Our unique pedagogy (the way we teach) comes from well over a century of research, innovation, and experience. Because every child is an individual, we help them learn as quickly as they are able. We encourage them to learn utilizing hands-on experience, imagination, and their own interests as well as more traditional practices. Our classrooms are designed to offer flexibility and help children grow as independent learners. And finally, we make authentic assessment part of the learning process. That’s a Leading Edge-ucation.

Our Philosophy

Children have important knowledge and ideas.

All children are capable and rich in potential. Our role as educators is to listen to them and help them build on what they know.

Learning is active. 

Children construct new knowledge through inquiry, experience, exploration and play. They need to move, ask questions, solve problems, articulate their thoughts, learn from mistakes, celebrate accomplishments and make a difference in the world where they can.

Learning is collaborative. 

Children have a tremendous capacity to communicate and to collaborate when they are given the tools to do so. We invest a lot of time in helping children practice collaboration skills because we believe they make them better learners and more competent citizens of the world. Being successful in the world means being able to work both independently and as part of a group.

We celebrate diversity.

Diversity is an integral part of who we are as a community and as teachers and learners. Our differences encompass race, gender identity and expression, ethnicity, geography, language, sexual orientation, socioeconomics, class and income, religion, physical ability, and family structure. They help us explore three important questions: Who am I? Who are you? and Who are we together?

The diversity of students, families, teachers and staff strengthens our community, provides opportunities for learning and aids in conducting research and developing curricula that are relevant for a wide variety of schools.

We respect each other.

Our Safe School System helps students learn skills and habits for solving problems, considering alternative viewpoints, taking responsibility for their actions, and understanding the role we all play in creating justice in the world. We cultivate a learning environment where teachers and students feel comfortable asking questions and taking intellectual risks.

Our Approach

An overview of inquiry-based teaching and learning at UCLA Lab School is provided in: Creating a Culture and Pedagogy of Inquiry

Inquiry is at the heart of our teaching practice. Infused into all parts of our curriculum — from science to social studies to literacy to math — our inquiry process:

  • builds on student interest and curiosity, with teachers encouraging students’ ideas and questions
  • promotes 21st Century skills — creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication
  • offers authentic learning experiences
  • engages students in investigating real world questions and problems
  • is interdisciplinary
  • helps students develop the habits of mind of lifelong learners

Teachers guide inquiry with in-depth planning and assessment. They start by establishing clear learning goals aligned with state and national standards — such as the Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, C3 Social Studies Framework and ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) Standards.

With goals in mind, they create a rich learning environment that incorporates relevant resources and materials. They continuously evaluate their instruction and children’s work and use this information to ensure the learning goals are met.


We have a mixture of multi-age and single-age classrooms:

Early Childhood I : Ages 4-5
(equivalent of PreK)

Early Childhood II : Ages 5-6
(equivalent of Kindergarten)

Primary : Ages 6-8
(equivalent of Grades 1 & 2)

Intermediate : Ages 8-10
(equivalent of Grades 3 & 4)

Upper I : Ages 10-11
(equivalent of Grade 5)

Upper II : Ages 11-12+
(equivalent of Grade 6)

Multi-age groupings allow teaching to the child rather than the grade, and they take into account the different rates at which children develop academically, socially, and emotionally.

Assessment as Part of the Learning Process

Children are assessed through their daily work. Teachers engage students in discussion and take note of how they articulate ideas. They ask them to show what they know in a variety of ways, including writing, constructing projects, using computer applications, creating drawings, painting, and performing. Teachers examine the work to assess what children have learned, determine what they still need to know, and plan what to teach next.

This kind of on-the-spot assessment helps ensure that no child falls by the wayside or continues through the curriculum with gaps in his or her understanding. In addition, children are formally assessed twice each year and teachers meet individually with parents to discuss in detail their children’s progress. Children ages 8-12 also take a standardized test each spring. Children are given preparation for this test, but teachers at UCLA Lab School do not “teach to the test.” The results provide just one more way of assessing how children are doing and whether the instructional program is meeting their needs.

What Does It Look Like?

As a laboratory school and an active community of learners we are constantly refining our program. We design learning experiences with influences from research and in response to children’s ideas and learning needs. It doesn’t look the same in every classroom. And it won’t look the same from year to year. For an overview of what we teach in the subject areas, explore the links in the Curriculum section of our website. For examples of projects students and teachers have worked on, visit the News section.