Early Childhood Education: An Investment with Returns for a Lifetime

Watch two Prekindergartners collaborate and communicate as they build a wooden ramp.

Michael held his pencil intently, concentrating on the rocket ship he was sketching during choice time in his Kindergarten-First Grade class. "Why did you choose to draw a rocket ship?" I asked him. "Well," he replied as he turned back a page in his sketch book, "I started drawing a castle and then I wanted it to go into space because the people in the castle want to fly!" 

Michael doesn't realize it, but his brain is forging hundreds of neural pathways as he imagines, creates, and talks about his work. He is building cognitive and social competence--two aspects of learning that can't exist without each other.
Researchers at Harvard University confirm that a child's brain is most receptive to learning in the early years (birth through about eight years), and the pathways that are created form a critical foundation on which all skills and habits are built. 

Beyond the genetic nature of the brain's formation, it is the experience of interacting with adults that most augments and accelerates a child's development, and those intentional interactions are why a high-quality early childhood education is so important. Children who attend an outstanding early childhood school program reap numerous benefits, both immediately and later in life:
  • Social benefits: Children learn the norms of communication, how to collaborate, and how to express themselves;
  • Academic benefits: Children learn literacy and numeracy skills that are the foundation for all skill development; the need for remediation in future years is reduced considerably;
  • Economic benefits: According to a study commissioned by the President, children who attend high-quality early childhood programs earn more money and contribute to the economy later in life.
Children like Michael and his friends are off to a great start in life. Attending an excellent early childhood program, like the one we offer at High Meadows, promotes happiness, success, and good health in childhood. And it will continue to pay great dividends as they grow.

Happy reading,
Jay's signature

Jay Underwood
Head of School
How to Grow a Learner
By Margaret Jones, Associate Head of School and Lower Years Principal

Kindergarten-First Grade students proudly show off the block structure they built collaboratively.

When we think about the early years of a child's formal education, we are often reminded of the 3 R's--reading, writing and 'rithmetic. These core academic areas are essential to children as they begin to master communicating through text and figuring with numbers, data, and space. And yet, young children are really only beginning their development into their mature selves as learners, and even as humans. Many aspects of a learning environment, in addition to reading, writing, and the number system, are essential to ensure that minds and bodies are grown into productive and successful learners. 

Current brain research suggests that resources similar to those devoted to literacy and numerical skills be focused on young children's emotional, regulatory and social development. By allowing students time to play together and to explore their world in a family-oriented environment, students gain invaluable skills in negotiation, communication and conflict resolution. We as educators must support children's learning not only through direct instruction in problem solving and empathy, but also by valuing the skills and dispositions developed through these social interactions. Supported practice in "getting along" promotes healthy human relationships that build empathy and cooperation.

Another aspect of growing a learner centers on the development of an intrinsic desire to learn. Encouraging children to explore actively and to reflect on their world allows them to master their environment. By pursuing their own questions and making their own hypotheses about how something works or fits together, children's passion for learning and curiosity are nurtured. When given the opportunity to grow an idea and to pursue a question, children want to learn more. And, as with any exploration, children may experience places where their ideas are proven to be inaccurate, forcing a new iteration of their hypothesis or explanation. This "failure" may include how a number sentence is solved or why a pulley actually can lift a heavy load. Working through their own idea development helps grow learners who are persistent and resilient in their thinking, the foundation for innovation and future learning. And resilience grows confidence and interest in learning.

At High Meadows we carefully attend to the developing child. We spend time and resources allowing children to focus on building strong relationships and becoming resilient learners who pursue their interests and passions. Of course we provide children with the necessary skills to succeed academically, but perhaps more importantly, we grow learners.

"I Think I Figured It Out Myself, Mom!"

By Shelley W. Peters, parent to Kindergarten-First Grade student Ava Peters

Shelley and Ava Peters

We've been hearing that statement frequently from our kindergartner since she began attending High Meadows this fall. It's been so fun to listen to Ava puzzle through scenarios--making connections, extrapolating principles, and offering solutions. A couple of weeks into the school year, she was thinking aloud in the car, "Two plus two equals four. Does that work with hundreds too?" I responded that it did. She replied, "So then 200 plus 200 equals 400?" When I affirmed she was correct, Ava asked if that would also work for thousands. I said it would. Her mind was blown. I questioned if she had learned that at school. She replied, "No! I think I just figured it out by myself!" She sat beaming in the back seat, thrilled and proud that she'd made the discovery seemingly all on her own. 

When we explored schools for Ava, we were in search of an environment where learning involves more than the acquisition of information and where childhood is honored as a significant and influential stage of life. We were looking for a school that would prepare her for the world ahead, not by teaching her things but by teaching her how to figure things out.

At High Meadows, Ava isn't just learning foundational facts. Her teachers are equipping her with tools and strategies to leverage--and build upon--those foundational facts. Meanwhile, she's acquiring conflict-resolution and self-advocacy skills; she's growing in a multi-age classroom where she'll transition from mentee to mentor; and she's immersed in an educational environment that sparks her imagination and ignites her sense of wonder.

"Real life" isn't all ponies and butterflies, mud puddles and nature walks. But childhood should be. So why not school?

Wired for Play: What Kids Learn by Doing What Comes Naturally
By Emily Bacon, Prekindergarten Teacher

Prekindergarten students show off their play-dough creations.

When people ask me why I became a prekindergarten teacher, I tell them because in my job, I still get to play! Humans are wired for play. Our brains have evolved to learn about the world by experimenting with it, tinkering with natural items and interacting with each other. Preschoolers naturally operate this way, dismantling the outdoor world and often literally "bumping heads" as they figure out socialization. However, during their play they are practicing important executive functioning skills, such as problem solving, communication, and social-emotional skills.

This morning, I am observing several children working together with play-dough, hammers and various tools. Dora asks her friend about a hammer, "Can I have it? I'll give it back." Lula sings to herself as she creates and sculpts, "I'm making a snowman, play-dough, dough, dough. One butterfly, two butterfly." Michael says, "Elin, can I have that?" Elin responds, "After I'm done." Harlow, who's watching Lula, says, "This is snowman." Rowan asks, "Can I have a turn?" Harlow shows me, "I'm done. I did a snow. I made a snowman." Olivia says to Lula, as Lula continues to sing, "Lula, I want you to watch this." (She leans hard on her lump of play-dough with her torso.) "Look at my play-dough! Makes it flat." 

The most obvious tools the children were using in this scenario were their communication skills. They requested items, listened to each other's ideas, discussed their creations, talked about their processes and sang. Sharing the tools was a great way for the children to use their social-emotional skills: they used patience and manners in asking and receiving; they remembered the importance of turn-taking; and they respected others' desires to use the tools. Lula used creativity in making her song, but Harlow used her thinking skills in observing what Lula was creating, listening to Lula's song and trying to replicate a "snowman" for herself. She learned a new vocabulary word and then tried something new, presenting her "snowman" to her teacher to admire. Thus, even in a brief play scenario, children have many opportunities to use executive functioning and 21st century skills, such as problem solving and cooperation.

Creating Friction to Fuel Scientific Inquiry 
By Cari Newman and Jennifer Hannah, Fourth-Fifth Grade Teachers

Fourth-Fifth Grade students experiment with friction.

High Meadows teachers love the idea of children exploring their world and finding out how it works. But many people wonder how our inquiry-based approach translates to content-rich subjects like science, history, and math, especially for older children. How do we know that they are getting the content they need? Visit any Fourth-Fifth Grade classroom while we're working on our Unit of Inquiry, and you'll quickly observe how we know. 

Our current unit focuses on physics, specifically forces, the laws of motion, and energy. This material is arguably some of the most challenging scientific content our students have ever encountered. As teachers we wondered, "What would happen if students weren't just empowered to DO experiments with physics, but to DESIGN experiments in physics?"

For our recent study on friction, we asked the students to work with a partner to read about friction, take notes and digest the information. Then, using only materials at hand (wooden blocks, marbles, stones and whatever seemed useful around the room), students picked one aspect of friction to explore and test. Some students tested friction by rolling a smooth marble and a marble wrapped in bumpy paper down the same ramp to see which went faster. Others slid a wooden block down a slick plastic surface, and then slid the same block down a wooden ramp tilted at the same angle. One group demonstrated friction by sliding a heavy box filled with classroom supplies and quickly discovered the difference between static and sliding friction. It was astounding to see how each partnership envisioned and then tested friction in a slightly different way. It was clear to us that in designing their own experiments, students were partaking in the messy and important critical thinking work that is the heart and soul of scientific discovery. At the end of the class period, it was remarkable to witness how empowered they were to present their understandings to each other.

We have repeated this kind of experimentation several times, and our students discovered that designing demonstrations is tricky business. Sometimes our attempts led to more questions which beg further investigation. And it is here--in this not knowing, these moments of confusion--that the real learning truly begins.

The Gift of a High Meadows Education
By Anna McConaghie, High Meadows Class of 2008 

Anna attended High Meadows School from first through eighth grades. She graduated from Centennial High School in Roswell, Georgia, and then earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College in Arkansas, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2016 with distinction in two majors: Anthropology and Spanish. 

Then & Now: Anna as a fifth grader and Anna today 

When I think back to the educational experiences that helped form the person I am today, I realize that much of my identity developed from the values I learned during my earliest years at High Meadows. Perhaps most importantly, High Meadows encouraged my natural curiosity to learn more. I didn't push myself because I wanted good grades or praise; I did it because I genuinely had the intrinsic desire to discover more about the world around me. This love of learning and desire to know more have remained with me throughout my entire education. 

As a young student at High Meadows, I discovered my passion for learning about different places and peoples (topics that still fascinate me today). High Meadows, as an IB school, offers students a global perspective and provides them with opportunities to delve deeply into subject areas that engage them. My teachers were passionate about their subject matter and about teaching. They encouraged my curiosity and helped develop my love of other cultures and languages.
One of my fondest memories from High Meadows is "Emphasis," a time each year when the entire school from Prekindergarten to Eighth Grade studies one large topic, such as China, Whales or Beauty. During Emphasis, students have a great deal of freedom to choose varying types of personal or group projects. We students eagerly worked together to create unique methods of demonstrating what we had learned about our topic. Students may present a skit, a model or artwork. On Emphasis Night the students and their families come to see the students discuss and display their work. In my eight years at High Meadows, Emphasis offered a broad range of topics from every field, inherently demonstrating to students that all subjects should be valued and that all our passions were valid.

In addition to my experiences at High Meadows, I was lucky enough to travel extensively growing up, and I remained fascinated by other cultures and languages. In high school, I hoped for a career path in which I could pursue these topics further. In my first semester of college, I discovered anthropology. When I enjoyed reading the textbook for homework, I decided to declare it as a major along with Spanish, another subject I first discovered at High Meadows.

From High Meadows, I learned that my passion to learn and discover should guide me, not merely a salary or others' expectations. While friends of mine are attending medical school or law school after graduating, I am living in Madrid, Spain, working as an English Teaching Assistant. I am having the time of my life, getting to use my gift and my passion every day. My life would not have had the same outcome if I didn't attend High Meadows. And, for that, I thank those teachers who helped form me into the person I am today. 
Apply Now for 2017-2018 Admission to High Meadows

Our online application for the next school year is now available for Pre-K through 8th grade! Click here to learn more about the application process, upcoming events, and to set up your account with Ravenna Solutions--our online admission system.

Mark your calendars now for our Open House on Sunday, November 13th

Have questions about admission? Email Director of Admission Laura Nicholson or call her at 678-507-1170.


The High Meadows community celebrates and perpetuates each individual's quest for knowledge and skill, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural environment. We empower each to be a compassionate, responsible, and active global citizen.

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High Meadows School | 1055 Willeo Road | Roswell | GA | 30075