Academic Philosophy

High Aspirations for Long
-Term Success

Upland Country Day School's academic philosophy is much more than programs and curriculum, encompassing a holistic approach that nurtures every facet of a student's growth. It's a dedication to fostering critical thinking, resilience, and a passion for lifelong learning. Our philosophy embodies an ethos where education extends beyond textbooks and the classroom, encouraging students to embrace curiosity, empathy, and innovation as foundational pillars of their educational journey.

Our Philosophy

Upland’s Liberal Arts curriculum and technological capabilities, carefully balanced with confidence building experiences, offers a program with breadth and depth to help girls and boys maximize their potential during the most important years of their lives.

We believe children rise to our highest expectations, thrive on meaningful challenges, and never deserve anything less. 

We believe a sense of belonging is a powerful force. When children feel known and cared for, they’re ready to be their best. 

We believe the range of options we offer for exploration will be reflected in the variety of talents our students discover and develop. 

We believe a great education means more than a great academic experience—much, much more. 

We believe happiness matters—as a goal in itself, and as a precondition for children to learn and thrive. 

We believe you can perceive a school’s true strengths in the character and confidence of its graduates. 

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Celebrating 75 Years

For 75 years, Upland Country Day School has been a community of thinkers and doers. Our challenging full-participation programming of academic, arts, and athletic programs nurture the strengths of each child, and develops graduates of character with a passion for learning. Learn how Upland creates lasting memories for all of our students.

Explore Our Learning Methodologies

Upland Country Day School employs a variety of strategies that engage students dynamically, nurturing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Learning happens best when engaging in discussion, and creating spaces to explore, experiment, create, and bring ideas to life. Additionally, our commitment to outdoor learning transforms our campus into an immersive educational environment, enriching lessons by intertwining nature’s wonders with academic exploration.

Harkness Method

Discussion-based methodology.

Kleberg IDEA Center

Student-led innovation.

Outdoor Facilities

Nature-enriched learning.

The Harkness Method

Gone is the teacher standing at the chalkboard lecturing to students in rows of desks. In Upper School, students come to class prepared to lead the discussion by sharing ideas, taking turns speaking, and challenging classmates politely, even if they disagree. Whether the subject is a novel in English or a challenging math problem, The Harkness Method develops creative, confident, and articulate learners.

Thinking deeply and critically to build understanding.

Harkness Tables are the centerpiece of learning at some of the most prestigious preparatory high schools, such as Phillips Exeter, Lawrenceville, and St. Andrews. Upland is one of only two schools in the country to incorporate this discussion-based method across all disciplines at the middle school level.

Upland’s Head of school, Dr. Dan Hickey, explains how student-led conversation builds critical thinking and a dynamic of students who excel at group interaction.

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The Kleberg IDEA Center

The Kleberg IDEA Center at Upland Country Day School utilizes empathy to define questions and problems. Students from Pre-K to 9th grade learn to better understand the needs of their peers and their community at large while empowering them to be global citizens. Students build solutions to problems using design prototypes of all kinds, using technology and harnessing their fine and gross motor skills along the way. Students will engage with a wide range of technology and tools from table saws and hammers to laser cutters and robotics. In a world with complex problems, forward-thinking educators encourage students to ideate and prototype – continually redesigning and learning from previous errors or missteps. Mistakes are simply an opportunity to learn, and repeated effort always leads to improvement. Students learn to collaborate and build upon each other’s ideas, using all the information and knowledge at their disposal while designing their own unique solutions.

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Using technology and engineering to drive solutions.

Design thinking challenges students to learn from their models and mistakes. The curriculum is intentionally flexible, process-based and community-centered. The IDEA Center cultivates a community of thinkers, makers, and builders in a place of discovery, joy, and innovation.

Outdoor Learning Facilities

The creative use of our outdoor spaces helps make it possible for our students and faculty to be on campus, outside in the fresh air. 

Explore Our Academic Programming

We believe children rise to our highest expectations, thrive on meaningful challenges, and never deserve anything less. Explore the multidimensional growth experience specifically designed to prepare each student for the future in each of our core schools:



Learning to spread your wings and fly.

Primary Center

(PreK – 1st)

Pairing unbridled enthusiasm and boundless curiosity.

Lower School

(2nd – 5th)

A focus on active, hands-on, inquiry-based work.

Upper School

(6th – 9th)

Building 21st century leadership and interpersonal skills.

Y9 Experience

(9th Grade)

Developing as role models and leaders for an entire student body.




The best way to experience Upland is to see our vibrant campus.


Your journey to Upland Country Day School starts today.

JP's Treehouse

In the spring of 2018, Laurie Brown, mother of John Peter “JP” Handley-Greaves ’12, approached us about a project that would serve two purposes. She wanted to give Upland something that would enhance our Chester County campus with a unique educational experience for students. The gift would also honor her son, who enjoyed his outdoor learning experiences at Upland more than any other school he attended.

JP’s Treehouse does just that. It is in perfect keeping with both the educational approach at Upland and the person whom it honors. JP Handley-Greaves was a boy who loved the outdoors. When he first visited Upland as a potential lower schooler, it was a snowy winter day. He noticed the kids here were outdoors sledding. This approach was different than the other schools he visited where children were indoors, hiding from the weather.

This structure was about a year in the making. And though the physical structure is complete, JP’s Treehouse is not yet finished. It will be up to the imaginations of our students and teachers to put finishing touches on this site.

JP’s Treehouse sits adjacent to another structure that has transformed our campus. The Kleberg IDEA Center has evolved into a vibrant and dynamic learning site. So too has JP‘s Treehouse. It is another transformational element of our campus that has furthered our outstanding educational programs. JP’s Treehouse inspires students and teachers to dream and create.

The Labyrinth

Former Assistant Head of School, Dr. Pepper, sat quietly in her office with an anxious student. Feeling overwhelmed with her day, the student needed a break. Dr. Pepper handed the student a tabletop labyrinth and stylus. As the student started the maze, she quickly began to settle and relax. Dr. Pepper thought, “We need a walking labyrinth here.” And, with that, she began to plan.

Dialing in the help from Mr. Gallagher in the IDEA Center, the 9th graders prototyped labyrinths during geometry class. The next step was to find a donor that would be interested in supporting this project.

The Michael and Nancy Pia Foundation recently gifted the services of a mindfulness instructor to Upland’s students and faculty. Dr Hickey felt this might be a natural extension of their already generous support of the school.

Fast forward three months and the Pias visited Upland in the Winter of 2020 to listen to the students’ proposals on layout, location, cost, and construction of the labyrinth. They went home with five prototypes that day. In August, construction began ultimately merging each prototypes’ best elements into the labyrinth’s foundation.

Our Campus

Nestled in the serene expanse of Chester County, Pennsylvania, Upland Country Day School’s sprawling 23 acres isn’t just a backdrop; it’s an integral part of our educational philosophy. Here, learning extends far beyond the classroom walls, seamlessly blending with the natural beauty of Chester County. Our campus isn’t just space; it’s an extension of our curriculum, a living laboratory where curiosity flourishes and textbooks come alive.

The outdoor elements of our campus serve as a dynamic classroom, sparking a profound connection between students and nature. From the rustling leaves in our wooded groves to the vibrant hues of our gardens, every inch of our grounds ignites a sense of wonder and exploration. It’s not merely about having ample space; it’s about fostering a hands-on, experiential education that transcends the traditional confines of learning. Whether it’s science lessons integrated with wildlife, artistic inspiration drawn from the landscape, or even reflective moments in our Labyrinth, the campus becomes an educator in itself, nurturing a deeper understanding of the world.

What sets us apart is the intentional integration of our environment into every aspect of a student’s journey. This isn’t merely a school; Upland Country Day School an ecosystem where education isn’t limited to textbooks and lectures. Here, students learn to observe, adapt, and appreciate the world around them. The beauty of our campus isn’t a picturesque addition but a catalyst for critical thinking, creativity, and holistic growth. 

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