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The Importance of High-Quality Early Education

For many parents wishing to give their child a competitive edge in the world of higher education and the job market beyond, an investment in high-quality secondary schooling is usually the most commonly tread path. While enriching high school and college programs are certainly important, an outpouring of neurological research has and continues to document the significance of early education and its subsequent long-term effects. As Assistant Head of the Lower School at Manlius Pebble Hill — an independent K-12 school in DeWitt, NY — Amy Abdo is able to witness first-hand the transformative power of early education and how instrumental it is in fostering a life-long love of learning.

In one of the most frequently referenced studies on the topic of early childhood education — the HighScope Perry Preschool Project — researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in Michigan seeking to quantify the effects of a preschool education. How far would the ripples reverberate? According to the outcome of the Perry Preschool Project, the answer ended up being: an entire lifetime. When the researchers followed up with the children at ages 27 and then again at age 40, they found that, compared to the 3 and 4-year-old children who didn’t receive any preschool education, the children who did were much more likely to graduate from high school, own their own home, have a higher income and stay married longer. The Perry Project is just one of many to show that success as an adult is largely determined by childhood learning experiences.

At Manlius Pebble Hill, Amy Abdo and her colleagues plan curriculum and create activities around the belief that these early experiences are laying the groundwork for important intellectual and social achievements to come. A student enrolled in the Lower School (Pre-K through 5th grade) at MPH can expect to be immersed in hands-on, multi-sensory units and are exposed to a diverse array of extracurricular activities, from Spanish vocabulary and violin lessons to dance class and Shakespearean theater.

Amy Abdo challenges the notion of simplifying knowledge for children, stating that this approach undermines their abilities and puts limiting expectations in place. Instead, Abdo advocates for raising expectations — why not teach children scientific terminology? Why not introduce children to complex math equations and the logical reasoning behind them? At MPH, the children enrolled in the Pre-K through 5th grade programs are rising to meet these elevated expectations every day — and in the process, developing the self-confidence, social awareness and critical thinking skills needed to successfully transition to later stages of schooling.

Currently, 5th grade students at Manlius Pebble Hill are learning about perspective as they study the circumstances and historical events surrounding the Age of Exploration. While some students dig into Christopher Columbus’s background, others take the point of view of the native peoples who populated the Caribbean at the time, the Taino tribes, while still others focus on the Spanish monarchs who financed Columbus’s voyage — Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Instead of simply teaching through a singular lens, students combine varying vantage points to create a patchwork of perspectives, leading to a more holistic understanding of what took place.

These types of childhood lessons, emphasizing a multi-faceted approach to learning anchored in empathy and reserved judgment, have a direct impact on a child’s ability to collect and synthesize information presented in the world around them. If you’re interested in learning more about Manlius Pebble Hill’s early education programs, consider visiting the school and speaking with faculty about all the exciting initiatives currently taking place.