The High Scope Educational Approach is a developmental framework for promoting and providing meaningful and realistic educational experiences for all learners of all ages, in all stages of development, of all abilities, of all types of learning styles and all types of intelligence. The fundamental premise of the High Scope Educational Approach is that human beings are active learners from birth who construct knowledge from meaningful interactions with the ideas, concepts, materials and persons in their immediate environment and community who learn best from pursuing their own interests while being actively supported and challenged by caring adults.

High Scope has identified social, emotional, cognitive and physical experiences which are key to the most favorable growth and development of young children. These Key Developmental Indicators are defined as milestones that guide teachers as they plan and assess learning experiences and interact with the children to support their learning.


By nature, young children are inquisitive, enterprising, and motivated to take action to pursue their interests and ideas. Through everyday choices, plans, and decisions, children initiate personally meaningful activities that enable them to learn not only about the physical world but also about themselves and others as learners and adventurers. By acting on these initiatives, children gain confidence as capable persons and value others as supportive participants. As children develop over time, they strengthen their abilities to communicate their intentions, solve problems that occur in their own activities and coordinate their ideas and activities with others.

  • Initiative: Children demonstrate initiative as they explore their world.
  • Planning: Children make plans and follow through on their intentions.
  • Engagement: Children focus on activities that interest them.
  • Problem solving: Children solve problems encountered in play.
  • Use of resources: Children gather information and formulate ideas about their world.
  • Reflection: Children reflect on their experiences.

Social Relationships

By forming social relationships with peers and adults, young children develop profoundly important social skills and coping strategies that will sustain them in life. Young learners are actively seeking others to watch, play next to and/or with, imitate and engage in the give and take of conversation. Children make choices and decisions about whom they want to be with, often initiating actions with others to carry out their investigations, explorations and work. Through these early social experiences children develop the building blocks of human relationships: trust, autonomy, initiative, self- regulation, empathy and self- esteem as they form constructive ideas about themselves and others. By providing a supportive social climate, adults give children the freedom to pursue their inclinations to interact with people and materials- interactions that generate opportunities for social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, aesthetic, musical, and physical learning experiences.

  • Self-identity: Children have a positive self-identity.
  • Sense of competence: Children feel they are competent.
  • Emotions: Children recognize, label, and regulate their feelings.
  • Empathy: Children demonstrate empathy toward others.
  • Community: Children participate in the community of the classroom.
  • Building relationships: Children build relationships with other children and adults.
  • Cooperative play: Children engage in cooperative play.
  • Moral development: Children develop an internal sense of right and wrong.
  • Conflict resolution: Children resolve social conflicts.

Creative Representation

Representation is the process in which one thing is used to stand for, or represent, another. When we use pictures, models, images, symbols, and language, we are using representation. Representational experiences are important for children as learners because they lay the foundation for adult thinking skills. The abilities involved in representation are used as adults to solve problems, to think creatively and to communicate with others.

  • Art: Children express and represent what they observe, think, imagine, and feel through two- and three-dimensional art.
  • Pretend play: Children express and represent what they observe, think, imagine, and feel through pretend play.
  • Appreciating the arts: Children appreciate the creative arts.

Movement and Music

Children develop important physical abilities by becoming aware of what their bodies can do when they move both with and without objects. As they move in different ways, children also acquire an understanding of the concepts and language that are connected to physical actions. Children's musical abilities are enhanced through opportunities to listen to music, which prepares them to sing songs in tune with others. Adults support and extend children's movement and music experiences by providing them opportunities to exercise all their muscles, move to a steady beat, move to music and explore singing.


  • Gross-motor skills: Children demonstrate strength, flexibility, balance, and timing in using their large muscles.
  • Fine-motor skills: Children demonstrate dexterity and hand-eye coordination in using their small muscles.
  • Body awareness: Children know about their bodies and how to navigate them in space.
  • Personal care: Children carry out personal care routines on their own.
  • Healthy behavior: Children engage in healthy practices. Music: Children express and represent what they observe, think, imagine, and feel through music.
  • Movement: Children express and represent what they observe, think, imagine, and feel through movement.

Language, Literacy and Communication

With children's ability to learn language growing by leaps and bounds, they use words to describe experiences they have had, to act out pretend conversations, to make plans and to work out problems with playmates. Children also like to play with language: they enjoy jokes, chants, and rhymes, and they often make playful use of words and phrases they've heard from older people. They listen attentively to and make up stories and they are making beginning attempts at reading and writing. The abilities of speaking, listening, reading, and writing are entwined and their development is interdependent. To create the best kind of support for language abilities, then, we cannot short- change any one area of language for another. Young learners need numerous, varied and repeated experiences in speaking and listening, in taking part in everyday conversations, in explaining their discoveries and in using language as part of their play. Exposure to the written word: listening to stories, using print materials in their environment for pretending, taking part in playful small- group experiences planned around print and its meaning, seeing and writing their own name used to identify their belongings, artwork and personally meaningful accounts are essential for young learners as well.

  • Comprehension: Children understand language.
  • Speaking: Children express themselves using language.
  • Vocabulary: Children understand and use a variety of words and phrases.
  • Phonological awareness: Children identify distinct sounds in spoken language.
  • Alphabetic knowledge: Children identify letter names and their sounds.
  • Reading: Children read for pleasure and information.
  • Concepts about print: Children demonstrate knowledge about environmental print.
  • Book knowledge: Children demonstrate knowledge about books.
  • Writing: Children write for many different purposes.
  • ELL/Dual Language Acquisition: (If applicable) Children use English and their home language(s) (including sign language).

Mathematics and Science

Young children do not learn mathematical concepts primarily by hearing about them, seeing them on paper or seeing demonstrations. Instead, they construct an understanding of new concepts through active experiences in which they physically work with objects and materials. Children build on what they already know as they construct new explanations for their observations about size, quantity, categorization, patterns, space, speed, and sequence. Children's understanding of mathematical concepts develops in natural sequences. Later concepts, such as ratio and proportion, depend on the child's understanding of earlier concepts, such as part-whole relationships. Thus children benefit most from math- related experiences matched to their current strengths.

Scientists gather information about how the world works by using certain basic processes: observing, classifying, experimenting, drawing conclusions, and communicating. Like scientists, preschoolers are also exploring the world collecting information to figure out how things work. During this exploration, in a rudimentary way, young learners use many of the processes that scientists use. They observe, using their whole bodies and all they have already assembled and to fit new discoveries into categories they have already established.

  • Number words and symbols: Children recognize and use number words and symbols.
  • Counting: Children count things.
  • Part-whole relationships: Children combine and separate quantities of objects.
  • Shapes: Children identify, name, and describe shapes.
  • Spatial awareness: Children recognize spatial relationships among people and objects.
  • Measuring: Children measure to describe, compare, and order things.
  • Unit: Children understand and use the concept of unit.
  • Patterns: Children identify, describe, copy, complete, and create patterns.
  • Data analysis: Children use information about quantity to draw conclusions, make decisions, and solve problems.

  • Observing: Children observe the materials and processes in their environment.
  • Classifying: Children classify materials, actions, people, and events.
  • Experimenting: Children experiment to test their ideas.
  • Predicting: Children predict what they expect will happen.
  • Drawing conclusions: Children draw conclusions based on their experiences and observations.
  • Communicating ideas: Children communicate their ideas about the characteristics of things and how they work.
  • Natural and physical world: Children gather knowledge about the natural and physical world.
  • Tools and technology: Children explore and use tools and technology.
  • Diversity: Children understand that people have diverse characteristics, interests, and abilities.
  • Community roles: Children recognize that people have different roles and functions in the community.
  • Decision making: Children participate in making classroom decisions.
  • Geography: Children recognize and interpret features and locations in their environment.
  • History: Children understand past, present, and future.
  • Ecology: Children understand the importance of taking care of their environment.

Children must encounter these Key Developmental Indicators many times, in various ways if they are to master the concepts and skills involved. To address this need for repetition, the goal of each material in each learning center supported by all active learning experiences, opportunities, experiments, teacher selected book, song, finger play and poem is the intentional encountering of a key developmental indicator which is designed and defined to contribute to school/life readiness and preparedness.