subject and elective teachers, we commit English class time to the study of the plays, and a full day to celebrating and performing them together. Students in grades 7-12 wrestle with authentic language and staging considerations, edit text for clarity and brevity, are responsible for costumes and props, and come ready to support each other’s efforts as classes introduce and perform a variety of very well known (Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth) and less well known (Troilus and Cressida, Anthony and Cleopatra) plays. Interspersed between performances are break out activities (alchemy, insult hurling, juggling, and others based on staffing).
Annually, students in the high school have the opportunity to attend plays in Ashland at the acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As an enrichment activity, this trip ties in with the arts curriculum and English curriculum at Oak Hill. Additionally, and possibly more importantly, this trip is a great deal of fun. Depending on the calendar and slate of plays, this is a two or three day trip.
Advisory competitions take place during the Fall Retreat, Fall Spirit Week, and Spring Spirit Week. Competitions include dress up (wacky, sports, college, twins, and more as designated by the high school and middle school student councils), collaborative games, art competitions, athletic competitions, and team spirit.
The senior dinner is a tradition started by our former Dean of Academics, Anne Sterling. Towards the end of the year, all the seniors are invited to dinner at a nice local restaurant with the Academic Dean and College Counselor. Students are asked to wear their college T-shirts, and discuss college and their future plans.