UL Lafayette Learning Lab
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is forging ahead with plans for a laboratory school. The University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors approved the concept earlier this year.
Once property and state legislative approval are secured, the not-yet-named lab school will provide its students with an education that relies on model teaching methods and an innovative curriculum.
Advance equity, innovation, and opportunity for all Louisiana students.
Empower innovators to nurture curiosity and creativity, develop individual talents and leadership qualities, and embolden human potential as we actively participate in the world.
Students and teachers apply their skills, knowledge, and creativity to real-world issues and problems and make positive change in their communities. They see the relevance of their learning and are motivated by understanding that learning is meaningful.
Students are encouraged to develop a direct and respectful relationship with the natural world to become stewards of the earth and of future generations. Students and teachers are mindful of themselves, others, and the world around them as they learn to embrace their own cultures and appreciate those of others.
Students at all levels are pushed and supported to do more than they think they can. Excellence is expected in the quality of their work and thinking. Students are challenged physically, intellectually, and creatively.
School leaders, teachers, students, and families share rigorous expectations for quality work, achievement, and behavior. Trust, respect, responsibility, and joy in learning permeate the school culture.
Students are encouraged to think and create through iterative, imaginative, and compassionate processes that solve real-world problems. Creativity is viewed with equal importance as literacy and as something that can be nurtured and developed. Students and teachers engage in creative problem solving that draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systems thinking.
Students are scientists, urban planners, historians, and activists, investigating real community problems and collaborating with peers to develop creative, actionable solutions. As a valued part of the learning experience, students initiate and play an integral role in designing, implementing, and assessing learning experiences.
Through formal structures of presentation, exhibition, critique, and data analysis, students and teachers build a shared vision of pathways to achievement. Learners are motivated by mastery and purpose of the work they pursue and share their discoveries with audiences.
What makes this school unique for students?
Children are naturally curious and creative, and we believe those qualities can be nurtured and developed. Each component of the lab school curriculum is focused on promoting the core values while building student capacities to set and work toward personal goals. Here are a few components that make our program unique.
A Welcoming Environment for Learning
The design of the learning spaces is intended to welcome inquisitive learners to explore the vast world of knowledge and discovery. Student work is showcased throughout our diverse learning spaces, and students will play an active role in caring for the school environment we share. Each element of design is meant to encourage curiosity, creativity, and collaboration.
All students will have access to enrichment and physical activity in a variety of forms. Visual and performing arts will penetrate classrooms and language learning will begin in early elementary years. Student interest and personal curiosities will play a major role in their learning.
Health & Physical Development
Comprehensive school physical activity programs will ensure that student learn the knowledge and skills for lifetime physical activity through a wide range of experiences. Our playgrounds will promote adventure, challenge, balance, and strength and our curriculum will encourage movement and flexibility. Health and physical development are infused throughout the day.
Inspired by programs that develop leadership skills in outdoor settings (Outward Bound, National Outdoor Leadership School), we strive to develop each student’s resilience and love of the natural world through adventure. Adventure can be any physical, creative, or intellectual experience that involves risk, challenge, and personal discovery. Adventure experiences bond students and teachers as they face challenge together and accomplish more than they thought possible.
Inspired by the Natural World
Adventures challenge students and teachers to be curious about the natural world as they look closely at the resilience of natural systems and apply creative thinking as they work together with purpose to solve problems. As they explore the resilience in natural systems, they learn to grow in their own resilience and develop the courage to act.
Students are active participants in the teaching and learning experience. They are encouraged to investigate interests and share their learnings in a variety of interest-driven products. Student interest will also help to drive some elements of the curriculum.
We learn best when we can work on projects that matter to us. Students will have sustained opportunities to work on short and long term projects connected to their own curiosities. We invite students to explore their interests and wonder their way into meaningful learning. These and other projects may link across grade levels.
Maker Spaces & Innovation Labs
Maker-centered learning is a way to empower students to view their world as malleable and to become active agents of positive change in their communities. Our classroom makerspaces will encourage hands-on, problem-based learning experiences and our innovation labs will provide rich resources for further concept and prototype development.
Oracy & Shared Knowledge
Oracy is a skill that helps us to share our ideas and portray our unique perspectives. In the lab school, students will have multiple opportunities to share ideas and work with their peers and in unique spaces such as a “Student Author” section of the school library. Shared knowledge will also extend beyond the classroom and school and into the community we share.
Each grade level will unite around a common experience with a trip, challenge, and service unique for each school year. This creates a sense of unity and excitement for what’s to come each school year. There is a purposeful flow from one grade level to the next in an effort to gain understanding, compassion, empathy, mindfulness, and respect for our world and humanity.
What makes this school unique for teachers?
Our teachers are valued professionals who will be supported to make evidence-based decisions to inform their practice. Teachers in the laboratory school will assist with teacher preparation components to help build a strong future generation of teachers.
Expectations for Teachers
We are looking for passionate and motivated teacher leaders who want to play an active role in working toward the school’s mission and vision. Teachers will help in the preparation of upcoming teachers enrolled in UL Lafayette’s teacher preparation programs and will become change agents within their own classrooms and/or within the broader scope of issues in education.
Our teachers are valued contributors to the teacher preparation programs at UL Lafayette. Therefore, they will mentor upcoming teachers and use co-teaching strategies to provide a more personalized learning experience for students. Our teachers are experts in the field of education and are encouraged to share their ideas with the next generation of teachers that will follow.
Global Outlook on Current Best Practice
Our teachers are encouraged to continuously seek out best practices for teaching and learning around the globe. Teachers are supported in trying new strategies and in sharing their successes, obstacles, and new wonderings with colleagues and preservice teachers.
Inquiry-Oriented Professional Learning Communities
Given time and support, teachers will work in interest-driven teams to investigate a problem or issue related to their practice and/or student learning. These inquiry teams will support one another in developing a wondering, researching for a potential solution, trying something new, collecting and analyzing data, and sharing their discoveries. Our school will host “Inquiry Showcases” for inservice and preservice teachers.
Just as we have created versatile learning spaces for students, we have also incorporated coffee shop style collaborative spaces for teachers and pre-service teachers.
Time for Planning
With the expectation of continual cycles of inquiry related to one’s practice, teachers will have time and support to plan rich learning experiences for their students.
Opportunities for Interest-based Professional Learning
We will offer unique benefits for our teachers and other faculty aspiring to earn master’s and doctoral degrees here at UL Lafayette. Our teachers will also have support to attend and/or present at education conferences around the nation. We will also offer our own professional learning seminars and showcase of action research in an effort to draw in area teachers and their ideas on best practices in education. Our goal is to become an active hub of educational innovation, driven by educators.
Why do we need a Laboratory School?
An essential component of a laboratory school is to impact educational practices for surrounding schools. We are committed to trying new, innovative practices and then sharing our discoveries with fellow educators. Our goal is to develop a hub for educational innovation, where our educators are encouraged to try new educational practices, in an effort to create “Core Practice” descriptions that can be duplicated in other teaching and learning settings.
Preservice Teacher Immersion in Best Practices
Teacher preparation at UL Lafayette is focused on developing the highest quality teachers who can problem solve and innovate within their practice. One element of our programs is an effort to immerse developing teachers in best practices during their third year in the program. With the freedom to try new ideas, co-teaching experiences with multiple feedback cycles will enhance our preservice teachers’ visions of the potential for teaching and learning.
Teacher Prep Interns Impact Positive Change in Local Classrooms
While our teacher preparation programs strive to immerse preservice teachers in best practices, we also see the value in diversifying the school settings in which our developing teachers serve. Therefore, preservice teachers will complete their year-long classroom residencies within surrounding local schools with the knowledge and competencies to identify and find solutions for problems and issues in their own practice.
New Teacher Mentorship & Professional Community
Our recent graduates in teacher preparation will receive ongoing support within their first few years of teaching. Laboratory school mentorship programs will provide a community of support for our new teachers.
Summer and Weekend Community Children’s Programs
Summer and weekend programs will engage and empower youth to view themselves as innovators, to nurture curiosity and creativity, and develop individual talents and leadership qualities. These programs will help build a culture of innovation and inquiry for teachers, preservice teachers and community children and provide additional opportunities to test innovative teaching practices.
Summer Professional Learning
The laboratory school will continue functioning during the summer months as a place for continued professional learning. We will invite teachers from across the state to come and share their best work with their peers, to learn from one another in EdCamps, and to hear from high quality educators from around the globe. This fun event is meant to inspire and empower teachers everywhere.
University Faculty Research & Dissemination
The University Lab School provides unique opportunities for interdisciplinary research between faculty and students across campus. This engagement in scholarship will result in funded research grants and publications that expand our understanding of how to most effectively educate youth.
One key element to the laboratory school outreach efforts is to develop descriptive core practice documents and assessment measures for easy distribution and replication in other settings. These core practices will be offered to partner schools for potential replication. The UL Lafayette Laboratory School will also hold annual Maker/Changemaker Faires to encourage area partner schools to support their students in developing innovative solutions for interest-driven problems of our world.
Long term strategic plan
- Year 1: Open Phase I of School
- Year 2: Add additional grade(s) each year
- Year 3: Begin Identifying Schools interested in “Partner Pilot Program”
- Year 4: Create 2-3 Partner Pilot Schools
- Year 5: Initial Partner Pilots become “Innovate Acadiana Schools”
- Year 6: “Innovate Acadiana Schools” expand programs
Year 7: 6-9 Innovate Acadiana Schools connect with one additional partner school; UL Lafayette Laboratory High School opens for grades 9-12
- 6-9 Innovate Acadiana Schools expand and offer professional development for one partner school, doubling the Innovate Acadiana effort.
- 2-3 new Partner Pilots are established outside of Acadiana to create “Innovate Louisiana Schools”
- Years 8-10: Innovate Acadiana Schools and Innovate Louisiana Schools expand & new goals are determined.
- Lafayette Parish School System
- Vermilion Parish Schools
- Iberia Parish School Board
- Acadia Parish School Board
- St. Mary Parish School Board
- St. Martin Parish School Board
- LSU College of Human Sciences & Education
- Southeastern Louisiana University College of Education
- Southern University College of Education
- Louisiana Tech University College of Education
- Acadiana Center for the Arts
- Learning Forward Louisiana
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