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Published on April 11, 2011 | by britanymurphy     Photography by


EC student has high hopes for HighScope

HighScope is taking kindergarten education to new heights, allowing kids to be the teachers


Alyssa Dourmissis, a second-year Early Chilhood (EC) student at the University of Guelph-Humber is considering an alternative approach to teaching kindergarten.

HighScope learning breaks the tradition of children sitting in desks and listening to their teacher read from a lesson plan.

“HighScope is an active type of learning,” Dourmissis says. “It allows children to be the source of programming and their interests are used when planning lessons and activities.”

Maria-Christina Pirone is a registered Early Childhood Educator at the Mississauga Civic Child Care Centre at Sheridan College. She says learning should not be adults telling information to children, but rather children educating.

“[Children] learn best when pursuing their own interest while being supported and challenged by adults,” Pirone says.

HighScope, this innovative child-directed learning approach, was developed in the early 1970s by studying children living in a marginalized community. Two groups were observed: at-risk children placed in the HighScope learning facility and those who were not.

When the children, a part of the cohort reached age 40, they were re-interviewed. The revisited study found the children who participated in HighScope learning had higher earnings, the ability to hold a job for a lengthy period of time, and committed fewer crimes than the children who had not been in the control group.

HighScope experts describe the program as emphasizing a relationship between adults and children. They say HighScope is a carefully designed learning environment that incorporates a “plan-do-review” process. It strengthens initiative and self-reliance in children and youth.

Dourmissis wants to become a special needs teacher, and says the use of HighScope learning will be a must in her practice.

“With children who have special needs, it is often more difficult to gain their attention, so HighScope allows for each child to learn their own way,” Dourmissis says.

The Mississauga Civic Centre Child Care Centre has three HighScope classrooms. There is a room for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners. The toddler room has 10 toddlers, the preschool room has 16 preschoolers, and the kindergarten room has 20 children. Each room has two teachers.

Pirone, who works in the toddler room, says each child receives more attention then in a traditional learning facility because there are two teachers sharing the responsibilities.

“We scaffold for the children, which means that we support the child’s current level of thinking and challenge them,” Pirone says, “We help them build or extend their work by observing them and interacting with them, something that teachers in a traditional setting would not be able to do because the attention on the child is not concentrated, it is more so concentrated on the set curriculum.”

Pirone says HighScope learning takes dedication and patience from the teachers. Dourmissis agrees.

“If you use the HighScope approach, it is often much more time consuming due to the teachers having to play a more active role,” Dourmissis says. “For this reason, many teachers just use the traditional way to make it easier on them.”

Dourmissis also says as more studies come out, more people are starting to become aware of the HighScope approach. She says this learning ensures children will be more involved with lessons by giving them the chance to voice opinions and become aware of their own interests and needs.

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