IN 1927 President Clarence Cook Little submitted to the legislature a request for an appropriation to provide a research laboratory for the study of problems concerned with the growth and education of young children. As a result an appropriation of $800,000 was made for a "Model Elementary School including Land for Site" payable in the fiscal years ending in June, 1928, and June, 1929.
Regent Junius E. Beal and Secretary Shirley W. Smith were authorized by the Board of Regents to acquire a site, and Malcolmson and Higgenbotham, of Detroit, were chosen as the architects. In September, 1928, the Regents appointed a committee consisting of the Executive Committee of the School of Education and A. G. Ruthven, Dean of Administration, to present plans for a building adjacent to the University High School and for a building in the vicinity of University Hospital for the observation and education of infants. At this time Mr. R. T. Lamont gave the University two acres of land near the Hospital for the project. The first architectural plan provided for an organized laboratory for the study of children from infancy through the sixth grade. Further study revealed that building costs and a reduced appropriation would not permit execution of the plan for the infant unit.*
In 1929, Dr. Willard Clifford Olson (Minnesota '20, Ph.D. ibid. '26), of the University of Minnesota, was appointed Associate Professor of Education and Director of Research in Child Development in the School of Education. In 1935 he was promoted to Professor of Education and Director of Research in Child Development. The school, which was formally designated the "University Elementary School of the University of Michigan," included a library, auditorium, gymnasium, and units for examinations and research in the dental, mental, and psychological divisions.
Because of the depression the University was unable to open the school on the scale originally planned; however, an operating budget and some research support were assured through the joint efforts of the Board of Regents and the General Education Board. The school opened in 1930, with seventy-five children and fifteen teachers and special workers. During the first year enrollment was limited to children of nursery and kindergarten ages. A plan for gradual expansion was adopted which provided an additional grade each year so that the children enrolled were carried on through successive grades. By 1937 there were six grades.
Dr. Marguerite Wilker Johnson (Wisconsin '24, Ph.D. ibid. '27) was appointed Director of the Nursery School and Associate Professor of Education and served in a supervisory position from the opening of the school until 1934. Mrs. Myrtle Bevan Firestone ('25, A.M. '34) served as teacher of the kindergarten from the opening of the school through 1934 and was then appointed Supervising Principal and Instructor in Elementary Education.
The University Elementary School has three general objectives: research, demonstration, and advanced training. By 1937 staff members and associates had published approximately one hundred articles. Research problems include Page 1091longitudinal investigations of growth, cross-sectional descriptions, development of new instruments of measurement, statistical analyses of factors conditioning the behavior of children, and experimental and genetic studies.
The school has performed an important function as a demonstration center in which superintendents, supervisors, teachers, parents, physicians, and nurses can observe some of the newer practices in the education of children. The school has also been the scene of frequent conferences of professional workers and has furnished a practical laboratory for persons preparing for various professional positions through advanced training. Many of these have secured important supervisory and college teaching positions. The interest of the University in the Elementary School has been shown by co-operative planning for student and faculty observation and investigation in the fields of anthropology, dentistry, pediatrics, sociology, psychology, educational psychology, public health, nursing, and architecture.