The HighScope Perry Preschool Curriculum, an early childhood education program, is an open framework of educational ideas and practices based on the natural development of young children. Drawing on the child development theories of Jean Piaget (Piaget and Inhelder, 1969) and Lev Vygotsky (1934), the progressive educational philosophy of John Dewey (1938), and more recent work in cognitive-developmental psychology (e.g., Clements, 2004; Gelman and Brenneman, 2004; National Research Council 2005) and brain research (Shore, 1997; Thompson and Nelson, 2001), the program recognizes children as active learners, who learn best from activities that they themselves plan, carry out, and reflect on. Adults use complex language, as appropriate, as they observe, support, and extend the work of the child. Adults arrange interest areas in the learning environment; maintain a daily routine that permits children to plan, carry out, and reflect on their own activities; and join in children's activities, engaging in conversations that scaffold and extend children's plans and help them think through their ideas. The adults encourage children to make choices, solve problems, and otherwise engage in curriculum activities that contribute to their learning on key developmental indicators that encompass all areas of intellectual, social, and physical development.

The HighScope Perry Preschool Program, conducted from 1962 to 1967, was provided to 3- and 4-year-old African-American children from low-income neighborhoods in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The teachers conducted daily classroom sessions for two and one-half hours on weekday mornings for children and weekly home visits to each mother and child for one and one-half hours on weekday afternoons during the course of a 30-week school year. The home visits were intended to involve the mother in the educational process and to help her to provide her child with education support and implement the curriculum within the child’s home. The Perry Preschool Program researchers have followed the children from the initial study for four decades.


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