Spanning Three Centuries of Innovation

UCLA Lab School’s history began in 1882, when Los Angeles was an emerging city. The city’s leaders saw the rapid changes taking place and knew that creating quality education for children was the most important investment the community could make. Their activism led to the founding of the southern branch of the California State Normal School and its demonstration school. There, teachers-in-training could develop their profession in authentic classroom settings. The State Normal School eventually became UCLA. The demonstration school became UCLA Lab School.

That spirit of democracy and innovation has been at the core of our school ever since. Today, researchers and educators from all over the world observe at UCLA Lab School and learn from and with our faculty and students. The emphasis is on involving children in authentic work that shows young people what it means to engage in the world around them, to realize a larger purpose than themselves, and to use their knowledge to help make the world a better place.

List of 4 items.

  • Early Years of Rapid Growth

    By 1914, enrollment at the normal school had far exceeded capacity, and the school moved to a Hollywood ranch off a dirt road that later became Vermont Avenue. In 1919, the Regents approved the establishment of the Southern Branch of the University of California, a two-year college located at the normal school. In 1927, the two-year college expanded to officially become UCLA.
  • Pioneers of the Progressive Movement

    In 1929, the demonstration school, then called University Elementary School (UES), began leasing property on Warner Avenue owned by Los Angeles City Schools. Children from the local neighborhood attended. The principal was Corinne A. Seeds, a visionary educator who was influenced by the teachings of John Dewey. Seeds became a key figure in developing and promoting progressive education. She believed that “to keep education dynamic, children must have experiences that they care about.” At a time when children at most other schools were sitting at desks and learning by rote memorization, this was a revolutionary idea.
    Seeds helped establish the Social Studies Frameworks for Los Angeles County and the California Department of Education, and the school achieved national recognition for its publication of teachers’ guides, journal articles, and units of instruction.
    In the late 1940s, when anti-Communism was rampant in California and the nation, progressive education came under attack. Seeds was called before the California Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities and asked to explain her approach to teaching about Russia.
    As Time magazine reported in 1947: “Miss Seeds said that her pupils studied Russian costumes, homes and farming. ‘You mean collective farming?’ asked Chairman Tenney. Replied Miss Seeds: ‘That’s all they have.’ She was cleared of being ‘un-American.’”
    The battle, however, had taken its toll. In 1945, the university had lost its lease on the Warner Avenue location and was told to vacate the site by the following year. From September 1946 to June 1947, UES was without a schoolhouse, but some classes continued in private homes.
    Supporters of Seeds and progressive education successfully lobbied the state Legislature to provide funds to relocate the school to the UCLA campus. Wartime restrictions prevented new building, but supporters found unused army barracks and transferred them to the Westwood campus to be used as a temporary school facility.
    The first permanent buildings for the school were completed in 1950. They were designed by architects Robert Alexander and Richard Neutra, who became prominent in the mid-century modern design movement. The architects worked closely with Seeds and other members of the school community to create a campus that takes advantage of the natural landscape and promotes children’s movement and exploration through the integration of indoor and outdoor space and flexible configurations of the learning environment.
  • Bridging Research and Practice

    In 1960, John I. Goodlad was appointed the director of UES and soon after also became dean of the Graduate School of Education. A leader in the non-graded school movement, Goodlad encouraged the implementation of team teaching and multi-age grouping. His writings and the work being done at the school stimulated these practices throughout the United States.
    Madeline Hunter, principal from 1962 to 1982, developed the Instructional Theory into Practice teaching model, a direct instruction program that identified seven components for teaching. The model was implemented in thousands of schools throughout the United States; in some years as many as 15,000 educators visited UES to observe the theory in practice.
    In the 1980s, Director Richard C. Williams and Principal Hal Hyman (1985–1994) worked with the faculty to explore aspects of the school reform movement. They experimented with restructuring the school’s organization to strengthen the professional role of teachers and to encourage participatory decision making. They formed teacher work groups to coordinate curriculum development in language arts, visual arts, science, and mathematics across age levels. And they created the Extended Day Program to provide after-school care integrated with the school’s philosophy of progressive teaching and learning.
    In the 1990s, the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies established a research center within the elementary school. The center, now known as CONNECT, facilitates collaboration among teachers and UCLA faculty and graduate students to explore issues related to improving education for diverse student populations.
    In 2009, the school was renamed UCLA Lab School to highlight the school’s mission as a laboratory for research and public engagement.
    Throughout the years, UCLA Lab School teachers and researchers have done important work in the areas of character education, technology integration, inquiry-based learning, and educating students for the 21st century.
    Our Safe School system and curriculum, designed to build character and manage conflict among students, was developed beginning in the 1990s. It was a collaboration by a team of teachers led by Demonstration Teacher Ava de la Sota and Psychology Professor Jana Juvonen. Community values, outlined in Safe School Guidelines, are interwoven into the curriculum and the life of the school. Problems and conflicts are approached as teachable moments that can be used to reduce future negative behaviors.
    As an early proponent of integrating computer technology into the teaching and learning process, UCLA Lab School was chosen in 1999 by NCREL, a regional laboratory of the U.S. Dept. of Education, to work with Department of Defense Schools to help them integrate technology into instruction. UCLA Lab School teachers helped develop curricula and a website to support the Pacific Bell/UCLA Initiatives for 21st Century Learning in 2000.
    In 1994, the Learning in Two Languages program (LITL) was created based on the values that a student’s primary language is a resource to be nurtured, supported, and developed, and it should act as the primary vehicle for literacy learning. Spanish was chosen because of its integral role in the culture, community, and history of Los Angeles. Under the leadership of Principal Norma Silva (2010–2018) and in partnership with UCLA Professors Alison Bailey and Rashmita Mistry, the program evolved to become the Dual Language Program. Since 2013, the Dual Language Program has followed the 90/10 language immersion model of instruction, which research shows to be the most successful in fostering bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism.
    A basic tenet of a UCLA Lab School education is the recognition that learners benefit from an environment where all participants feel a sense of belonging. Students of all abilities and learning differences work together in our classroom communities. Since 2018, UCLA Lab School has been developing an inclusion model with the goal of sharing these practices widely.
  • Looking Ahead

    Principal Georgia Ann Lazo joined UCLA Lab School in 2018 with almost 30 years of experience in educational instruction and operations. Since 2012, Dr. Lazo has taught courses such as Supervision of Instruction and Democracy and Accountability to master’s degree students in the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute. She has been a strong leader through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    From the end of the 19th century through the innovations of the 21st century, UCLA Lab School remains committed to a dynamic view of education that encompasses new research about education. We look forward to the exciting work ahead.

The History of UCLA Lab School

List of 15 items.

  • 1882

    UCLA Lab School opens as the demonstration school for the southern branch of the California State Normal School.
  • 1914-1919

    The growing Normal School moves to a larger site on Vermont Avenue and becomes part of the Southern Branch of the University of California.
  • 1927

    The Southern Branch of the University of California becomes UCLA.
  • 1929

    UCLA moves to Westwood and the bungalows of the demonstration school move to Warner Avenue, nearby. The demonstration school is officially named University Elementary School (UES).
  • 1947-1950

    UES moves to the UCLA campus and its first permanent buildings, designed by Robert Alexander and Richard Neutra, are completed.
  • 1957

    UES makes major contributions to teachers’ guides published by the California State Department of Education.
  • 1960–1984

    Research and methods for team teaching and multi-age classrooms are developed and shared with educators throughout the country.
  • 1983

    The innovative Extended Day Program is established to integrate after-school care with the curriculum.
  • 1991–1993

    The Sycamore Court building, designed by Barton Phelps & Associates, is constructed.
  • 1993

    The Dual Language Program, originally called the Learning in Two Languages (LTL) program, is established.
  • 2009

    UES is renamed UCLA Lab School to highlight the school’s mission as a laboratory for research and public engagement.
  • 2010

    Safe School/Cool Tools, a schoolwide approach to social emotional learning, is replicated in 20 schools across California and in Washington State.
  • 2011

    Stone Canyon Creek restoration project earns Schoolyard Habitat designation.
  • 2021

    New classroom designed by Marmol Radziner opens in fall 2021.
  • 2022

    UCLA Lab School celebrates 140th Anniversary and 75 years on the Corinne A. Seeds campus.