Dr. Mary Wright’s legacy to continue with community-based research initiative

The legacy of renowned child psychologist and early education pioneer Dr. Mary Wright will begin a new chapter next year.

A lifelong advocate for children’s welfare, the late Dr. Wright founded the Mary J. Wright University Laboratory School at Western in 1973. Her original vision for the school, operated by Western’s Department of Psychology and located in Westminster Hall, involved conducting educational research and teaching demonstration projects intended to help children from a diversity of socio-economic backgrounds succeed at school and elsewhere in their lives.

The Lab School will close on June 30, 2015, and Western’s Faculty of Education will carry on Dr. Wright’s vision through the development of a new initiative in the London community that will see a stronger cross-disciplinary research focus in partnership with an existing London community agency. While details are still being developed, this new community-based initiative is expected to launch in early 2016.

“The Lab School and its staff have provided an exceptional learning experience for children over the last 42 years,” says Brian Timney, Dean of Western’s Faculty of Social Science. “In recent years however, educational psychology became less of a priority in the department and therefore the research that was central to Dr. Wright’s vision has become less of a focus at the Lab School for members of the department. It became clear that Western’s Faculty of Education was a better fit to continue Dr. Wright’s vision, and that this could best be accomplished by working directly with families and children in the community through an existing agency.”

Vicki Schwean, Dean of Western’s Faculty of Education says the new initiative will help lead to the development of prevention, promotion and treatment programs for children. “This will help make a significant impact on community capacity for early childhood interventions by bringing evidence-based practices directly to the community,” Schwean says. “Researchers will also share their findings and work to educate professionals who deliver children’s services in other communities, nationally and internationally, in order to help children around the world achieve success.”

Currently there are approximately 60 families with 65 children registered in the Lab School’s half-day (parent/child, toddler, preschool and kindergarten) and full-day (kindergarten) programs. Western is working with them to identify alternative program options in the community.

It is important to note that the Lab School closure has no impact on the two child care centres currently operating on campus (University Child Care Centre and UCC Flex Care), both managed by the YMCA of Western Ontario.