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The philosophy behind HighScope is based on child development theory and research, originally drawing on the work of Jean Piaget and John Dewey. Since then, the HighScope Curriculum has evolved to include the findings of ongoing cognitive-developmental and brain research.
David P. Weikart was an American psychologist and founder of the High/Scope Cognitively-Oriented Curriculum, an early childhood education program. Born in 1931, in Ohio.
In 1949, David graduated from South High School in Youngstown. In 1953, Weikart graduated from the Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, with a major in psychology and a minor in zoology. While attending college, Weikart worked as a counsellor and a program director at a YMCA camp in Rochester, New York.
While teaching English and biology at Canfield High School in Ohio, Weikart began taking courses in education at Youngstown University in the spring of 1956. In the autumn ofthis year, Weikart enrolled in a University of Michigan joint PhD program in Education and Psychology. During his time at the University of Michigan, Weikart met his future wife, Phyllis Saxton. At that time, Phyllis was a master's candidate in the Department of Health and Physical Education. In 1957, David and Phyllis were married in Shelton, Connecticut.
In 1957, Weikart began working part-time as a school psychologist for the Public Schools Michigan. At about the same time, Weikart and his wife began working in leadership positions at several summer camps until they founded the High/Scope Camp in 1963.
On December 9, 2003, at the age of 72, Weikart passed away during his battle with leukemia.
Highscope today

High/Scope is an approach to early years education that has at its core the belief that children gain confidence, initiative and a lifelong love of learning when involved in well-supported activities of their own choosing. Such benefits, it is claimed, are carried into adult life, producing a generation with positive attitudes to education and society.

The curriculum content is negotiated with the children and planning is determined by the children's interests rather than rigidly set topics, exercises or worksheets. To achieve this, the day is structured around High/Scope's Plan-Do-Review routine. Early in the day, the children are told of resources available (some permanent, some stemming from the children's interests) and adults' plans (for example, 'I'm playing in the shop'). They are then allowed to choose what they would like to do and where (the learning environment incorporates the outdoors).

The daily routine gives a secure base from which children can explore and experience their world. This flexible framework, transferable to many settings, will always include the Plan-Do-Review sequence.
The child will express their intentions for 'work-time' in a way that is developmentally appropriate, and will then actively engage in a number of purposeful activities, supported by the practitioner. After work time they will come together with the practitioner and be encouraged to 'review' what they have been doing.
The form of the review will be dependent on the developmental level of the child in question, but will give an opportunity for the child to reflect on what they have done and for the adult to acknowledge the action and problem solving that has taken place.
The Plan-Do-Review sequence provides children with the opportunity to think about cause and effect, to overcome problems and to work with others. The discussion gives scope for language and listening skills to develop and, as they mature, the opportunity to reflect on their experience with increasing verbal ability and logic.
The High/Scope approach has been used in the UK since the early 1980s and is practised in settings across the early years sector. There are now more than 200 High/Scope endorsed trainers and an estimated 20,000 practitioners using the method, with 250,000 children each year experiencing the approach.

The wheel of active learning: High/Scope is often pictured as a ‘wheel’ rotating on the ‘hub’ of active learning – learning through hands-on involvement with people, materials, events, and ideas. Lists of recommended ‘key experiences’ (58 of them) have been compiled and incorporated into the High/Scope curriculum, to further children’s mental, physical, social and emotional development. These key experiences fall into ten categories: creative representation, language and literacy, initiative and social relations, movement, music, classification, seriation, number, space, and time.
High/Scope’s wheel of active learning has four ‘spokes’: Adult/Child Interaction, Learning Environment, Daily Routine, and Assessment.
Adult-child interaction: High/Scope teachers relate to children not as managers but as friends and partners. They support children’s choices of activities, play with them on their level, focus on their strengths, and encourage them to find solutions to their own problems. (‘George is having trouble putting on his apron; what can we do to help?’) When conflicts arise between children, adults help them discuss the situation rather than punishing or isolating them. Thus conflicts are viewed as opportunities that help children develop social skills and become more aware of the effects of their actions on others.
Learning environment: Children have a natural desire to understand their world, and High/Scope settings enable spontaneous discovery through preparation of the environment. Much thought goes into organisation of materials and spaces to support independent learning. Plainly laid out interest areas provide activities such as block play, art, role play, sand and water, and books and writing. Materials are stored at point of use, in clear containers labelled with easily understood symbols, and stored within reach so children can take and return materials independently. Appropriate room for transition is also essential, for example the welcome area. A carefully planned outdoor area is important to give children daily opportunities to observe and learn from the natural world.

Daily routine: Children need consistency. This need is supported not only in the organisation of the High/Scope environment, but also through a daily routine that helps children anticipate what comes next. Having a sequence of events that is the same every day helps children feel in control. The High/Scope daily routine includes the ‘plan-do-review’ process, implemented throughout the day. That is, children are given time to plan their activities, execute them, and then give feedback on what they have done. During review time teachers reflect choices and experiences back to children, building the children’s confidence in their own decision-making abilities, and giving them a sense of control in important life choices later. Outdoor time and large and small group experiences are also part of the daily routine.
Assessment: High/Scope teachers rely on teamwork, modelling cooperative interaction. Teachers regularly take anecdotal notes on children’s daily activities. This documentation is used to create plans to extend the children’s learning, as well as to involve parents in providing continuity between home and school. From the daily notes a record is generated to assess children’s long-term progress.

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