A Bold New Partnership with Renowned Montreal High School

Published: 21 December 2020

A new partnership between McGill’s Faculty of Education and Trafalgar School for Girls – known as the CoLab – aims to advance collaborative research that will address the evolving needs of both educators and students. Unlike traditional laboratory schools at Oxford, Columbia, UCLA and the University of Chicago, which operate as an adjunct to a university, this new venture will be a true partnership, the first of its kind in Canada.

Supported by a gift of $2.5 million from The Molson Foundation, this donation represents the first half of a $5-million commitment from the foundation in honour of McGill’s upcoming bicentennial.

The CoLab project is indeed a new initiative, but the McGill-Trafalgar affiliation is steeped in history. According to an article written by Trafalgar School and McGill School of Nursing alumna, Janet Chandler Allingham, the two Golden Square Mile institutions have a strong relationship that dates back to 1872 when John William Dawson, Principal of McGill College, was on Trafalgar’s Board of Trustees. Moreover, in 1884 McGill benefactor Donald Smith, advocated for Trafalgar’s association with McGill as a condition of his support for the girls’ school.

As we approach the start of 2021, Education alumna Katherine Nikidis (B.Ed’91) continues to bridge these Montreal flagships together, in her current roles as both a Faculty Advisory Board member, and Trafalgar’s current Head of School. She notes that “Approximately half of our school’s staff are also McGill alumni, and most of those graduated from the university’s Faculty of Education. We also have several educators who recently completed or are in the process of completing their Master’s degrees at McGill. My own undergraduate experience in the Faculty prepared me for my professional life as an educator--both in and beyond the classroom--by providing a model for excellence in engaged learning and teaching.”

When asked about the modern-day Trafalgar-McGill bond, she noted that “in addition to these alumni connections, we have already begun projects with McGill professors and researchers,” You only have to speak to one of our students that have been involved in our inquiry-based learning projects involving Education faculty members to get a strong sense of how they are experiencing a profound change in their learning.”

Current plans call for Trafalgar to relocate to a new home at Purvis Hall on the McGill campus, adjacent to the Faculty of Education, where university researchers and school educators will be able to interact on a daily basis. Anticipating the move to McGill’s campus and the evolution of the CoLab, Katherine Nikidis added, “We know that once we are on site next door to the Faculty, opportunities for collaboration and working together in ways we haven’t yet dreamt of will arise in much more spontaneous while deep-rooted ways, exponentially elevating our practice.”

With regard to the monumental gift from The Molson Foundation and in reference to the vision of the CoLab, McGill Education Dean, Dilson Rassier said, “This venture will break silos between theory and practice, tackle educational and societal challenges in creative, innovative, consequential ways, and contribute to shaping the future of education.”

Ultimately, the CoLab will foster innovative research and practice in education and be a model for similar collaborations across the country. Through the CoLab partnership, McGill Education students and graduates will have the opportunity to be part of a growing network of changemakers in education.

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