The History of The Children’s School: Our First 50 Years

Since our founding in 1970 by Lila McDill as a laboratory school, The Children’s School has honored children and childhood. Though times have changed and the school has evolved over our nearly 50-year history, the heart and DNA of TCS remains the same as it did on day one.

Our Foundation

“Lila McDill knew then what every school tries to copy now: diversity matters; community matters; joy in learning is essential; and social connection and feeling seen and heard are foundational to a child’s sense of self and identity development,” said former Head of School Nishant Mehta. “For transformative outcomes and transformational learning, children absorb information through hands-on learning.” 

When TCS moved to its current home on 10th Street in spring 1973, Midtown Atlanta was an eclectic, transitional, and affordable neighborhood. The new campus location, in the geographic center of the city; the school’s commitment to diversity; and our hands-on, minds-on, all-heart approach to learning helped to draw- and continues to draw – families from around Atlanta. 

The school has evolved since 1970 when it opened with two teachers, a handful of children, and a donated church classroom. Today, our campus has 11 buildings across 2.7 acres where our teachers implement our nationally recognized, immersive project-based learning curriculum to hundreds of students, ages 3 – 14; a World Language program that helps our children attain a higher level of Chinese and Spanish language fluency, while developing cultural and global awareness we value so deeply at TCS; and in 2016 the Board of Trustees, recognizing that childhood doesn’t end at age 12, voted to extend the school to eighth grade. Just last year, we graduated our first class of eighth graders, a group of intelligent, confident and compassionate leaders who excel in a diverse range of top high schools.

History of The Children's School

TCS Today

The Children’s School is now known locally, regionally and nationally as a school that offers a challenging curriculum that is academically rigorous and incorporates tough-to-teach intangible skills like curiosity, creativity, adaptability, resilience, and critical thinking. 

Our expert faculty and staff challenge students to learn through structured play and immersive project-based learning and to take information and apply it to practical solutions across science, social studies, math, and other academic subjects. You’ll see this “hard fun” in action when you step into a seventh grade classroom to see students designing a marketing campaign for a cord drive or watch as our Early Learning teachers expertly guide structured play, connecting their students’ play with lessons about sorting or language. 

“In most schools play is restricted to recess. At TCS, play is core and it contains every skill necessary for a joyful and productive life of service, success, and leadership. Curiosity is innate in children and school can be the facilitator of increasing and encouraging that curiosity,” said Nishant. “Project-based learning enhances curiosity about the world and is how learning should be all the time – not part of the time or only in school. Lila knew this back in 1970 and founded The Children’s School to show our city’s families and other schools that it was possible to do school differently; in fact, it was better.”

From the start, Lila was determined that the school would be open to “all elementary children whose emotional and intellectual endowment will enable them to work within this group, regardless of race, ethnic, or religious background.” 

History of The Children's School

Today, our geographically, racially, and socio-economically diverse community is made up of students from more than 50 zip codes, 48 percent identify as students of color, and one in four students receives financial aid.

Diversity and inclusion are baked into our DNA and play an  integral part in our curriculum and programming. In 2017, we created an anti-bias curriculum to solidify equity and inclusion as centers of education, not peripheries, for all children. We know that for children to effectively engage in their communities, they must possess strong local, cultural and global competence. 

Our Future

On July 1, The Children’s School welcomed Roslyn Benjamin as our seventh head of school. Roslyn will continue the work that Lila and her predecessors started: teaching a diverse community that honors childhood,  challenging and nurturing students, and fostering a love of learning that will continue into high school and beyond. 

“Through a rigorous process led by an extraordinary search committee, Roslyn was chosen from an impressive pool of (inter)national candidates,” said TCS Board of Trustees Chair Sonya Halpern. “In Roslyn, we have found a passionate, dedicated and dynamic leader who is well poised to build upon TCS’s legacy as we embark upon this next leg in our journey and toward our next 50 years.”

As TCS enters our sixth decade, our mission and purpose have never been more urgent or necessary for our world as our school continues Lila’s work of honoring childhood. Confronting a global pandemic, TCS stands confident and committed in knowing we already know how to  “do school differently,” reimagining engaged learning in a physically distanced world without losing the challenging academics and nurturing environment that make up the foundation of The Children’s School.