Children sitting next to each other

Our approach

Our curriculum reflects current best practices in cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.

Research shows that children learn best through experiences that match their developmental stage. Children also learn best in environments where they have warm, nurturing relationships.

At the Lab School, we aim to spark children’s sense of wonder, curiosity, and delight in learning. We aim to help each child build their knowledge and a framework for academic concepts.

“Brain compatible” learning means children have “hands on, minds on, and feelings on.”

Classroom environment

Each classroom is staffed by one lead teacher and two to three teacher candidates. The lead teacher remains with the children through the entire school year, and the teacher candidates rotate every 15 weeks. The adult-child ratio is generally 1:6.

All lead teachers have master’s degrees, are highly knowledgeable of child development, and are experienced in working with young children in classroom settings. In the event teacher candidates are not available, we hire well-qualified assistants.

How we teach

Child wearing glasses playing
Each classroom is a rich environment where children can explore, experiment, and use what they learn. We emphasize the math, literacy, science, and social studies lessons embedded in daily play activities at school.

For example, children learn about number and math operations best when they have interesting objects to sort, match, order, and count (in other words, play with!).

Our teachers then step in and talk with a child about what they’re doing and thinking. This helps the child remember and apply what they know in new situations.

Through play-based learning, we help children prepare to attend school and study every academic content area.

Small group projects

Small group discussionSmall group projects are an important part of the curriculum for both children and teacher candidates. Teachers start small group projects when they notice that a group of children takes interest in a particular topic.

At the beginning of each project, teachers create a “web of possibilities” and gather resources to inspire the children. They also develop questions to ask the children to open a dialogue about what the group will do. Teachers and the small group use these materials as a guide throughout the project.


When we record children’s words and display their work, we’re showing them that we value their ideas.

At the end of the project, teachers create documentation panels or books that show what children learned.

The goal of documentation is to capture children’s interests, ideas, theories, and their learning process. Documentation also promotes children’s meta-cognitive skills (thinking about thinking). When children talk about “what they know,” it elevates their understanding.

Documentation may include:

  • photographs;
  • samples of children’s work;
  • direct quotes; and
  • a teacher’s interpretive comments.

Teachers also learn through documentation. Teachers become more effective when they’re aware of how their actions connect to children’s learning and development.

Our space

We’re located on the lower level of the Institute of Child Development, one of the oldest buildings on University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. We have a central gathering space and large classrooms that are filled with natural wood furnishings, oversized windows, and several play areas that children can explore.

Children sledding in lab school playgroundOur large playground features a water pump, where children pump their own water, a rock stream bed, a sand pit, a large wooden climbing structure, a small forest, and a sledding hill.

Request a tour

Interested in learning more about the Lab School? Contact us to set up a tour. Visit our new family enrollment page to find out more about the application process.

Get in touch