The roots of Baker Demonstration School reach back to the establishment of National College in 1886. Founder Elizabeth Harrison was deeply interested in the individual child and in understanding children’s behaviors. Her enthusiasm and commitment to early childhood education sparked a fire of equal dedication in one of her students, Edna Dean Baker. Edna Dean’s sister, Clara Belle Baker, founded the Children’s School and became its first director.
The school first opened at 2944 Michigan Avenue, on what was then the “Gold Coast,” in 1918 and moved to the North Shore on the Evanston campus of National College in 1926. By 1929, the Children’s School was a complete elementary school with classrooms of nursery through eighth grade. The school took on the challenge of “charting new ways for better educating the individual as a member of a changing and developing society, and to prepare children for living together in a democracy.”
Clara Belle Baker’s vision carefully linked the study of children with the preparation of teachers. A progressive pioneer, she believed that children enjoyed being challenged by unanswered questions and problems. The school soon came to be highly regarded for its style of “learning by doing.”
When Clara Belle Baker retired in 1952, the school was renamed Baker Demonstration School for its demonstration of best practices in classroom methods. Baker continues to pioneer the practice and the demonstration of innovative teaching techniques, materials, and technology, while still adhering to the values and tone set forth by Clara Belle Baker and Elizabeth Harrison.
Among the factors enabling the school to meet these challenges now, as then, is a strong teaching faculty who engage our young learners through application and analysis. Our classes are small to allow teachers to understand each child and to encourage students to work purposefully in social groups. Our best practices methodology allows our faculty to teach to the whole child and permits our students to be fully engaged in their learning experience.
In the new millennium, special attention to individual needs continues in the spirit of our original goals, but with objectives and course of study adapted to meet the ever-changing life challenges of today. We are committed to honoring the lives of children who teach us, motivate our actions, test our theories, challenge our methods, and provide us with inspiration each day.
In 2005, Baker Demonstration School became an independent school, while retaining an academic relationship with the National College of Education, now part of National-Louis University. The summer of 2006 heralded the purchase of the National-Louis Evanston campus from the university; this acquisition allowed Baker to remain in the location it has called home for the better part of a century, while simultaneously allowing it to upgrade its facilities to better serve the students of Chicago and the North Shore. It is this revitalized Baker Demonstration School that carries the values of Clara Belle Baker and Elizabeth Harrison into the 21st century.