University of Chicago Laboratory Schools
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|The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools|
|Director||David W. Magill|
|Location||1362 E. 59th St.,
Chicago, Illinois, USA
The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (also known as Lab or Lab School and abbreviated UCLS; the upper classes are nicknamed U-High) is a private, co-educational day school in Chicago, Illinois. It is affiliated with the University of Chicago. About half of the students have a parent who is on the faculty of the University.
The Laboratory Schools were founded by American educator John Dewey in 1896 in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. The school began as a progressive institution that goes from nursery school through 12th grade.
Within a few years of starting the school, Dewey outlined the beliefs that have continued to guide the Schools: • Students benefit from an environment where teachers and students learn from each other. • Students learn best through experimentation, reflecting on the conditions and consequences of action. • By contributing to others, students develop their individuality and unique capacities to add to the common good. • At its best, a school exemplifies a purer form of our society’s democratic principles so that students grow into adults who improve their world.
The Laboratory Schools consists of two interrelated campuses. The Historic Campus, located at 1362 East 59th Street, fills two full city blocks. It houses grades 3–12 (about 1,200 students) in five connected buildings: Blaine Hall (built in 1903), Belfield Towers (1904), Judd Hall (1931), the high school (built in 1960), and the middle school (1993). Two connected gymnasiums also sit on this campus, Sunny Gym (built in 1929) and Kovler Gymnasium (built in 2000) and students have access to both Scammon Garden and Jackman Field.
In September 2013, Lab opened Earl Shapiro Hall on its new Early Childhood Campus located at 5800 South Stony Island Avenue. This new building, designed by Valerio Dewalt Train and FGM Architects, is home to approximately 625 children in nursery through second grade. The building is named for Earl Shapiro, who graduated from Lab in 1956.
Student Body and Academics
The school has over 1,700 students currently enrolled, though there are plans to increase the size. It is considered one of the top preparatory schools in the United States, reflected in the Wall Street Journal's findings that the school is amongst the top five feeder institutions in the nation for elite colleges. It has been heralded as one of the more diverse independent schools with about 40% students of color and over 44 nationalities represented.
Today the school is divided into a Nursery School (Pre-K and Kindergarten), Primary School (grades 1 and 2) Lower School (grades 3 through 5), Middle School (grades 6 through 8), and High School (grades 9 through 12). Many children begin the school in nursery and continue through their high school graduation, and 75% of applications are for nursery school or 9th grade.
In 2007, the school was ranked fourth in the nation for its record of sending graduates to elite universities and colleges.
U-High offers more than 150 different classes, all are college preparatory in nature and there are 17 Advanced Placement or Advanced Topic classes. High school students may also take classes at the University of Chicago and about 20 do so each year.  The school maintains three separate libraries to support its teaching and learning and the library holdings top 110,000 volumes.
Because the Laboratory Schools are part of the University of Chicago, the importance of intellectual life—of thought and exploration—infuses aspects of the school’s curriculum. Families who choose to send their children to Lab are attracted to this environment that creates and nurtures the hallmark habits of expansive thinking and complex problem-solving:
• Intellectual curiosity comes naturally to all children, and Lab fosters that curiosity by encouraging each child to seek paths of inquiry and interest.
• Open-mindedness is a tool that allows students to be flexible when solving problems and to accept differing points of view as viable solutions. This could not be more important given the increasingly global world facing our children.
• Critical thinking and analysis are taught at every age level. At the Laboratory Schools, we want each child to ask not just “Why?” but also “What if?”
• A respect for evidence is found throughout the Laboratory Schools, from the physics lab to the humanities class. Students learn to shape their own opinions and then fully leverage evidence to reshape their ideas.
Lab students of every age benefit from the University’s outstanding academicians and access to unmatched resources:
• Students in every division have special access to the Oriental Institute, Smart Museum of Art, and other University facilities. • Nursery schoolers, working with an oceanographer from the Department of Geophysical Sciences, experiment with water, salt, and food coloring to understand thermal layering in ocean currents.
• Lower Schoolers visit with physicians at University of Chicago Medical Center to learn about skeletal structure and heart function. High Schoolers witness open-heart surgery or discuss biomedical ethics.
• Fifth graders work with paleontologist and professor of organismal biology and anatomy Paul Sereno, Chicago’s own “Indiana Jones.”
• Middle Schoolers attend productions at the University’s renowned Court Theater, including performances of Shakespeare and August Wilson plays.
• High Schoolers regularly make use of the University’s vast library resources and receive visits from University faculty—statisticians, public policy and legal experts, historians, and humanities specialists.
• “Summer Link” places High School students in University biological and physical Sciences labs, where they undertake research in fields such as nanotechnology, biophysics, and chemistry. Students also benefit from internships at the Booth School of Business, Law School and other Chicago businesses and organizations.
High school students may choose from 40+ different clubs and activities. U-High students are extremely invested in academic extra-curriculars. The high school math team and the science teams are regular contenders for and winners of state titles. The school's newspaper (The Midway) and the yearbook (U-Highlights) regularly win regional and national awards, as does its arts magazine, Renaissance. Other popular activities include theater, ethnic clubs, Student Council, policy debate, and Model UN. The Model UN team is consistently ranked among the top in the nation, and is world-renowned for its competitive excellence. It was recently ranked the #2 High School Model UN team in the United States. In addition, the Debate Team has won numerous national circuit tournaments, and is unofficially considered to be in the Top 20 nationwide. Furthermore, U-High's Math and Science teams consistently win and place at Regional and State competitions, respectively.
The school's athletic teams, the Maroons, compete in the Independent School League (ISL) and are members of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). The middle school fields 15 teams in baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, track, and girls volleyball. The high school has more than 25 teams: baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, golf, soccer, swimming, tennis, indoor and outdoor track & field, and girls volleyball. All operate with a "no cut policy," meaning any student who wishes to participate may, and nearly 65% of U-Highers participate on at least one team. .
Notable alumni and people
Lab teachers are recognized as leaders in their field. Here are a few of the notable recognitions and teachers who have worked at Lab:
• Eight Lab teachers have received Chicago’s prestigious Golden Apple Award—more than from any other school in the city. (2009 Christina Hayward; 2007 David Derbes; 2004 Rosa McCullagh; 1994 Michael (Spike) Wilson; 1992 Jan Yourist; 1989 Catharine Bell; 1987 Hanna Goldschmidt; 1986 Randy Fowler.) Others have received the Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award.
• A MacArthur “genius” award and the Erikson Institute Award for Service to Children are among the achievements of author/teacher Vivian Paley, who spent most of her career at Lab. (Lessons from her acclaimed book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play shape Lab’s approach.)
• Created and funded in honor of Zena Sutherland (a former U. of C. faculty member and still considered among the world’s most influential scholars of young people’s literature), the annual Sutherland Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature is one of the only student-selected book awards in the United States.
• Lab teachers contributed to the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project, the largest university-based mathematics curriculum project in the country. Their results included the nationally acclaimed Everyday Mathematics texts for elementary school students and Transition Mathematics, a middle school pre-algebra text.
• Lab classrooms are routinely visited by teachers and administrators from around the world who wish to experience first-hand the way Lab teachers integrate Dewey’s philosophy into their classroom experience.
- The Wall Street Journal, "How the Schools Stack Up," http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/info-COLLEGE0711-sort.html
- The Diplomat, Issue #335, May 5, 2010, University of Chicago Press.
- America's Best High School Model UN Teams: 1-5. Best Delegate, http://bestdelegate.com/fall-2011-high-school-model-un-rankings-top-1-5/