History & Mission

Our Mission

At Baker Demonstration School, located on Chicago’s North Shore, we champion an exemplary progressive education which cultivates an intrinsic motivation to learn, value differences, nurtures the whole person and encourages courageous choices.

Our History

For over a century, Baker Demonstration School has been a nationally-recognized pioneer in exemplary progressive education.

Founded in 1918, Baker was established to provide a high-quality, innovative education for children in preschool through 8th grade. For our first 87 years, Baker was the lab school for the teaching college at National Louis University (NLU).

Elizabeth Harrison, the founder of NLU, was inspired by the progressive education pedagogical movement and sought to infuse progressive practices into the school culture and curriculum. She believed that children should be treated as individuals and were capable of shaping their own learning. She believed in creating a school that would cultivate a lifelong love of learning. And above all, she believed that the quality and depth of learning would be profoundly enhanced through the accumulation of hands-on experience.

Baker Demonstration School in 1920 demonstrating learning by doing

Baker students learning by doing circa 1920s

Baker Demonstration School's first kindergarten class as part of NLU in Evanston

Baker’s first kindergarten class

Clara Belle Baker, an educator and protégé of Ms. Harrison, became the first school director and remained in that role for the school’s first thirty-four years.

In 2005, Baker Demonstration School became an independent school, still retaining an academic relationship with NLU. The summer of 2006 heralded the purchase of the NLU Evanston campus from the university, allowing Baker to remain in the location it has called home since 1926, while simultaneously upgrading its facilities to better serve students.

The compassionate and courageous women who founded Baker worked tirelessly to protect the wonder of childhood. They were instrumental in enacting legislative reform to extend childhood and free children from harmful work environments during an era of child labor. We are proud of our history of educational activism. And today, we continue to carry on their work by creating a school environment that emphasizes the freedom, wonder, and exploration of childhood. Learn more about our approach today.