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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 the Junior School gleefully participate in "noisy learning” – exploring pre-algebraic concepts, medieval Europe and the science of bridge-building through hands-on activities, and 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
Members of the Senior School Speech & Debate team have been invited to participate in the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championship for the past three years, traveling to South Africa, Lithuania and Hong Kong. Shady Side will host the prestigious international competition in 2016. Watch one of our students give a dramatic poetry interpretation here.
—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. Junior School students learn to keep rhythm in our African drums unit and write and perform skits about medieval society. 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 has been invited to participate in the prestigious American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August 2016, which showcases the top high school theater programs around the world and runs in conjunction with the world's largest performing arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The girls’ varsity field hockey team has won 14 WPIAL titles, including seven in the last nine years.
The boys prep ice hockey team competes at the Division I level of the Midwest Prep Hockey League, participates in highly competitive prep school tournaments and travels to Europe every three years.
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 Junior School 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 2015 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 Junior 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 three SSA 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.
Shady Side offers two options for an enriching boarding experience on our Senior School campus. 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 Hillman Center and athletics facilities for early and late practice time, 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 10 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. Meet Cody Han '12, Shady Side's first boarding merit scholar.
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Global Health Advocate
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.
One hundred percent of Shady Side Academy graduates attend four-year colleges or universities. Of the 118 members of the Class of 2015, 58 percent are attending schools ranked in the U.S. News & World Report Top 50, including seven top 10 schools, and 73 percent are attending college out of state. Graduates were offered more than $5 million in merit scholarship money.
And after excelling at top colleges and universities, Shady Side alumni shine throughout the world ... creating real change for humankind ... thinking above the notion of possible. Learn more about alumni achievements by flipping each panel.
Our alumni always have something to say. Check out a few of their blogs here.
Internet Law Guru
Across all three campuses, you feel it. Students, faculty and school leadership all move with intensity 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 they are always looking ahead, 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 the Junior School, where students learn about the Guiding Principles and how to live “The Shady Side Way” at school and at home. 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
Junior School 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.”
Teachers and parents work as partners, especially at the Junior School (PK-5). “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 sets a strong foundation for success at the upper divisions through advanced curricula in math, science, language arts, Spanish, social studies and computer science; encouragement of joy in learning and discovery; character education; ease with technology; and constant, varied assessment of students, teachers and methods.
In fifth grade, students take on leadership roles, such as leading assemblies and serving as morning announcers, tour guides and library assistants, to prepare for greater responsibility at the 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 School 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.
Check out our admissions calendar for application deadlines, admissions testing dates and more.
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 three campuses for grades PK through 12 and has gained a national reputation for its academics, athletics and arts.
The Junior School campus is located in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Point Breeze. The 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 925 boys and girls, with 25 percent students of color. Approximately 10 percent of Senior School students are boarders. Students come from 54 ZIP codes in Allegheny County, plus 12 other PA counties, three states and four 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 121 faculty members, 63 percent hold advanced degrees. The faculty receives $250,000 annually in professional development funds.
Junior School: The seven-acre campus includes a K-5 building with a gym, stage, library, computer lab, Idea Lab, and SMART Boards in every grade; a recently renovated PK building; three playgrounds; an athletic field; newly renovated science labs; and educational gardens.
Middle School: The 35-acre campus includes an academic building with a dedicated sixth grade wing, a gym, a library, an auditorium, three science labs (two recently renovated), two computer labs, a garden, SMART Boards in every classroom and two athletic fields. (Students also use athletic facilities at the nearby Senior School.)
Senior School: The 130-acre college-like 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 construction of a new science and innovation center is planned in the next few years. 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 average class size is 13. The Junior School curriculum features the Math in Focus (Singapore Math) program, Writing Workshop, Spanish beginning in PK and interdisciplinary projects in every grade. 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, iPads and SMART Boards in every grade. All three campuses have multiple computer labs and mobile iPad carts that can be used by any teacher. A 1:1 iPad 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. 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 three schools offer additional arts options after school.
All Junior 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 58 percent of 2015 graduates are attending schools ranked in the U.S. News & World Report Top 50. Twenty-three percent of the Class of 2015 was recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program. Our College Counseling Program features three full-time counselors. See our Class of 2015 college list.