Mission & History
Princeton Day School nurtures the mind, the body, and the character of each student.
In academics, athletics, the arts, and service, we celebrate the pursuit of individual excellence and the spirit of collaboration that binds us together as a community. We seek diversity of cultures, views, and talents to promote the intellectual growth and moral development of our students.
Our rigorous and broad PreK through 12th grade program is designed for motivated and academically talented students. We emphasize both creative and critical thought and their clear expression. Supported by an exceptional faculty and a cooperative partnership of school and home, our students discover the joy of learning. They explore their interests, cultivate enduring relationships with teachers and peers, take risks, and thrive.
Integrity, respect, and compassion are essential to the school's mission. Our students leave Princeton Day School well equipped for college and beyond: prepared to act knowledgeably, to lead thoughtfully, to share generously, and to contribute meaningfully.
The spirit of Princeton Day School is best caught in its common spaces. The libraries, lobbies, and hallways, vibrant with student art, reflect a community of inspired and inspiring learners, as well as an extraordinary tradition of excellence in the visual and performing arts. As students come and go, working in small groups, engaging one another and their teachers in the dialogue that is the essence of learning, they experience a balance of freedom and direction that enables each child to find his or her own pace and pathway to success.
Our three school divisions strike this balance differently, but the common element from Pre-Kindergarten to the 12th grade is a commitment to nurturing the following core values:
- an independence of thought that includes and goes beyond academic excellence;
- respect and compassion for others, expressed through service; and
- a delight in learning that evokes creativity, risk-taking, and an abiding curiosity about the human story and the natural world.
Integrity entails honesty to oneself and others; it also connotes wholeness, of the individual and of the community. We aim to nurture in our students the motivation, self-confidence, and mutual trust to discover their individual and communal strengths of mind, body, and spirit. We seek students of character and promising intellect who are capable of responding to this challenge, and we provide for them an educational atmosphere at once disciplined, playful, and diverse.
We offer students many avenues of self-discovery through academics, athletics, the arts, cultural exchange programs, and student-run activities and clubs. We encourage students to take responsibility for their education and to make learning an enterprise so exhilarating that it spills into gatherings of students in the hallways, casual moments with a coach or teacher, and conversations with parents around the dinner table. As an independent day school, we affirm the importance of the student-teacher-parent triangle. When students, teachers, and parents work together to create a continuity between school and home, the child's journey of self-discovery more fully integrates his or her intellectual, emotional, physical and moral development.
Our broad and innovative curriculum is complemented by our thorough attention to the individual student and by our commitment to recognizing and supporting differences in learning styles. Through one-on-one contact between students and teachers at all levels, through the support provided by school counselors and a full-time learning specialist, and through strong advising systems in the middle and upper schools, we ensure that every student receives the guidance necessary to acquire core skills and develop his or her unique strengths.
We offer students many avenues of self-discovery through academics, athletics, the arts, cultural exchange programs, and student-run activities and clubs. We encourage students to take responsibility for their education and to make learning an enterprise so exhilarating that it spills into gatherings of students in the hallways, casual moments with a coach or teacher, and conversations with parents around the dinner table.
Robert Frost says that a poem "runs a course from delight to wisdom." In education, too, the way to wisdom leads through delight, which comes when we remember to make room in our busy lives for rest, reflection, appreciation, and gratitude. Even as we challenge students to reach beyond themselves, we teach them to recognize limits and establish priorities. As individuals and as a community, we measure our achievements, in part, by the difficult choices we make and the possibilities we forego.
At Princeton Day School, we are all teachers, and we are all learners, working together in the common spaces of the human spirit. The adults of this community have the added responsibility of being role models for the young. Role models teach through their aspirations as well as their actions. The qualities of mind and heart that we encourage our students to practice in their work and their relations with others are the qualities of mind and heart to which we all aspire in our daily lives: courage, discipline, compassion, curiosity, and enjoyment of our work and play.
Princeton Day School has a rich educational heritage reaching from the 19th Century to today. Our campus along The Great Road in Princeton opened in 1965 thanks to the incredible generosity of Dean Mathey, whose gifts to PDS include not only the property but also financial support. Our school continues to thrive today because of the vision and dedication of educators, students and families from Miss Fine's School and Princeton Country Day School.
In 1899, a young woman named May Margaret Fine opened a school in Princeton to prepare girls for college with a curriculum including English, French, Latin, history and mathematics. At a time when women were not expected to attend college, and when only one out of eight children in America went to school at all, Miss Fine's School was a bold venture.
In 1924, a group of parents established an elementary school for boys on Bayard Lane, next to Miss Fine's School. The boys' school was known as Princeton Country Day School. Both schools flourished, and in 1965, when the advantages of coeducation could not be ignored, the two merged to become Princeton Day School.
Today, Princeton Day School enrolls about 950 boys and girls in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. We continue to blend the best of both Miss Fine's and Princeton Country Day schools — including the annual Maypole Dance originally reserved for upper schoolers at Miss Fine's and now enthusiastically performed each spring by PDS second-grade students.