Friday, April 3, 2009

Lab Schools

A laboratory school is one which follows a model of experiential education based on the original Laboratory School run by John Dewey at the University of Chicago. Experiential education is a "philosophy of education that focuses on the transactive process between teacher and student involved in direct experience with the learning environment and content." Laboratory schools all have a connection to a college or university. Each university affiliated school has a unique relationship with a college or university and a different grade configuration. Some lab schools are only for preschool or kindergarten children, some are preschool through fifth or sixth grade, and some continue through high school. Lab schools also work with preservice teachers.

I must admit that my only exposure to a laboratory school setting ws through student teaching while attening Utah State University. I student taught fifth grade and preschool as lab schools on campus. Thus, ithe information I provide will be related to USU and the lab schools there. If you have knowledge/experience with lab schools in other settings, please share.

The preschool program at USU is centered around the philosophy that children learn through play. Centers are set up throughout the room and children are free to choose what activities they would like to participate in. These centers include a large motor skills center, small motor skills center, writing center, sensory table, art center, and dramatic play center. Students are also provided outdoor activities and participate in large group time as well as small group centers. At this preschool you will see no worksheets or drills. All learning is integrated centers.

Edith Bowen Lab School is the elementary school on campus. Funds for the operation of EBLS come from three sources: (1) state public school funds allocated through the USBOE; (2) state fundes allocated through Utah State University; and (3) gifts and grants from state, federal, and private sources. No tuition is charged to students. The school works to ensure that its programs and methods are in the forefront of educational practice. Edith Bowen has a Governing Board which consists of the Dean of the College of Education, the Elementary Education Department Head, a parent respresentative from Logan School District, a member of the Logan School Board, the Regional Director of Utah PTA, the Superintendent of Logan School District, and a member of the Utah State Board of Education. Teachers are not required to use mandated programs and have flexibility in the way they chose to teach the state core. EBLS provides non-graded lopped classrooms in the early childhood grades. Looping keeps groups of students together for two years. For example, a student would have the same teacher and peers in first and second grade. Upper grad students are provided with opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities. Students at EBLS also attend Spanish classes ona weekly basis. All teachers at EBLS must have a masters degree to be hired. A lottery is held to determine which students will attend the school.

  • Students are taught must up-to-date, research based teaching methogs.
  • Teachers have flexibility in how they teach subject matter, thus providing them with the means to teach to children in accordance with their needs and interests.
  • Teachers are involved in ongoing research.
  • Students have choice in their learning.
  • A lab school setting may not provide as much "structure" as some students or parents expect.
  • Parents may be weary of how much time students spend with preservice teachers.
  • Parents and students may have to adjust to the "non-traditional" way subject matter is taught.
  • Students may have to travel a longer distance to attend a lab school, though I believe some busing through Logan School District is provided to EBLS.
For more information on the eperiential education philosophyy visit:


Megan said...

Edith Bowen is not just a lab school, it is also a charter school according to the state website.

Tannie Datwyler said...

That is a lot of really good information. I liked the pros and cons a lot. I especially didn't think of parents and students being tired of working with preservice teachers, though that is SOOOO true. I guess there are always teachers in and out of there, so the students can lose some continuity with having so many instructors. Thanks for pointing that out.

I have always been a fan of lab schools (though I don't think I'd send my kids there). I guess I like the idea that they are there for preservice teachers and that they are trying to find better ways to teach.

I'm so sorry, I'm not trying to be hypocritical because I came down kind of hard on charter schools. I think there is a difference though. That's interesting Megan that Edith Bowen is also a charter school - I didn't know that! I guess the difference between them for me is that a Charter School is set up PRIMARILY (though there are MANY reasons to have one) to give parents another option (which is good - don't get me wrong, I'm just trying to point out what I think is different). A lab school however is set up to help university students and to experiment with different teaching methods (though I know the latter is also part of a Charter School's goal).

One word of caution with a lab school - and Kelly mentioned this. They don't know how to do regular classroom work (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). It just means that it might be difficult for your student to deal with standarized test (a horrible, but unfortunate part of education - especially if you want to get into college) and/or transitioning to high school after being at a lab school because YES, the method is VERY different.

I did my level III practicum at Edith Bowen. I liked it, but I don't think I'd send my kids there.

Maybe I'd feel different about charter schools if I had more experience. SORRY to be so contraditory sometimes. :)

Thanks for the info Kelly - it was great!

Megan said...

Tannie, I think your awesome and I am always interested to read your comments. I do think there are some major pros to Edith Bowen. Like has been mentioned, they tend to be on the cutting edge of new ways to teach and they are great for preservice teachers. But, I know it can be hard for students when they leave EBLS because they haven't been with the students in their district and it can be difficult to switch to a totally different teaching style.

I really like the lab preschool at USU. Myself, and all my siblings but 1, attend preschool at USU, and my son will be attending their infant lab come September. I like the approach they tack of teaching with play.

JeriLynn said...

If I remember correctly, these types of schools are particularly effective with autistic children, correct?

Tannie Datwyler said...

I guess I should say that I would send my child to a lab school for preschool, but probably not for elementary or secondary ed. Does that make sense?

Also, has anyone attended a lab school or had their child do so and know how the transition back to public school goes?

I am not sure JeriLynn. That is such a good question. The lack of structure might be difficult for an austistic child, but at the same time it might be theraputic - I know little about austism. When I did my Level III practicum there we did have a child in our class with autism.

Megan said...

I'm not sure for all kids Tannie, but I do know my friend from church who went to EBLS had a hard time transitioning to regular middle school and meeting new friends because she hadn't been with the other kids at any other school.

Anonymous said...

I did my level 3 practicum at Edith Bowen as well. I was also in the preschool.

I liked parts of the preschool structure, I think it was just one "professor" that I butted heads with and it turned me off of their program. One thing I really didn't like was that if my daughter was going to get into the 3 year old lab, I had to put her on the waiting list when she was 9 months old! I think that's a little drastic. I did put her on the list though in hopes she'd get in sooner, because I did like the structure. I especially liked all their hands on stuff.

I worked with the 5th graders when I was at Edith Bowen. I really liked how they had orchestra, etc. available to the older kids. I thought that was great and wish they had those kinds of options available in all public schools. As far as teaching style -- the class I was in it really wasn't different from a "normal" public school. I really enjoyed the kids and I learned a lot from the teacher. The thing I did like was that the teacher gave me a lot of freedom in my lessons.

I think the transportation issue turns a lot of people off of Edith Bowen, but that's not any different than any of your charter schools.

I'd like to know why teachers at lab schools are required to have a masters degree. In my opinion, there are teachers out there that don't have masters degress that are fabulous teachers & that are very up to date on research. So, why wouldn't a lab school offer that person a position? I know you can get your masters while you teach, I'd just like to know why it's required of the teachers. I think that in some cases that seems a little unnecessary.

Does anyone know if the curriculum at lab schools is any more advanced that a regular public school? For instance, I know at Thomas Edison, they teach the curriculum a year ahead. I think there are some pros and cons to that, so I'm wondering if lab schools do the same?

I'm also curious to how the lab schools handle sped students? When I was at Edith Bowen I never saw a sped, speech, resource, etc. teacher. Do they not have to have one or did that one just elude me??

Jared and Delia said...

I have only heard from a friend who has an autistic child who attends Edith Bowen. She loves the school and I am pretty sure she said that he is included in the class as a normal student without any "special" labels. The teacher just adjusts her teaching style to meet his needs when she needs to and he is doing much better than he was in a regular public school.

Kelly, thank you writing an excellent post. I learned A LOT. I agree with Tannie. Even though a lab school can be a charter school like Edith Bowen, they are different things.

I appreciate the heads up on the difficulty in transitioning from a lab school to a traditional public school.