Historical Foundations of Early Childhood Education 

The High/Scope Program

Designed in the 1960's, the High/Scope program was designed to relieve the effects of poverty affecting child development. David Weikart and colleagues, drawing inspiration from Piaget, studied this approach in two studies funded by the US Government in the 1960's. The first of these two studies, "Planned Variation" focused on Head Start programs, and the second study, "Follow Through" studied the effects of continuity in educational programming from preschool to third grade.

The High/Scope program was primarily focused on key experiences relating to the acquisition of organizational concepts like classification, seriation, numbers, time, and spatial relationships. These events provide the foundation for organizing and manipulating the learning environment and helped with decision making regarding instructor-led activity and assessment of progress. In a High/Scope Classroom, students are engaged in learning 'centers', including building, dramatic play, math, reading, music, writing, art, science, and motor development. The environment is planned in such a way to allow children to manipulate and explore the materials and then to later reflect and demonstrate what they have learned in the process. The teacher's role is designing the environment and as a support to students. Focus is on providing materials and activities that allow children exposure to these key experiences. An example might be providing several sizes of the same object (wooden spoons or cups, for example) to help children understand the spatial and serial relationships between the objects.

A typical day would demonstrate a three-part process: "Plan-Do-Review." Beginning with planning, the class and teacher gather to discuss and create plans for a certain play period. Children go about their various activities, (Do) while teachers observe and offer support. The "review" process takes place after the play period, where students and teachers gather to discuss what they have found. It is thought that this helps children understand their own actions, and enables connections between action and language. Children's work is proudly displayed on the walls of the classroom. The remarkable aspect of the High/Scope program is the amount of research it has conducted. Since the 70s, up until present day, long-term studies have shown the impact of these quality ECE programs on its students far into adulthood. One 30 year follow-up group study reported that students of the High/Scope program earned higher monthly incomes, owned more homes, had completed more schooling, received less social services, and had fewer arrests than a control group.