What I Love About the High Scope Curriculum

By Jocelyn Hilo-Boddy, Preschool teacher.

[Editor’s note: High Scope is the research based, play centric and child led curriculum that Tiny Trees is using at all of our preschools.]

High Scope is the ultimate form of emergent curriculum.  This type of curriculum is focused around the interest and play of the child where a theme can change, week to week, day to day, and even minute to minute.  High Scope is designed to help teachers create a daily plan that will help strengthen children’s skills and focus activities and lessons towards the child’s interest.  For example  right now my classroom of preschoolers are crazy about “Star Wars,” similar to the “Frozen” craze of a couple years ago.  Along with light sabers and Darth Vader, the children started to create rocket ships out of boxes and magnet blocks; this led to talking about flying to other planets and an interest of outer space.  The topics may change day to day, where one day we will talk about the sun, then talk about rocket ships, then spend a whole week on planets.  With the help of High Scope, my co-teachers and I are able to create thoughtful lessons, prepare material for them to use especially in the art area, and props to help enlighten their imagination.

High Scope as culturally responsive at mexican american opportunity foundation

High Scope is a culturally responsive curriculum that can adapt to diffent classrooms and communities. Here is an example of High Scope at the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation in Los Angeles, CA.

A key tool in High Scope is the “Plan-Do-Review” model that is used by students to decide what they want to explore during their play time and by teachers to make sure we are prepared to meet the daily needs of our students. To explore what this looks like lets imagine that you’re going on vacation to Hawaii with your family.  You start planning many things that you have to think about; such as where are going to stay and for how long, which airlines to fly and what to bring and do when you are there.  Now after discussing it with your family, you’re off to Hawaii and doing what you planned to do.  Several days later, it’s time to head home.  You and your family start reminiscing about your fantastic time in Hawaii; what you did, the best part of the trip and what to do next time you’re in Hawaii.  According to High Scope, this procedure is called “Plan, Do, Review,” one of the most important key factors in this curriculum.  “Plan, Do, Review” is a lifelong skill, so what better way to learn the basics than by learning at a young age.

One day, my students and I had a catawampus/chaotic day.  My co-teacher and I realized we were running low on free choice, or work time. In effort to squeeze more time, we decided to skip planning time and go straight into work time allowing the children more play.  That was a mistake and a big lesson learned!  Some children argued over materials and space, while others simply did not know what to do, leaving them confused.  It was like landing in Hawaii with no hotel, no transportation and no plan.  It was then when we realized how important “Planning Time” was.  It was a time for children to get together in a small group, where they can work together; encourage each other to communicate their ideas, choices, and decisions; and it also gave adults a chance to build a partnership with the child.

High Scope in the Outdoors

The plan-do-review model of High Scope makes it easily adaptable to an outdoor classroom

The “Do” portion of High Scope is also known as ‘work time’.  Many schools call this free choice, but in a High Scope program it’s called work time because the child has spent time thinking about their intentions beforehand.  During this work time children are able to carry out their play with a purpose,  participate in a social setting, provide many opportunities to solve problems, build new skills, and allow adults to observe, learn from, and support children’s play.  This is followed by “Recall Time.”

“Recall Time”, or review, happens immediately after work time and clean up.  This section is important as it helps children recall their choices and actions, and the effects that they have on one another.  It can be described as a mini ‘show and tell’, where children have a chance to share what they made, what they did, and who they played with.

There is much more to the High Scope Curriculum than “Plan, Do, Review.”  The curriculum provides teachers with clear guidelines, a flexible daily routine, and tools for addressing conflict and challenging behaviors. It provides an academic content such as math, creative arts, science and technology, literacy and communication and language skills. As well as a strong focus on and social and emotional development. It also stresses active learning: how important it is for children to learn by doing and playing, rather than listening; hence the importance of the “Plan, Do, Review” process.

Waldorf School in the Outdoors

High Scope is inspired by Montessori, Waldorf (example above – the Meadowbrook Waldorf School) and Reggio traditions in that children learn through play, choose their own adventure and learn at their own pace.

High Scope is a great curriculum because it is developmentally appropriate. Preschool age children learn from experiences. They learn through play, creative expression and social interaction. Although there is a focus on reading, math, science and other key learning areas High Scope is not an academic curriculum. In fact it was a product of one of the first research studies that found that child directed play in a symbol rich environment leads to stronger academic outcomes later in life than traditional academic instruction where the teacher is talking much of the time.

I believe that High Scope is an excellent choice for an outdoor learning environment and I am excited to see it in practice at Tiny Trees.

Jocelyn Hilo-Boddy teaches at a preschool affiliated with a local university.   




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