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The Abecedarian Project - early stimulation gives lasting effects in children's lives

A group of psychologists in North Carolina had an idea to solve the vicious cycle of poverty - with a science experiment called the Abecedarian Project.

Jo Sparling and his team wanted to reach children far younger than ever before: “We had a great optimism in the early 70’s that we could really make a difference in kids lives, and that maybe early education was a way to do that.”

The team selected a number of newly born in deprived neighbourhoods, Craig Ramay one psychologist explains, “Once you’re behind in school and once you begin to be labeled as slow…people begin to treat you differently, they lower their expectations for you.”

They combined the latest scientific theories of child development in 200 learning games, with the aim of stimulating learning, says Sparling: “One of the important principles of teaching is follow the child’s lead, because if a child is into something, that is something they are ready to learn…. You basically say, what is this child likely to be comfortable doing and what are his capabilities, and then you do something that stretches them, just a little.”

The children took regular IQ tests the scores then compared to kids that didn’t receive any special treatment. “At 15 months of age, the way the children saw the world began to be different” says Ramay.

At the age of 5 the children were released into the school system, but were tested regularly throughout their lives – the results showed that they had kept their IQ advantage, achieved high qualifications and gained better jobs.

Watch the video to see how the project helped Michey: 

The video describes the Abecedarian Project - how underprivileged children can have increased intelligence and cognitive learning ability when their education starts very early in their lives.


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