Though the laboratory school established by John Dewey at the University of Chicago in 1896 is generally recognized as the first of its type, the Model School, which later became Peabody Model School and later Peabody Child and Family Center, was part of the original prospectus outlining Georgia Normal and Industrial College, predating the Dewey School by five years. "The pupils in this School will be from six to eleven years of age, and will represent the first four years of public School work. It will be taught by thoroughly trained, highly skilled primary teachers, and its purpose is to give the students of the Normal Department the opportunity to observe and study primary methods as they are actually employed in the instruction of children." (Georgia Normal and Industrial College - Prospectus 1891)
Peabody was designed to help students in the teaching program get experience before they started their first teaching job. Sophomores and juniors in the Normal School (School of Education) observed the classes at Peabody and seniors taught at Peabody for one hour a day. Teaching at Peabody gave students in education 120-150 hours of on the job work experience before they received their teaching certificates.
Peabody served as a public school for Baldwin County children beginning in 1891. In 1927 Peabody expanded its services and began operating as Baldwin County's four year high school. Since education in rural Georgia was not developed in the late 1800's and early 1900's, Peabody also served a boarding school for girls living in rural Georgia.
The Peabody school offered a full education for children. Peabody students could participate in cultural events at the college, and children were taught on various occasions by professors from GN&IC.
The first Peabody classes in 1891 were held in the Main Building on the GN&IC campus. There were 36 Peabody students and one full time teacher, one part time teacher, and the student teachers. The program continued to grow with more teachers and students coming to the school every year. In 1924 the Main Building housing Peabody burned. After the fire the school was moved between the Kemp House, the Methodist Church, and the Courthouse. In the 1930s a building was constructed for the Peabody High School (now the Language Building) and a space was provided for the lower grades in the Teacher Training Building on Montgomery Street.
In the 1970s the Peabody school began to be phased out. Baldwin County was growing and public schools were being built. The Board of Regents also decided to cut funding for elementary school education. Georgia College no longer depended on a practice school for education students since they began teaching at the Baldwin County Schools.
Peabody Child & Family Center continued to exist at Georgia College until the spring of 2000 when, due to system wide budget cuts, the center was unexpectedly closed. Peabody, being one of the first schools of its kind, represents GC's original foundation based on a culture of creativity and forward thinking. Peabody's closure ends an era of unique child care and child education associated with GC. The loss of the school is felt by the faculty, staff, students, and the Milledgeville community.