Lower School

Ann Martino, Head of Lower School
When you visit the Ellis Lower School, you’ll sense a warm, welcoming community in which girls move about confidently, as they know they are in a safe and stimulating environment. You will see teachers who foster a love of learning encouraging each girl’s natural curiosity and celebrating the pride these Lower School learners experience when they acquire new knowledge, master skills, and deepen their understanding of the world around them. Keenly aware of the social-emotional needs of young learners as well as the need for providing a program that is developmentally appropriate, the teachers create classroom environments that allow each girl to thrive. The girls love school, form lasting friendships, take risks, and become creative and independent thinkers. This reputation for building community, friendship, and excellence makes Ellis one of the top private schools in Pittsburgh.

Because the Lower School program is inquiry-based, essential questions drive the learning for our students. Questions and exploration lead to innovative solutions. We see the Arts and STEM subjects as interconnected, making our approach equally engaging and rigorous in the arts and sciences and allowing our students to make connections across subject areas. We focus on projects that create deep understanding and have real relevance to girls’ lives. Through this framework, even our youngest students make comparisons, see relationships, and develop complex thinking. Our girls learn to work in teams, respect other ways of knowing, and learn to effectively use a variety of technology tools which enhance their learning and allow them to share what they know with others.

Underlying everything we do is our focus on character education. Ellis girls understand what it means to act ethically and to be a good friend. By focusing on competence and voice, Ellis girls learn to empathize with others, express opinions, take risks, and self-advocate. They leave the Lower School happy, curious, confident, and ready to take on the challenges of Middle School.
Small classes and hands-on experiences ignite curiosity and fuel each girl's understanding of the world. A well-rounded education gives girls the opportunity to try new things, take risks, know themselves, and move up to Middle School with confidence.