‘Dream’ of Lab School Becomes Reality
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Teachers Are All Butler COE Grads
Ena Shelley witnessed the culmination of a 15-year dream Monday when the Indianapolis Public Schools/Butler University Laboratory School opened its doors to 96 students in kindergarten and first grade.
"This was a moment to treasure," Butler’s dean of the College of Education said. "The children made such a smooth transition, became engaged easily with their peers. Families were very, very happy."
Butler’s College of Education is collaborating with IPS to develop the Lab School curriculum, inspired by Reggio Emilia early childhood education principles. College of Education students majoring in early elementary education will complete "Block A" unit classes and field experiences at the Lab School, under professors Ryan Flessner and Cathy Hargrove.
"I have spent 15 years working toward this dream, studying extensively in Italy, teaching with Reggio expert Louise Cadwell, and making this school come into existence," Shelley said.
All Lab School faculty members are Butler College of Education graduates. Pictured left to right, they include Head of School (principal) Ron Smith, ’88 M.S. ’96, and teachers Mary Ellen Estridge ’11, Sarah Ryan ’10, Abby Anderson Bucher ’05, Shane Grotjan ’01 and Marissa Hradek ’09.
About a dozen Butler employees have children enrolled for fall.
Reggio Emilia practices place special emphasis on problem solving and on the arts and sciences as forms of communicating, expressing ideas and demonstrating learning, said Smith, who has studied Reggio methods for almost a decade and led their implementation in the Warren Township Metropolitan School District’s early childhood education program.
"In traditional school models, the teaching of music, physical education and art are ‘special’ classes you don’t do very often," he said. "In Lab School, movement and arts will be part of everything we do."
The school’s kindergarten and first grade students are grouped into four multi-age classes collaboratively taught by all teachers. (Adding another grade each school year, the "Lab School" will eventually serve K-5.)
The teachers do not have desks in their classrooms. Instead, their desks occupy a separate, shared office. "We want them spending as much time together as possible," Smith said. "We want them thinking together, bouncing ideas off each other."
The school will use a web-based daily journal and weekly printed versions to inform families of what children are learning. "Eventually, the journal will become the children’s responsibility," he said. "We’ll let them choose and put together the news of the day."
Having students’ families directly involved in classroom activities is another Reggio hallmark. Smith hopes to have parents teaching small groups within classes. Before classes started, Smith and staff members visited most enrolled students’ families in their homes.
St. Mary’s Child Center is providing half-day and full-day preschool at the Lab School, as well as wraparound childcare, with support from a $100,000 grant from the PNC Financial Services Group Foundation.
Media contact: Mary Ellen Stephenson
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