History of the Laboratory School

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, two to four 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 (JICS) Laboratory School. Today there are approximately 200 children at the JICS Laboratory School from Nursery to Grade 6. JICS has been part of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, associated with the Department of Applied Psychology & Human Development, since 1996.

JICS Quick Facts

Two JICS students playing with colourful block toys.
Established in 1925

The Institute of Child Study was established in 1925 by renowned psychologist and pediatrician Dr. William E. Blatz. 

A group of four graduate students working at a table.
University of Toronto Research Centre

It was the first of the University of Toronto’s multi-disciplinary research centres. 

Four children studying at a white table.
Leader in Child Study Centres

One of the first child study centres, initially supported by grants from the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund.

History of the Institute

Written by Dr. Richard Volpe - "In 1925 Professor Edward Bott established the St. George’s School for Child Study at the University of Toronto. The School eventually became known by its present name – the Institute of Child Study – and from its inception combined youthful enthusiasm, scientific zeal, and the optimistic belief that the human condition could be positively changed through the study of children. Although the Institute has changed over the years in response to various challenges, it has retained its core “child centredness”. This value has been a protective factor and source of the Institute’s resilience over the years.

As the first head of psychology at the University of Toronto and a prominent member of the Canadian Mental Hygiene Committee, Professor Bott had a central role in developing child study. Project grants awarded in 1924 by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Foundation and the Canadian National Mental Hygiene Committee enabled Bott to set up an interdisciplinary project administration board.

He hired Dr. William Blatz to direct the projects, which included implementing a longitudinal study of children’s social adjustment in public school, setting up a…"

Historical Photo Gallery

Learn more about JICS through archival photos.