About Lab

The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools are home to the youngest members of the University of Chicago’s academic community. At Lab, our mission is to ignite and nurture an enduring spirit of scholarship, curiosity, creativity, and confidence. Our Schools value learning experientially, exhibiting kindness, and honoring diversity. As a nationally recognized and award-winning school, Lab educates a diverse community of 2,200+ students from Nursery through Grade 12. In addition to a rich history of innovation and excellence, Lab is part of the world-renowned University of Chicago. Established in 1896 by legendary philosopher and educator John Dewey, Lab is the country’s first laboratory school. It is considered a pioneer in the progressive education movement and to this day—more than 125 years later—continues to provide a best-in-class learning curriculum.

What is a progressive education?

Lab's founder is considered the most significant educational thinker of his era and is known to many as the “father of progressive education.” Dewey advocated for schools to be more like democratic communities. As the nation's first laboratory school, Lab is an active member of Progressive Education Network (PEN) which believes that the purpose of education transcends preparation for college or career. Within the complexities of education theory, practice, policy, and politics, Lab—along with PEN—envisions progressive education for the 21st century that:

  • Engages students as active participants in their learning and in society
  • Supports teachers’ voice as experienced practitioners and growth as lifelong learners
  • Builds solidarity between progressive educators in the public and private sectors
  • Advances critical dialogue on the roles of schools in a democratic society
  • Responds to contemporary issues from a progressive educational perspective
  • Welcomes families and communities as partners in children’s learning
  • Promotes diversity, equity, and justice in our schools and society
  • Encourages progressive educators to play an active role in guiding the educational vision of our society

Lab follows the PEN principles, which assert that a progressive education must...

  • amplify students’ voice, agency, conscience, and intellect to create a more equitable, just, and sustainable world
  • encourage the active participation of students in their learning, in their communities, and in the world
  • respond to the developmental needs of students, and focus on their social, emotional, intellectual, cognitive, cultural, and physical development
  • honor and nurture students’ natural curiosity and innate desire to learn, fostering internal motivation and the discovery of passion and purpose
  • emerge from the interests, experiences, goals, and needs of diverse constituents, fostering empathy, communication and collaboration across difference
  • foster respectfully collaborative and critical relationships between students, educators, parents/guardians, and the community.

Life after Lab—prepared for success in college and beyond

Virtually all Lab alumni go on to graduate from a four-year college. They gain acceptance to outstanding colleges around Chicago and the country: from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois–Urbana Champaign, Northwestern, and DePaul, to Harvard, Emory, University of Southern California, and many more.

And Lab grads find each other wherever they go—their Lab relationships last for years after graduation, turning into unexpected opportunities over and over as they pursue any number of different fields: medicine, law, education, banking, finance, theater, and the creative arts. See where Lab students go after high school.

Link to Independent Schools Association of the Central States

Lab is a proud member of the following: 

LInk to National Association of Independent Schools
Link to Lake Michigan Association of Independent Schools
Link to Independant School Management
Link to National Business Officers Association

U-High Students on the Field

UChicago resources and
people enhance every student’s experience

Lab students of every age benefit from the University’s outstanding academicians and access to unmatched resources:

  • Oceanographers, paleontologists, and other scientists to share their expertise with even our youngest students.
  • Students attend performances at the Court Theater and have special access to the Oriental Institute and Smart museums.
  • High Schoolers have access to and are taught to use University libraries.
  • Lab’s Summer Link program places qualified U-Highers into paid internships in University laboratories and with professors and businesses around the city.

Read why Lab's university-inspired environment is like no other school in Chicago.

Lab News