The High Impact of HighScope
At P.G. Chambers School (PGCS), our goal is to provide the highest quality education for our students and this begins for our pre-school aged students with the HighScope curriculum. “Two years ago, we chose this curriculum as the best fit for our students with multiple disabilities” states Heather Gilliland, assistant principal. “In HighScope,” she continues, “the teacher designs a classroom program that reflects the expressed needs and interests of the children in the class.” This is quite reflective of the PGCS philosophy, where we begin with learning about a student’s strengths and skills then design learning activities to match those skills. In HighScope, the teacher identifies the child’s developmental age and abilities by examining his or her strengths and accomplishments.
The HighScope Curriculum is also a good choice for the PGCS preschool program because it reflects best practice in special education, particularly with very young students. At PGCS, the consistent use of adaptive and assistive technology for communication and movement supports the program. The teams of teachers and therapists work to provide developmentally appropriate experiences in the classroom that reflect key goals for preschool education.
In HighScope classrooms, every day there is scheduled time when the students are given the opportunity to choose what activity they would like to do and how they would like to participate. One of our students, Connor, spends most of his day in a wheelchair and cannot move independently. However, within the HighScope classroom, he was able to make a choice and access the curriculum. A teacher’s assistant in Connor’s classroom, Luz, shared, “Through his communication device, Connor told us that he wanted to play with blocks in the classroom. However, Connor does not have the fine motor skills to manipulate the blocks with his hands. Therefore, I needed to figure out a way for him to play with the blocks. Children his developmental age typically build a tower and knock it down. So I laid him on his back and stacked the blocks on his stomach. He then let out a large breath moving his stomach and knocking the blocks over.” With the help of an assistant, Connor was able to act on his decision to play with blocks and was able to accomplish what he set out to do.
During another free choice session, another student, Junior, who is not able to read words and rarely communicates verbally, wanted to play with magnetic letters. However, instead of placing the letters on the magnetic board, Junior decided to match the letters to those that are woven into the fabric of the floor rug. Junior’s therapists observed his matching skills and realized that he was able to recognize letters. They worked with Junior on expanding this skill to recognition of letters and eventually recognition of words within books. Through an environment set up to stimulate choices and unstructured play, Junior demonstrated his strengths and skills that were eventually used for improving his recognition of words.
There are five key objectives for PGCS students using the HighScope curriculum. These goals are:
- to develop children’s ability to use a variety of skills in creative arts and physical movement
- to develop children’s knowledge of objects as a base for educational concept
- to develop children’s ability to speak, dramatize, and graphically represent their experiences and communicate these experiences to other children and adults
- to develop children’s ability to work with others, make decisions about what to do and how to do it, and plan their use of time and energy
- to develop children’s abilities to apply their newly acquired reasoning capacities in a wide range of naturally occurring situations and with a variety of materials
HighScope’s “plan-do-review” sequence involves children in decision-making and problem-solving situations throughout the day. The educational team’s role is to support the children’s decisions and encourage them to extend learning beyond the original plan. The classroom team also relies on a basic room arrangement and daily routine designed to stimulate and support active learning.
The HighScope curriculum is having a positive impact on the quality of our student’s ability to learn, as it supports students to learn on their own terms. The increased student engagement and excitement for what they are learning is a natural consequence of making their own choices.
In Classroom 5, the students were learning about the concept of air. To demonstrate this concept, teacher, Joyce Lewis, showed the students bubbles, and demonstrating that the bubble was filled with air. During the HighScope lesson, Jayden, pointed to a bucket in the classroom saying he wanted to go to the “air” station. Jayden wanted to create bubbles with air inside them using the bucket and communicated this plan effectively. In the next 30 minutes, most of the class had moved to the “air” station, having fun creating and popping bubbles. “Every student went home that day understanding the concept that air was inside a bubble,” said Joyce “which is so rewarding for me to know that they understood.” Because of Jayden’s desire to learn more about “air”, and the physical environment of the classroom allowed him access to what he wanted, not only Jayden, but the entire class went home learning something new.