On campus, in the curriculum and in the community, Shady Side Academy is committed to becoming a more sustainable school and to teaching students to become good stewards of our environment.
Our food service partner, Metz Culinary Management, is dedicated to using fresh, nutritious, locally sourced foods meat and dairy products from the PA Preferred program. We work to reduce waste through a comprehensive recycling and composting program, teaching students to use color-coded bins for recycling, compost and landfill. While strategic menu planning helps to minimize food waste, our partnership with 412 Food Rescue ensures that any excess food helps to fight hunger in our community. We also have reduced plastic bottle usage by encouraging the use of reusable water bottles and the installation of water refilling stations on each campus. In 2019, the SSA Middle School cafeteria earned the Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurant Gold designation.
Facilities & Grounds
LEED Certified Buildings
SSA's Senior School campus include two buildings that have achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The McIlroy Center for Science and Innovation, which opened in 2018, incorporates numerous sustainable features that reduce environmental impact while creating teaching opportunities, such as rooftop solar panels that supply electricity to the grid, a rain garden that collects storm runoff, motion-sensitive lighting, water-saving plumbing, automatic controls and high-efficiency windows. In addition, Rowe Hall, built nearly a century ago, became the first high school building in Pennsylvania to earn LEED Gold certification in 2006 after a $6.8 million environmentally responsible renovation.
Over the past decade, a major effort has been underway to make Shady Side's beautiful and historic buildings more energy-efficient. Leaky old windows and doors have been replaced, motion-sensitive LED lighting and water-saving plumbing have been installed, and HVAC systems have been upgraded to more energy-efficient models. These upgrades not only reduce the Academy's carbon footprint, but also result in significant energy cost savings.
Country Day School
- PK students explore how native animals live throughout the year and they examine the life cycle of plants by planting peas and pollinator-friendly flowers in the garden. Children also use upcycled materials for engineering projects.
- Children in grades 1-5 explore sustainability by visiting the nearby creek while learning about the water and rock cycles, exploring how energy changes form and hiking in the woods to reinforce regional ecology concepts.
- Fourth graders go on monthly trips to Beechwood Farms, a nearby nature reserve, where they remove invasive species, harvest seeds and plant native species as well as participate in educational programs.
- The first grade edible schoolyard curriculum includes planting beans from seed, observing and drawing different growing stages, dissecting seeds, and creating radish seed necklaces.
- All students have the opportunity to help tend the five raised garden beds.
- Sixth graders explore the environmental impacts of gas drilling and windmills in the interdisciplinary Energy Quest project and do water quality testing on campus streams with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
- Seventh graders study the role pollinators play in our food system by tending to our pollinator garden and planting native plants that attract butterflies.
- In the eighth grade Environmental Science course, student learn about human interaction with the environment, the biosphere, ecosystems, pollution and energy usage.
- Each year on Global Action Day, the entire school devotes a full day to hands-on learning around global sustainability topics, including water scarcity, air quality and food insecurity.
- A student Recycling Club leads recycling efforts on campus.
- An interdisciplinary Environmental Science course examines the earth as a single interconnected system, human impacts on natural systems, the cultural and social implications of environmental problems, industrial agriculture and more sustainable alternatives, and food insecurity and nutrition assistance programs.
- In the sophomore health class nutrition unit, students learn about nutrient density and where their food comes from.
- The student-led Environmental Club leads a variety of sustainable activities and initiatives on campus, including recycling initiatives and education.
Green & Healthy Schools Academy
SSA administrators and faculty have participated in the School Sustainability Culture Program of the Green Building Alliance's Green & Healthy Schools Academy, a two-year, hands-on, immersive learning community that assists schools with the integration of sustainability into their buildings, curriculum and culture. Through the program, a new vision for sustainability at SSA was crafted with the following goals:
- Conceptualize and implement a campus landscape restoration project that represents native ecological systems of the Pittsburgh region and our commitment to sustainability.
- Continue sustainability-focused improvement projects on our existing and new buildings, and connecting green spaces.
- Develop strong programmatic curricular connections to our campus restoration and building renovation projects.
- Establish a cohesive awareness and language about our school sustainability.
Healthy Schools PA Recognition Program
Shady Side Academy has twice been a recipient of the Healthy Schools PA Recognition Award for our commitment to yearlong maintenance and improvement plans at each of our campuses. Each year, the Senior School Environmental Club works with our Facilities Department to complete a checklist of practices and goals to decrease our ecological footprint.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Partnership
Shady Side Academy has collaborated with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC) to improve the ecology of our campuses. In this process, the WPC developed two major assessment reports that outline our tree species diversity and our ecosystem and native plant diversity. WPC also provided educational support to our Senior School Environmental Club and the natural science courses at each campus.