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Stories of Impact: A Different Approach to Learning at Butler’s Lab School

Ed Prep Matters is featuring “Stories of Impact” to showcase AACTE member institutions with educator preparation programs that are making a positive impact in their communities and beyond through innovative practices. We are committed to sharing members’ success stories and encourage you to do the same.

Schools of education across the country take a variety of innovative approaches to improving the preparation of teachers in partnership with local schools. One example that recently won the attention of a local news channel is a lab school of Butler University (IN), which is part of the state’s largest school district, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). Providing its elementary students a unique opportunity to guide their own learning, this school is centered on the Reggio Emilia approach—a project-based style of teaching and learning designed to build students’ critical thinking and democratic ideas.

From chicken coops to pond habitats to yoga, the IPS/Butler University Lab School provides the opportunity for teachers and candidates to lead students in workshops and other experiences based on subjects they are interested in, supporting the principles of individualized, relationship-based learning. The school embodies the goal of helping PK-12 students meet education standards and preparing them for a productive future through an individual approach.

“When we say we want education to change, that means it’s not going to look like the education maybe that we all experienced, so you need to be a little more comfortable with what might feel, at first, uncomfortable,” said Ena Shelley, dean of Butler’s College of Education, in an interview with Fox59 News.

The lab school got started after Butler’s College of Education partnered with three local school districts interested in Reggio early education techniques and formed the Indianapolis Reggio Collaborative. In 2009, the collaborative hosted a traveling exhibit for 6 months on Reggio education, "The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children," in the Indiana State House. This work inspired the creation of the IPS/Butler University Lab School for grades K-5, signed into agreement in August 2010. Butler’s College of Education continues to oversee the school’s curriculum and assessment development.

Apparently, AACTE is not the only one interested in exploring and telling Butler’s story.

“We get a lot of inquiries of ‘How did you do this and how could we possibly learn from you?’ We had visitors just a few weeks ago from Cali, Columbia, and we’ve had people investigating from other universities outside of the state,” Shelley told Fox59.

To read the Fox59 story and view the video segment on the innovative school, click the thumbnail above or visit the Fox59 web site. Stay tuned for more stories of impact!


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Jerrica Thurman

Director of Marketing & Communications, AACTE

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