Launch of the MPLS Commemorative Plaza to take place at the 2014 AFPLS Picnic

by Joan Duea | Jun 21, 2014

By Lynn Dykstra
Department of Teaching
College of Education

The Malcolm Price Laboratory School (MPLS) Plaza is one of three commemorative projects initiated by the Alumni and Friends of Malcolm Price Laboratory School (AFPLS) and the Ross A. Nielsen Board (RAN) to preserve and commemorate the legacy of the school. The Laboratory School History website has been operating successfully for the past year while the MPLS Plaza will be launched with the unveiling of the design concept rendering at the upcoming AFPLS picnic on June 28. The third project includes the future design and development of a MPLS Commemorative wall in the Schindler Education Center.

The MPLS Plaza Subcommittee envisioned the plaza as being a contemplative and reflective space that would inform past and future generations of UNI faculty, staff, students, teachers, and community members who were part of the Laboratory School’s 129 year history, of its integral role and significant contributions to the University of Northern Iowa and impact on the field of education.

Over the past year, the MPLS Plaza Subcommittee met frequently to develop plans for the plaza, and consulted with representatives from the UNI Executive Management Team, the Foundation Office, Facilities Planning and the Arts and Architecture Committee. Based on the design values and criteria outlined for the project, the subcommittee hired and collaborated with Ritland+Kuiper Landscape Architects from Waterloo to design the MPLS Plaza keeping in mind: utility, cost effectiveness and aesthetics and that the plaza would be commemorative, rather than a memorial.  

A location for the plaza was identified just south of where Malcolm Price Laboratory School once stood, close to the bridge crossing over the creek to the Towers dorms on the University of Northern Iowa campus.  The subcommittee recognized the advantages of tying the plaza to the natural landscape and having it located in close proximity to both the nearby bridge and the stream, serving as a “bridge” between the campus and the site of the Laboratory School, representative of the Lab School’s connection and significant role in serving teacher education and the University’s mission.

The plaza will include a defined area with trees leading to and from and surrounding the main space which is proposed to be a square area in the range of 65’x65’. The stone lintel that was originally above the front doors of the building facing Campus Street with the words “Laboratory School” engraved on it will serve as the main focal point and artwork for the plaza. The lintel will be made into a wall that will include the words “Laboratory School” printed on one side heading north and the “College of Education/University of Northern Iowa” printed on the other side facing south and will serve as a gateway to and from campus. There will be a walkway in the center of the wall designed to provide an intimate and active commemoration experience reminiscent of walking into the Laboratory School building. The original cornerstone identifying when the Laboratory School was constructed on Campus Street (1951) and another cornerstone reflecting when the school was originally established (1883) on campus will be placed on the walls. QR code stations will be also installed on the backsides of each wall section so visitors may access more information about the Laboratory School from the history website. The plaza will incorporate several of the actual physical components of the Laboratory School building including the lintel, bricks, granite stairs and cornerstone and it will include trees, landscaping, paving, benches and lighting to create a commemorative and reflective space.

Aesthetic qualities of the plaza will be unique yet aligned and unified with other entrances to campus and plaza areas such as that surrounding the Campanile. The plaza will be designed to recognize and give tribute to Malcolm Price Laboratory School by evoking the spirit and feel of the school while adding beauty to the campus during the day and when lit up at night.  

A cost estimation has been outlined for the construction of the MPLS Plaza. Although a significant portion of the budget and resources have been allocated by the RAN Board, the College of Education, the University, and a private donor, additional campaigning is planned to fund the remaining amount needed to complete the project.  Those attending the AFPLS Picnic may learn more about the MPLS Plaza project and have the opportunity to contribute donations to the project during the event and/or may submit them online at the Laboratory School History website at

AFPLS/RAN Board MPLS Plaza Subcommittee Members:  Co-chairs Jim Kelly and Lynn Dykstra, Sarah Eastman, Rick Knivsland and Bob Stephens. University Liaisons: Bill Calhoun, Andrea Elliot, Morris Mikkelson, Amy Selzer, Dwight Watson.

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