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Why Old Trail?

Old Trail School provides what children need to achieve healthy growth and to become exceptional learners and leaders wherever they take their education next.

Academic Excellence

We frame our curriculum in experiences because experience is the greatest educator. Hands-on and immersive learning produces the highest recall and provides context around content. Class environments shift from academic building to farm to outdoor classroom to national park to Cleveland museums to international cities—but one constant remains: the most engaging and effective learning happens at Old Trail. It becomes an experience your child will never forget.

Our teachers provide a framework for students to dive into their learning—such as the “comprehensible input” method used in world languages, which mimics the way native speakers learn their own language and is backed by the latest research.

Early Childhood to Grade 8 Model

An age 2 to Grade 8 school provides much-needed stability and continuity throughout students’ childhood. This model fosters independence, responsibility and leadership as older students recognize their role in helping younger students. Rather than starting middle school in an unfamiliar place during their transition into adolescence, Old Trail students are surrounded by teachers, coaches, peers and friends who know them. As they approach the uncertainty of adolescence and face middle school’s academic challenges, Old Trail students are comfortable being authentic to themselves and achieving at their highest level.

We hold the most precious years of their lives here. And we take them incredibly seriously.

Sarah Johnston, Head of School

Kindergarten teacher interacts with a student.

Caring and Talented Teachers

Our teachers start with care. They show that the best teachers have the biggest hearts, and from these hearts flows a joyful approach to education in which each child is known, heard and valued. This foundation of care permeates our entire community and has a profound impact on children, their self-confidence and their happiness. Because our teachers take the time to know each child, we know just how far he or she can go. And we don’t stop caring until they get there.

According to a Cal-Berkeley study, students taught in small classes perform better academically in school and in their lives, measured through metrics that include lifetime earnings.

Whole-Child Approach

Old Trail’s comprehensive view of the child leads to an education that fosters healthy social-emotional and physical development, creativity and kindness. Motivated teachers, accomplished musicians and artists, coaches who reinforce teamwork and wellness, a comprehensive support staff—all give their all for students. Our priority and point of pride has always been guiding each child’s growth in all areas.

An early childhood student plays in the mud kitchen on the ECP playground.
Student uses a magnifying glass to study a leaf  in the woods.

Location and Resources

As the nation’s only independent school located in a national park, Old Trail and its community have daily access to abundant resources, unparalleled experiences and a beautiful setting to call home. Perhaps most importantly, students gain the advantages of being outside without sacrificing critical learning opportunities. Our students also enjoy the benefits of light-filled classrooms, an indoor swimming pool, spacious arts studios, a makerspace with the latest technology and more.

Deciding on Old Trail School for our children was making a commitment—to their educational experience in the best atmosphere for learning, among a group of faculty who are committed to teaching a love of learning and parents who are committed to supporting the school through active involvement.

Laura and Chip Preston, OTS Alumni and Alumni parents

A Lifetime of Opportunities

Our graduates’ confidence, competence and character differentiate Old Trail alumni at both prestigious secondary schools and public high schools. They possess a broad global perspective, a desire to give back and an appreciation for what they can contribute to the world. Our students become poised leaders and self-advocates in high school and college, having built a foundation of critical-thinking skills and creativity that allows them to launch into a lifetime of success.

Intermediate student thanks faculty from her family's car during the spring of 2020.