Early Childhood Education

Ruggles Street Nursery School and Training Center (Boston, Massachusetts)

 

Founded by Abigail Eliot, the Ruggles Street Nursery School and Training Center opened its doors at 147 Ruggles Street, Boston, Massachusetts, in January 1922. After studying at London’s Rachel McMillan Nursery School and Training Centre, Eliot founded the school on the premise that young children were not receiving sufficient opportunities for cultural development, and physical and mental health, in the home environment. She also perceived a need for other nursery schools, but with qualified teachers rather than nurses who usually played this role. These initiatives led to a growing interest in training young women in the early childhood profession (Wertlieb, 2005). Started as a project of the Women’s Education Association of Boston, 147 Ruggles Street became one of three nursery schools open in the United States; the others were in Detroit and in New York.

Ruggles Street was primarily focused on serving the low-income students; soon, the school became known as a safe educational home for children of all interests, economic backgrounds, and abilities. The school aimed at preparing the students individually and in group settings, working with children between the ages of two through five years. This devotion to educating all individuals became both the school’s philosophy and the beginning of a shift in educational thinking in the United States toward a more holistic approach to teaching children.

By 1926, the Training School had grown to capacity, instructing fifty full-time education students. Mrs. Henry Greenleaf Pearson, Director of the Training School since its inception, realized that to continue as a training ground for exceptional early childhood educators, the school needed to expand beyond Ruggles Street. Moving to a double house at 355 Marlborough Street, Boston, the Ruggles Street School became the Nursery Training School of Boston. The school worked to educate students about the dynamics and principles of child development, emphasizing a Montessori style of teaching, learning through play, and strong parent-child as well as teacher-child relations.

Developing relationships with local universities was crucial to the continued success of the Training School program. In 1930, a reciprocal partnership was developed with the Boston University School of Education. In 1954, the Training School once again increased its connections with the Boston community, becoming affiliated with Tufts University. The Training School became a full department at Tufts University ten years later, renamed as the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study. Today it is known as the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development.

The Ruggles Street Nursery School no longer exists. In its place are the Eliot- Pearson Children’s School and the Tufts Educational Day Care Center; each of these reflect new interpretations of the beliefs of Dr. Eliot and Mrs. Pearson. The Training School’s idea of incorporating applied developmental research with field-based practicum experiences remains a cornerstone of all affiliates of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development. This emphasis on “learning by doing” for students in the department’s teacher education program remains a primary program characteristic—a principle and practice that can be traced back to the inception of the Ruggles Street Nursery School and Training Center in 1922.

Further Readings: Beatty, Barbara (2005). The rise of the American nursery school: Laboratory for a science of child development. In Pilleman, D. and S. White, eds., Developmental psychology and social change: Research, history, and policy. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 264-287; Eliot-Pearson Children’s School (EPCS). (2005). Eliot-Pearson children’s school history. Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Children’s School Web site. Available online at http://ase.tufts.edu/epcs/history.html; Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development (EP). (2005). Our department, Our history. Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development Web site. Available online at http://ase.tufts.edu/epcd/ourdepartment/aboutus/history.html; Manning, M., ed. (1982). A heart of grateful trust: Memoirs of Abigail Adams Eliot. Medford, MA: Tufts University; Nursery Training School of Boston 1939-1940 (NTSB 1939) (1939). Nursery training school of Boston. [Brochure]; Nursery Training School of Boston 1947-1948 (NTSB 1947). (1947). Nursery training school of Boston, Ruggles street nursery school: 25th Anniversary. [Brochure]; Wertlieb, D. (2005). Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development. In C. Fisher and R. Lerner, eds., Encyclopedia of Applied Developmental Science. Vol. 2. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 1103-1105.

Sarah A. Leveque