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Laboratory School History

Since the 1920's, the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, at the University of Toronto, has been a research and education centre focused on the understanding, education and care of young children.

A Distinct Approach to Education

The school was established in 1925 as the St. George's School for Child Study with a grant from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund. The first director was Dr. William Blatz. The school's early program was an outgrowth of the World War I Hart House Muscle Function Re-education Program developed between 1916 and 1919 to rehabilitate injured soldiers. In this project, it was learned that patients were most effectively helped if they became active and increasingly independent participants in their training program.

Starting with eight 2 to 4 year-old children, Dr. Blatz sought to test some ideas that emerged from the work of the Hart House team. Specifically, the extension of the perspective that emerged from rehabilitation work with war veterans to early childhood education meant an emphasis on self-direction and progressive achievement.

A second major influence in the school's thinking is the work of John Dewey, an American educational philosopher who began the first laboratory school in 1896, associated with the University of Chicago. Departing from the educational norms of the day, Dewey envisioned a school where children would grow mentally, physically, and socially, where they would be challenged to think independently and investigate the world around them, and where school subjects would expand on children's natural curiosity and their desire to communicate with others.

The early foundations of the school's philosophy, a belief in inquiry and security for young children, remain central to the program at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School. Today there are approximately 200 children at Jackman ICS from Nursery to Grade 6. The Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study has been part of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, associated with the department of Human Development/Applied Psychology, since 1996.


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