The Lab School's
Philosophy of Education
The JICS Lab School’s Three-Part Philosophy: Security, Child Development, and Inquiry
The Lab School’s philosophy rests on three tenets: the “security theory” of Dr. William Blatz, the institute’s first director; theories of developmental psychology; and the social constructivist theories of John Dewey. This three-part philosophy is based on knowledge about what children need and how they learn best. These philosophical roots are intertwined: from a child-centred perspective, it is apparent that for deep, rich, meaningful, and productive inquiry-based learning to occur, it is necessary that children feel secure, engaged, valued by, and connected to their community, while their development is being optimally encouraged and supported.
Blatz’s security theory informs educators that children learn best in an environment where they feel secure enough to take risks, where they know their ideas will be listened to without judgement, and their contributions matter. They learn best in a place where they're happy, where they feel known, loved, and valued, where all parts of their identity are welcomed and celebrated, and where they have deep sense of belonging. Blatz’s work on security was an essential precursor to Mary Ainsworth’s famous attachment theory, who was a student and mentee of Blatz. Ainsworth carried over several aspects of Blatz’ security theory into her work on attachment including the need for a child to have a secure base with a close relationship (such as a parent or teacher) in order to have confidence to explore the world (Ainsworth, 2010). At the Lab School, a secure learning environment is intentionally created for children that inspires exploration, creativity, curiosity, critical thought, and confidence to flourish. A diverse, culturally conscious, and deeply interconnected community is fostered, in which all members feel known, respected, and encouraged as active participants. The culture of the Lab School community is that of a supportive family.
In addition, an optimal learning environment for children is one that is sensitive to their developmental needs. A developmental approach means that every child is viewed as an individual, unique in their combination of developmental readiness, culture, lifestyle, learning approaches, temperament, and special talents. Children grow in their development when they are both challenged and supported. All areas of development (cognitive, physical, social, emotional, prosocial) are valued and the whole child is nurtured. Each learner is seen as an individual who brings body, mind, emotions, relationships, and experiences to learning. Children are given time to learn deeply, reflect on their learning, and make meaningful connections. Children thrive when learning is a developmentally responsive and joyful process.
Children also learn best when they are deeply engaged and their curiosity is ignited. In an inquiry-based approach, children co-construct their own understanding of the world in a social context. Children come with robust and sophisticated explanations of and ideas about the world around them. They are natural scientists - constantly asking questions and making meaning. Rather than ignoring those ideas, they are welcomed as a starting point for children to expand their understanding through hands-on, minds-on, and hearts-on learning experiences. Idea diversity is valued and a belief that all ideas are improvable is modelled. The Lab School’s aim is for children to acquire deep understanding of content and to learn how to learn. The goal is for children to develop agency of their learning, graduate knowing how to deal with complexity, be innovators, work collaboratively, and be aware of their impact on the world. And more importantly, the goal is for children to love learning.
Guided by its philosophical foundation of security, development, and inquiry, the Lab School intentionally explores what’s possible in the education of children, seeking and providing empirically evidenced innovation. The Lab School will continue to provide children with a developmentally responsive education that fosters a sense of security and belonging within a caring community, and which provides deeply engaging and joyful experiences with learning, while seeking to expand an understanding of how these guiding principles might inform school communities in today’s current context.