Environment as the Third Teacher

UCLA Lab School is located on six wooded acres at the edge of the UCLA campus. The multi-building complex is designed to engage students in learning, inspire their creativity and connect them to the natural world. Classrooms are set up with flexible seating to promote movement, exploration and collaboration. Ready access to materials supports self-directed learning. Sliding window walls and large doors allow children to expand their explorations from the classrooms into outdoor patios and the gardens beyond.
The campus design is the legacy of mid 20th century architectural pioneers Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander. Neutra and Alexander worked with progressive educator Corinne A. Seeds to realize her dream of building a school that inspires children’s curiosity and active learning. Subsequent enhancement projects at UCLA Lab School have been completed by Barton Phelps & Associates and Marmol Radziner in the spirit of the original design.

Campus Features


Stone Canyon Creek

The creek that runs through the UCLA Lab School campus is part of Stone Canyon Creek. It originates in the hills of Bel Air. From our campus it flows through a storm drainpipe and connects to the Westwood flood channel and Ballona Creek near Marina del Rey. Until about 2010, our school community called the creek by its nickname of "the Gully." We started to refer to it as the creek after we learned more about the local watershed through our inquiry project work with the Santa Monica Bay Foundation. The creek serves as a "living classroom" for our school.

Stone Canyon Creek Poetry Project

With sketchbooks in hand, we clambered down the creek’s banks for a closer look at the plants, water, bugs, rocks and whatever else we might find. Students found dragonflies hovering, a little water flowing and some evidence of humans, too. From our sketches we talked about how a poet might look at the creek as opposed to a scientist. We brainstormed some of the delicious language that poets use as well as how poets use rhythm through line breaks and punctuation. We read our poems out loud to each other for feedback and suggestions. Then we revised and edited our work with care and focus. When we were ready to illustrate our poems, we returned to the creek for some bits of nature that could be added to enhance our illustrations. Finally, we celebrated our work with each other. We listened attentively as our partner read aloud his/her creation and then we offered feedback about both what moved us in the poem and the highlights of the poet’s craft. We reveled in the beauty, passion, love and care we have for all of nature surrounding us.

North Yard Bridge

The bridge was built in 1997 to unite the classrooms on the North Yard with those across the creek. Over the years, it has become a symbol of children's progression from the Early Childhood classrooms and yard to the “big kid” classrooms and yards of Primary and beyond.  

Adobe House

The adobe house was built in 1955 as part of a study of the California Rancho period. Children, teachers and parents constructed the house together. Children also dyed clothes, grew crops and made pots, all in the style of the Rancho period. The adobe house stands as an artifact of the hands-on Social Studies curriculum that Principal Corinne A. Seeds and her teachers pioneered at our school in the mid 20th century and that continues to inspire our inquiry work today.

Musical Sculptures

The singing stone and pipe dendrophones were added to the Redwood Forest as symbols of the many voices in our community. They were given to our school in 2002 in honor of Susan Gonda and Honey Shapiro, grandmothers of alumni Jonathan Gonda ('99) and Michael Gonda ('99). The pipe dendrophones are made of wood. Each cylinder is a different length and thickness. When you strike the cylinders, each one produces a unique sound. The singing stone is made of polished granite. It produces beautiful tones when you place water on the surface and move the water around with your hands.

The Woven Web Mural

"We are all connected." The Woven Web mural explores the individual histories and identities of 44 UCLA Lab School students ages 5 to 7. The children and their teachers worked with UCLA Professor Judith Baca and her students from UCLA's World Arts & Culture and Chicano/a Studies programs to create the mural. Children and adults shared their individual stories and created artwork celebrating the similarities and differences that bind us together as human beings. The mural was created in 2004.

One World Sculpture

One World, by artist Tony Rosenthal, depicts a group of three disparate members of the animal kingdom looking outward to the far reaches of the world. Principal Corinne A. Seeds commissioned the sculpture in 1950 to represent the United Nations and her belief that schools should prepare children with the skills they need to make the world a better place. 

Dino Yard Topiary

For generations of students, a big yellow play structure shaped like a dinosaur provided a structure for climbing and a perch for looking out over the playground known as the "Dino Yard." Then an inspection of our school's playgrounds in the 1990s determined that some of the play structures were no longer up to code. The children didn’t want to see their beloved dinosaur structure removed, so they formed a committee to recommend an alternative use for it. The student committee came up with the idea of using it as a frame for plants to grow on. Today the Dino topiary is a favorite part of our school.

Apu's Garden

Apu’s garden was designed as a children’s community garden. It was a gift to our school in celebration of the 80th birthday of Leslie Gonda in 2000. Leslie Gonda was the grandfather of alumni Jonathan Gonda and Michael Gonda, twin brothers from the class of 1999. "Apu" means "grandfather" in Hungarian.