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For nearly 130 years Shady Side has been a place of academic rigor and the pursuit of passions – home of teaching legends, visionary leaders and alumni renowned for their innovative thinking and strength of character. Energy animates our three campuses and our students.
Shady Side is the first summit that lets you rise above the notion of possible ... the opening stage of Broadway actors ... the origin of senators, CEOs, doctors and lawyers ... the initial exploration of oceanographers, paleontologists and astronauts.
It's your time to shine.
—Middle School Student
With small classes, individual attention and a curriculum enriched by both experience and innovative thought, we set students far ahead.
Young children at our two elementary school campuses, the Junior School in Point Breeze and the Country Day School in Fox Chapel, gleefully participate in “noisy learning” – whether exploring pre-algebraic concepts, medieval Europe or the science of bridge-building through hands-on activities, or authoring their own books.
Depth of content continues at the Middle School, where students gain a strong foundation in literature and writing, have the opportunity for accelerated studies in math, and design and carry out their own experiments. Teachers also introduce a focus on self-discipline and study skills that prepares eager students for the abundance of opportunities at the Senior School.
At the Senior School, our students are succeeding where many college students struggle – managing their time, preparing for class, asking thoughtful questions, making sophisticated observations and relating concepts across areas of study.
Faculty at all levels encourage students to read deeply, think expansively and pull ideas broadly. The outcome? Fifth graders who are fluent in math and can explain subject-verb agreement in Spanish. Eighth graders who speak with confidence and take responsibility for their learning. Seniors who conduct research alongside teachers, write effectively in all subjects and are prepared to excel at top colleges.
Explore • Engage • Excel
In May 2017, Shady Side Academy broke ground on the McIlroy Center for Science and Innovation, a transformative new facility on our Senior School campus that will give teachers and students the space, flexibility, technology and resources to unlock the full potential of science at Shady Side. The 22,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open in fall 2018.
—Middle School Student
Our students are avid learners, because our faculty are passionate teachers. Faculty come to school early, stay late, learn about their students in class and at practice or recess, help them uncover an interest and excel at it, share in their successes, and support them when they need it – even after they've graduated.
Younger students love their teachers. Older students will never forget them, either. Read and discuss Ayn Rand with your math teacher. Continue a class conversation on existentialism with your coach after practice. Invite your librarian to your dance recital. Ask your science teacher (a former engineer) about kinematic chains. Visit a neonatal ICU with your advisor and tell her why you feel compelled to do an independent study on fetal development.
In one year, five years, 10 years, come back to have lunch with your teacher and friend, or email him, or show up after her class unannounced. We love to hear how our graduates are still shining brightly in all that they do.
Explore • Engage • Excel
Our faculty blog features posts from teachers on everything from continuing The Shady Side Way at home to special class projects to their favorite part of teaching at Shady Side.
Across the curriculum, students learn about a variety of artists and artistic traditions. Elementary students learn to keep rhythm with their hands, feet and instruments, and gain confidence performing assembly skits and class productions. At the Middle School, in addition to art and music classes, students can audition to perform in smaller, more advanced choral and instrumental ensembles. They can also choose to participate in dramatic productions or take studio art classes as an athletic/activity option. The Senior School offers more than 25 arts electives – when a group of students requested a scriptwriting course, we added it the very next semester. Talented students have designed independent studies with faculty on everything from “Art and Intellect of the 19th and 20th Centuries” to metalsmithing to jazz improvisation (which resulted in an original composition by one of our star pianists). Our alumni have impressive careers in the arts.
The addition to our campus of the Hillman Center for Performing Arts, one of Western Pennsylvania's newest artistic venues, supports the integral place of the arts in the Shady Side experience. Senior and Middle School students take to the Hillman stage for concerts and other performances – and tickets to the Senior School's musical and drama productions sell fast. Local arts groups such as the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera occasionally present special performances just for Junior and Middle School students at the Hillman. In addition, SSA's Hillman Performing Arts Series presents five or six family-friendly professional performances each year – including plays, concerts, comedy and magic shows – which are avidly attended by the Pittsburgh community.
Explore • Engage • Excel
The Senior School theatre program participated in the prestigious American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August 2016. The AHSTF showcases the top high school theatre programs around the world and runs in conjunction with the world's largest performing arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A group of 12 students performed three original plays written by current and former SSA students.
The girls' varsity field hockey team has won 14 WPIAL titles, including seven in the last 11 years.
The boys prep ice hockey team competes in the Midwest Prep Hockey League and travels to Europe every three years. The girls prep ice hockey team competes in the Women's Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic, winning three straight championships from 2015-2017.
Discipline. Perseverance. Sportsmanship. How to shine and how to help others shine. How to act like a winner ... even when you lose.
While our athletes' shelves overflow with trophies, we prize the deeper life lessons learned. We believe there are certain values gained by being part of something bigger, which is why Middle and Senior School students have many athletic choices each year and elementary students play sports during physical education. We are a school of healthy, skilled student-athletes: swimmers, tennis players, linebackers, forwards, pitchers, defenders, golfers and runners.
From private music lessons to robotics classes, our After School Explorers program allows Junior School students to begin exploring their unique interests. Middle School students can choose from a wide range of activities beyond the classroom, from competitive math and science teams to a philosophy club or literary magazine.
At the Senior School, most students join a club or start their own. There are more than 50. Join Amnesty International, Mock Trial or Model U.N.; write for the online literary journal; or watch and compare Law and Order episodes to real-life trials. Take on a leadership role as class officer, dorm prefect, or by serving on event committees or even as an academic department associate. Our students are enthusiastic volunteers, too.
Explore • Engage • Excel
Two Shady Side Academy Middle School robotics teams advanced to the 2017 Western Pennsylvania FIRST LEGO League Grand Championship. Watch a video about the robotics team here.
On any given day at Shady Side, you can find third graders “Mystery Skyping” with classrooms across the country, eighth graders building models for our Solar House Project, or 12th graders practicing for a presentation at the University of Pittsburgh on business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Every grade participates in community service activities, including singing at a nursing home, fundraising for cancer research or weeding flower gardens in Pittsburgh parks.
You'll hear Mandarin, Spanish, French or German, or a student talking about his experience in our international program or School Year Abroad. You may even smell molé cooking in Ms. Peterson's class, as Junior School students prepare the dish and learn its background.
At the Senior School, there may be a few empty seats – students travel all over the world on self-designed service or environmental trips as Parkin Fellows. The school also partners with five semester programs for students interested in stretching themselves in unique ways beyond the boundaries of Pittsburgh. International students at the Senior School infuse diverse perspectives into the classroom, broadening local students' awareness of global issues. Middle and elementary school students experience other cultures and communities through trips to Hindu temples and Washington, D.C., and connect with the Pittsburgh community through local speakers, performances, visits to museums and more.
We constantly challenge students to relate what we study to themselves, their local community, and the world, and to think about how they can effect positive change. The result is a cultural intelligence that prepares them for major roles in the global community.
Check out this video of the Senior School's annual GlobalFest performance, which celebrates SSA's cultural diversity.
Explore • Engage • Excel
The SSA Farm is an Academy-wide sustainability initiative that includes gardens on all four campuses. Older students can earn credit for working on the farm in the fall and spring, and all of the gardens have integrated into the PK-12 curriculum across several disciplines. Fresh produce from the gardens is used in the school cafeterias and sold at the weekly farmers' market on the Senior School campus. In 2014, the Middle School garden won a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation.
Since 1922, Shady Side has offered an enriching boarding experience on our Senior School campus. We offer two boarding options. Five-day boarding allows those who live close by to spend time with family on weekends. Seven-day boarding is great for those who may live too far away to visit home frequently, or those who want to open themselves to further opportunities through weekend cultural, educational and service activities that take advantage of our campus and our proximity to Pittsburgh.
All boarders benefit from extra study hours with teachers, access to arts and athletics facilities for early and late practices and rehearsals, and the convenience of attending campus events outside school hours. Without the commute, they have more time for sleep – and everything else.
Boarders represent about 15 percent of the Senior School student body and live in two single-gender residence halls. Faculty members and their families live in apartments on each floor, sharing meals and leading off-campus trips to create a safe and home-like atmosphere. Student prefects help with planning activities and managing life in the dorm.
Although the majority of students don't live on campus, day students and boarders both come to think of Shady Side as home. It's the closeness between students and the traditions, like Senior Camp Out, CUP (think Harry Potter house competitions), the spork game or cheering on our sports teams together. And we all benefit from the diverse community the boarding program helps to create, with students coming from many different regions, backgrounds and countries. Whether boarding or day, you'll quickly become a part of the campus family.
Explore • Engage • Excel
Boarding applicants have the unique opportunity to apply for one of SSA's Boarding Merit Scholarships – non-need-based grants for students living outside of the geographic area for which transportation is provided. Up to two scholarships are awarded each year, recognizing academic achievement, character and commitment to community. Learn more
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Bringer of Hope
Our College Counseling Program begins in ninth grade, with three full-time college counselors dedicated to assisting students in finding "best fit" colleges and universities that will nurture their abilities and undiscovered talents, while allowing them to realize their career aspirations.
The 125 members of the Class of 2017 were offered acceptances to 176 colleges, and 100 percent of those seeking merit scholarships were offered awards ranging from $2,000-$50,000+ per year. They chose to attend 72 different schools, including top programs in medicine, engineering, business, arts, foreign service and global education, as well as several honors programs and two U.S. service academies.
And after excelling at top colleges and universities, Shady Side alumni shine throughout the world ... creating real change for the world ... thinking above the notion of possible. Learn more about alumni achievements by flipping each panel.
Internet Law Guru
Across all four campuses, you feel it. Students, faculty and school leadership all move with enthusiasm and the air that something big is happening every day. In each division of the school, students receive exactly what they need to be successful, and as they travel their own path, they grow confidently as learners—always looking ahead and aspiring to the next level.
The Academy’s five Guiding Principles of honesty, kindness, responsibility, respect and safety form the foundation of our PK-12 character education program. It begins at our elementary schools, where students learn how to be virtuous community members and friends in an environment that promotes inquiry, discovery, creativity and enthusiasm for learning. It continues at the Middle School, where students learn that what they do matters through student-led committees, advisory meetings and assemblies. At the Senior School, conversations continue in weekly advisory meetings about how the Guiding Principles play out in our school community. These efforts ensure that Shady Side Academy graduates are not only outstanding scholars, but also good citizens.
—Senior School Parent
Shady Side Academy now offers families the choice between two PK-5 campuses, one in Point Breeze and one in Fox Chapel. While both elementary school experiences are distinct, they are equally alive with engaged and curious learners who will be well-prepared to succeed at Shady Side’s Middle School.
Junior School in Point Breeze
Junior School (PK-5) Head Ellen McConnell explains her academic philosophy: “We don’t want our kids to say ‘I’m not good at math.’ We encourage them and we praise persistence. Because one day when our students cure cancer, it will be because they persevered until they succeeded. That starts here.”
Experienced and passionate teachers work with parents as partners. “Hopes and Dreams” conferences at the beginning of each year give teachers the chance to learn about each child from his or her parents. Together they set individual goals for the student.
The Junior School encourages joy in learning and discovery, and sets a strong foundation for success at the upper divisions through advanced curricula in math, science, language arts, Spanish, social studies and computer science; character education; ease with technology; and constant, varied assessment of students, teachers and methods. Older student mentors or “buddies” serve as inspiring role models to younger students and develop leadership skills.
In fifth grade, students take on further leadership roles, such as leading assemblies and serving as morning announcers, tour guides and library assistants – all to prepare for greater responsibility at the Middle School.
Country Day School in Fox Chapel
From the moment you enter Country Day School (PK-5), its motto, “Childhood is a journey, not a race,” is unmistakable. The unhurried, nurturing environment fosters happy and creative students who come to school ready to discover and learn each day.
Each morning, students participate in schoolwide and classroom meetings, learning the value in caring for others, themselves and their environment. Close, supportive interactions promote lifelong friendships, with the older children serving as “buddies” and mentors for the younger children. Talented and dedicated teachers work with parents from the very beginning, recognizing that each child’s educational journey is unique.
Children spend time playing, exploring and learning outdoors on the beautiful wooded campus, as well as in the bright, welcoming indoor classrooms. Ideal student/teacher ratios support a learning environment in which small groups of students are given a foundation in math, reading, science, language arts, Spanish and other academic areas, carefully designed to meet the needs of varied levels and learning styles. The solid academic curriculum, along with a strong commitment to the creative and performing arts, builds confidence and social skills while preparing students for Shady Side’s Middle School.
Along with the greater responsibility that comes with Middle School (6-8) also come new opportunities in every facet of the day. These choices help our students to learn more about themselves and to find their strengths and their voices. The solid grounding and academic rigor of the junior schools continue, with an emphasis on inquiry, global awareness and responsibility.
Teachers also focus on how to “do school” – honing study skills, organization and writing ability. Small classes and a 35-acre campus mean teachers can take students to collect water samples from our stream or use our outdoor classroom tables under the trees. Each student receives an Apple iPad through the school's new 1:1 iPad program, and teachers incorporate this technology into their classes in creative and meaningful ways.
After-school athletics and activities are often held at the Senior School, which means Middle School students are already familiar with the college-campus-like quad, brick buildings and paths, athletic fields and big shade trees.
Rising ninth-graders are always thrilled, never anxious to begin a new chapter at the Senior School. They've become courteous and respectful young people, as well as independent thinkers who can work collaboratively, independently and responsibly.
Their strong background in academic subjects allows students to choose specialized electives and find their passion at the Senior School (9-12). Most students have a couple of free periods each day, but thanks to the self-discipline learned at the Middle School, they use the time to meet with teachers, study or work on class or extracurricular projects. Students also take on extra responsibility in leadership positions.
A Senior School parent explained, “Free time is an opportunity for decision-making, preparing them for time management in college while they still have a safety net.” There are plenty of social opportunities as well, and great school spirit – crowds of enthusiastic students at athletic games, sold-out student music and drama performances and a welcoming atmosphere. Students of diverse backgrounds feel comfortable and appreciated on campus.
As 12th-graders, many students choose to do a “Senior Sage,” in which they speak in front of the entire school about their experiences and all they've learned. It's the culmination of the Shady Side experience: well-spoken, thoughtful and driven young men and women, always prepared for whatever is next. On graduation day, underclassmen gather to cheer on the seniors, shining brightly as they reach their first summit.
—Senior School Parent
Explore • Engage • Excel
Read Student Voices, the Senior School student blog, to hear firsthand perspectives on campus life, including dining hall food, commuting to campus, special events, college counseling and staying organized.
Call or email an admissions representative at one of our campuses to learn more or schedule a visit!
There are many different ways to visit Shady Side Academy. Attend an open house, schedule a personal tour, shadow a student for a day, and more!
Take the next step today! Fill out our online admissions application and review our application checklists.
Founded in a one-room schoolhouse in the neighborhood of Shadyside in 1883, Shady Side Academy has set the standard for academic excellence in Pittsburgh for more than 130 years. The school has expanded to include four campuses for grades PK through 12 and has gained a national reputation for its academics, athletics and arts.
Junior School (Point Breeze, PK-5): The seven-acre Junior School campus includes a K-5 building with newly renovated science labs, art facilities, a gym, stage, library, computer lab, Idea Lab and SMART Boards in every grade; a recently renovated PK building; three playgrounds; an athletic field; and educational gardens.
Country Day School (Fox Chapel, PK-5): The 17-acre, wooded Country Day School campus includes a library, technology center, gym, science lab, auditorium, arts facilities and SMART Boards. Outdoor spaces include an educational garden, athletic field, playground and outdoor classroom.
Middle School (Fox Chapel, 6-8): The 35-acre Middle School campus includes an academic building with a dedicated sixth grade wing, a gym, a library, three newly renovated science labs, two computer labs, arts facilities, a garden, SMART Boards in every classroom and two athletic fields. (Students also use athletic facilities at the nearby Senior School.)
Senior School (Fox Chapel, 9-12): The 130-acre, college-like Senior School campus features six academic buildings – including Gold LEED-certified Rowe Hall, the Benedum Visual Arts Center, the Hillman Center for Performing Arts and a library – plus a dining hall, two single-gender residence halls and a farm. The McIlroy Center for Science and Innovation is under construction and scheduled to open in 2018. Athletic facilities include a multi-purpose stadium with lights, artificial turf field and eight-lane all-weather track; five additional athletic fields; a full-size ice hockey rink; two gyms; an indoor pool; two fitness facilities; and 10 tennis courts.
Our Junior School campus is located in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Point Breeze. Our Country Day, Middle and Senior School campuses are less than a mile from one another in the Fox Chapel suburb of Pittsburgh. Classes take advantage of the city with trips to the Carnegie museums, Fort Pitt, Heinz Hall, The Andy Warhol Museum and more.
More than 1,035 boys and girls, with 28 percent students of color. Approximately 15 percent of Senior School students are boarders. Students come from 53 ZIP codes in Allegheny County, plus 10 other PA counties, nine states and nine countries. When students enroll, they stay and thrive; SSA has the lowest attrition rate of any local independent school.
Need-based financial aid and merit-based grants and scholarships are available to students in grades PK-12, and approximately 30 percent of Shady Side students receive some sort of financial assistance.
Our student-teacher ratio is 8:1. Of 130 faculty members, 75 percent hold advanced degrees. The faculty receives $250,000 annually in professional development funds.
Our average class size is 15. The Junior School curriculum at Point Breeze features the Math in Focus (Singapore Math) program, Writing Workshop, Spanish beginning in PK and interdisciplinary projects in every grade. The Country Day School curriculum features the Reading Wonders program, early introduction of Spanish, an extensive visual and performing arts program, and year-round outdoor science exploration. The Middle School curriculum builds critical thinking and writing skills and includes hands-on science courses, three languages including Chinese, and the option to take high school-level math classes. The Senior School’s rigorous college-preparatory curriculum includes advanced courses in all subjects, AP courses, a variety of electives and independent studies, as well as a number of global and off-campus programs.
Students PK-12 gain an intuitive grasp of technology using computers, tablets and SMART Boards. All four campuses have computer labs and tablet carts that can be used by any teacher. A 1:1 tablet program is offered in grades 5-8.
Junior School students have art and music classes several days a week, with instrumental music beginning in second grade. Country Day School students have daily art and music classes, and participate in multiple all-school performances as well as grade-level productions. Both the Middle and Senior Schools offer an array of visual art and music classes (including several musical ensembles), and perform a fall play and winter musical each year. All four schools offer additional arts options after school.
All elementary school students take physical education classes, while Middle and Senior School students have a variety of PE and athletics options. The Senior School offers 27 competitive sports teams. Varsity teams are highly competitive in the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League, as well as the Midwest Prep Hockey League, Women's Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest Scholastic Lacrosse Association.
The boarding program, which offers five- and seven-day options, provides a safe environment to learn independence; after-hours access to facilities, teachers and learning resources; nightly supervised study halls; the opportunity to participate in special residence hall events and to live with teachers and classmates; the convenience of extra sleep and study time. The culture created by boarding also enhances the day student experience.
One hundred percent of SSA graduates attend four-year colleges or universities, and 62 percent of 2017 graduates are attending schools ranked in the U.S. News ∓ World Report Top 50. Our College Counseling Office has three full-time counselors dedicated to assisting students in finding their “best fit” colleges and universities. See our four-year college matriculation list.