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Academic Life

Experiential Learning … Everywhere

In the classroom – whether around a Harkness table, on a stage, or in the pool – the focus at Mercersburg is not about teaching to the text and asking students to regurgitate information. Today it’s about experiential learning, truly engaging students in every class, ensuring they apprehend and retain the knowledge, but most importantly that they can transfer that knowledge on call—thereby achieving real autonomy and mastery.

Challenge-based or problem-based learning is now central to the physics and engineering program at MIT, and it is widely used in many medicine, law, and business schools. The problem in secondary education was that the best examples could not be found in the core academic subjects, for the most part. Mercersburg is changing all of that. We are taking what we know from such fields as athletics, arts, and lab-based sciences and applying them where the more traditional forms of pedagogy are still being used.

Faculty-Created E-Books

The iPad is Mercersburg’s universal digital platform for all students and teachers. Mercersburg faculty have authored and commissioned more than 20 e-textbooks (and counting) for use in the classroom and outside of it. To our knowledge, Mercersburg is the only secondary school where so many faculty are intentionally and systematically engaged in writing their own e-textbooks.

To learn more, watch this entertaining two-minute video:


21st-Century Skills for 21st-Century Students

Our most fundamental objective is that every student graduate mastering a formal set of 21st-century skills. None, though, truly qualifies as brand-new, because Mercersburg has emphasized intellectual curiosity and communication skills and taking responsibility for one’s actions since its founding.

However, with the infusion of experiential and challenge-based learning into everything we do, we are retooling these classic skills for optimal application in this dynamic new century:

• Critical thinking and problem solving
• Effective communication
• Collaboration
• Information literacy
• Creativity, curiosity, and imagination
• Personal responsibility and accountability

Faculty That are Second To None

Mercersburg faculty are not only revered as exceptional teachers and mentors, but also for who they are as people and what they have accomplished in their lives before or during their careers at Mercersburg.

Former Head of School Douglas Hale says it well:

When I meet with alumni from around the world, the conversation inevitably includes robust remembrances of this or that teacher, heartfelt gratitude for a person who once, way back, or just in recent years, made a difference or stamped an impression. As I walk across the campus or peek into classrooms or look around the dining hall, I’m always struck by the deep bonds between students and teachers, dynamic connections that will last, in most cases, for a lifetime.”

For a directory of faculty with photos and brief bios, click here.

Help Centers and Study Halls

Study Halls

Not everyone comes to Mercersburg with great study skills. That’s why we require every ninth grader to attend a faculty-supervised study hall Sunday through Thursday nights for at least the fall term.

Students in the 10th grade and higher have the quiet and comfortable Lenfest Library available to them, in addition to a formal, faculty-supervised study sanctuary Sunday through Thursday evenings. Students whose grade average falls below an acceptable level are required to attend a supervised study hall until their grades progress to an appropriate level.

Help Centers

Whether you’re in studying in your dorm room or a study hall, if you encounter a problem that you can’t solve yourself, help is available in the writing, math, and/or language media centers most evenings in Irvine Hall.

For a more detailed review of the help centers, click here.

Facilities and Wi-Fi

The school's academic facilities are exceptional, with newly renovated academic buildings containing state-of-the-art classrooms, lab spaces, art studios, digital equipment, study areas, and faculty offices.

Wi-Fi can be accessed easily throughout the entire campus.
At its most basic, ‘learning by doing’ means the students don’t just sit there and take stuff in.
That’s why it’s useful to use the word ‘transfer’ as the goal. Learning by doing is not the goal.
Learning by doing is the means. The end is the ability to apply your learning in new situations,
or what we call ‘transfer’ in education.

— Grant Wiggins,
former president of Authentic Education,
which worked with Mercersburg on curriculum design and implementation.
Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 440 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
We offer 170 courses, including AP and Honors, more than $6 million in financial aid, 26 varsity sports, and a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts center.
Located 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and within easy driving distance to New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
300 East Seminary Street, Mercersburg PA 17236
717-328-6173