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The Story of the Lab School


Author: Aimee Barber, Lab School Committee Chair and Senior Instructor (Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction)

Just say the words “Lab School” among UL Lafayette College of Education faculty and you are bound to hear nostalgic recollections of a wonderful experience at the original Hamilton Laboratory School. You’ll also hear regret for its closing or a sense of longing for a new laboratory school to help with teacher preparation and best practice immersion. However, the responses recently included buzzing excitement over the prospect of a freshly imagined laboratory school on the UL Lafayette campus to serve Acadiana’s upcoming generations. While the resurgence of a laboratory school on our beautiful, oak-lined campus has long existed as a dream, a dedicated team of UL Lafayette faculty have been forging ahead to turn the dream into a reality.

The lab school design team and committee, representing all departments in the College of Education, have made significant strides. They worked with UL Lafayette architecture faculty and students to identify potential links between learning spaces and ideal pedagogy. They investigated best practices from around the world and in our own local learning environments to determine a plan for curriculum development. And, they met with legislators and district administrators to determine the most equitable way to run a school that makes learning accessible to a population as diverse as Acadiana’s.

The spring semester of 2018 marked a turning point for this special project as a law was successfully amended to include UL Lafayette as an institution with the ability to run a laboratory school as an independent school district in the same fashion as LSU and Southern University. Through continuous work, the lab school has progressed significantly closer to opening its doors.

News of the lab school has recently appeared in a number of local news sources and consistently garners curiosity and interest from the community. As the school continues to move toward opening, we will hold advisory charrettes to elicit ideas and feedback from members of the community and local organizations with goals to improve student learning opportunities. We continue to explore ways our university can collaborate with local schools and community organizations to work toward our mission of advancing educational equity, innovation, and opportunity around Acadiana.

About forty years ago, Hamilton Laboratory School closed its doors. We hope to open them again with a renewed perspective on how we might expand the reach of its innovative teaching and learning opportunities to all children in our rich community. The school will improve our ability to prepare teachers, increase research for our university and help to build a bridge between research and practice through collaborative Networked Improvement Communities.

“To build a school is to define what it means to be human” is a quote by Tom James that has inspired the lab school team from the beginning. We hope that anyone moved by this sentiment will offer their own insight on how to make this dream come to life.

Learn more about the Lab School.