Signature Programs

Hilltop Signature Programs

An education at Hilltop Country Day School includes several Signature Programs, which enhance the core curriculum and provide a multi-dimensional quality to student life. These programs may include experiential education, opportunities for leadership, and outlets for our students to be creative and innovative.

Peer Education and Knowledge Sharing Program

Students are paired at the beginning of their prekindergarten and fourth grade year. These buddies remain in place for the duration of their experience in the program. The P.E.A.K.S. partners, or buddies, meet together and participate in a broad range of activities and events throughout the school year. These activities typically include morning breakfasts, collaborative craft experiences, shared readings, joint social events and shared field trip experiences.


During their eighth grade year, students are enrolled in a capstone class titled, “Ethical Thinking in the Adolescent World”. In this course, students examine the challenges of their adolescence through the lens of ethical decision-making. Using the frameworks of the Ethical Literacy curriculum designed by the Institute for Global Ethics, students become familiar with the concept of universal values and how they inform upon the process of making good decisions; in addition, students learn the four ethical dilemma paradigms established by the institute in order to develop a common vocabulary for addressing difficult decisions. Students use their ethical training to explore the standard components of a health curriculum, including units on adolescent group dynamics, bullying/cyber-bullying, nutrition, substance abuse education, and the use of technology in the adolescent world. At the end of the course, students work on a collaborative project that asks them to research an ethical dilemma of their choice from any of the units studied during the year and present their findings at a final exhibition.

In their classwork and homework, discussions, projects and case studies, students apply their knowledge of several specific problem-solving principles, e.g., confronting assumptions, gathering and using information, assuming multiple perspectives, recognizing oneself as part of the problem, etc.

Peer Leaders

Peer leadership has been defined as “the ability to influence positively the behavior, ideas, attitudes and values of people in the same age group.” We know from studies and research that “people can learn by watching others”. However, leadership cannot be learned in isolation or even by being exposed to good leaders unless there is an opportunity to try out what has been observed. The training is designed to give students both training and experience in leadership and planning skills, communication, team building skills, problem solving and conflict resolution.

The primary work of students in this training will be to serve as leaders among the student body and in all areas of the community. Specifically, our eighth graders will:

  1. Model Hilltop Country Day School’s Core Values each day
  2. Work with students to ensure the climate of the school engenders Hilltop’s Core Values
  3. Act as Student Ambassadors for Open Houses and other school events
  4. Train with the Assistant Head of School and Head of School on low level conflict resolution
  5. Work with the Lower School in the following ways: help fifth grade in their transition to Upper School, read to Early Childhood and Lower School students, speak at Morning Meetings about relevant Upper School topics and break the social bubble by talking to others who are not in their “circle”

We believe that as a result of our peer leadership activities, students will gain skills of leadership and responsibility, become positive role models in their peer groups, and develop mutual respect and tolerance for differences.

Advisor Program

Each student in Grades 5–8 is assigned an advisor for the academic year. The primary roles of the advisors are to serve as the student’s academic advocate and to be the center of communication between parents and teachers.

The faculty meets on a regular basis to discuss the academic progress of each individual student. At those meetings, advisors are apprised of any situations (positive and/or negative) concerning the student’s academic/social/emotional life at Hilltop. The advisor relays any pertinent information to the student and/or parent as needed.

Aside from the advisee group meetings on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8 to 8:15 a.m., advisors and advisees generally meet once per week to discuss any issues pertinent to the student’s life at school or in general. These meetings can be short five-minute chats or longer conversations about specific problems or concerns, but they are scheduled at the beginning of the year between advisor and advisee to ensure consistent meeting time. Most students use their advisor to help resolve scheduling problems, social conflicts, or any other concerns.

Ultimately the advisor/advisee system is in place to allow students the opportunity to have a trusted adult who is personally available for them at Hilltop Country Day School.

Outdoor Classroom

The Outdoor Classroom allows students at Hilltop to foster stewardship of gardens, observe the changing seasons, understand plant and animal life cycles, and to critically think about their connection to the land. Hilltop believes that the outdoor classroom will enable students to become more aware of their surroundings, laying a foundation for future environmental actions and overall consciousness of the land in which we inhabit.


Hilltop is proud to offer two Makerspace Design Labs to our students. By definition, a “Makerspace” describes the learning environment where students can gather to create, invent, tinker, explore and discover using a variety of tools and materials. At Hilltop, these unobstructed, adaptable work areas infuse our theme of Instruct, Inspire, and Innovate. Our students can step out of the normal classroom setting and with boundless opportunity for creativity and innovation they can collaborate, create, and inspire each other. The focus might be on electronics, robotics, woodworking, sewing, programming, or some combination of these skills.