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The philosophy of early childhood education that provides the foundation for Kindergarten programs in Saskatchewan is derived from the ideas of German philosopher and educator Friedrich Froebel . . .

Froebel believed in children's potential for good and the need to provide a place in which children could be nurtured and developed through experiences with the natural environment and caring people. He believed true education originated in activity and that play was an essential part of the education process.

Friedrich Froebel

He is known as the "Father of Kindergarten." He started the first kindergarten (garden of children)in Germany in 1837. "Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers." He was a "kid watcher." We can thank Froebel for his gifts to all children, meaning his blocks. These blocks are known as manipulatives and are found in almost every kindergarten around the world. His idea was to help children learn while they were playing. He believed that they learned best by doing rather than by direct teacher instruction. He was also known for using hands-on activities. Froebel's philosophies of education still live on today. Teachers use his ideas and strategies as a part of their own teaching techniques.

Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1852)

German educator, the originator of the kindergarten. Born in Oberweissbach, Froebel was largely self-educated. In 1816 he founded at Griesheim the Universal German Educational Institute, and in 1817 he moved the school to Keilhau. Froebel developed ideas there for the education of preschool children aged three to seven. In 1837, at Blankenburg, Thuringia, Froebel established the first institution exclusively for the education of such children; for this school he coined the term Kindergarten ("children's garden"). His ideas, which stressed encouraging the natural growth of a child through action or play, were not readily accepted. In addition, he was suspected of sharing the radical political views of his nephew Julius Froebel, a professor at Zürich, and from 1851 to 1860 the Prussian government banned all kindergartens in Prussia. Froebel's disciples, especially the Baroness von Marenholtz-Bülow, caused kindergartens to be established throughout western Europe and the United States in the 1850s and in Germany after 1860. Froebel's writings include The Education of Man (1826; translated 1885).


a form of preschool education in which children are taught through creative play, social interaction, and natural expression. Originated in Germany in 1837 by Friedrich Froebel, kindergarten was based on the idea that children's play was significant. Froebel employed games, songs, and stories to address the needs of small children (ages three to seven). The kindergarten served as a transitional stage from home to school. In 1861 American educator Elizabeth Palmer Peabody opened one of the first kindergartens in the United States in Boston. By the 1920s kindergartens were included in public schools in most parts of the United States.

Inventing Kindergarten

Invented in the 1830s by German educator Friedrich Froebel, kindergarten was designed to teach young children about art, design, mathematics, and natural history. Inventing Kindergarten uses extraordinary visual materials to reconstruct this successful system, which grew to become a familiar institution throughout the world by the end of the 19th century.

All I ever needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten

Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school.

These are the things I learned. Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.

Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out in the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why. We are like that.

And then remember that book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK! Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology, and politics and the sane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Robert Fulghum

In contrast to other school rooms, this one was brightly decorated.

Children were encouraged to learn through guided exploration. Blow's classroom was visited by educators from all over the U.S. Her work changed education forever. Blow's book, Educational Issues in the Kindergarten, explains Froebel's creed "that man is a self-creative being . . . education shall encourage self expression . . . encouragement shall be given only to those modes of self-expression which are related to the values of human life . . ."

Susan Elizabeth Blow, born in 1843, was raised in an elegant home in Carondolet. Her education was typical for a young lady of the time. She attended school off and on, practiced reading by using the Bible and books from her father's library, tutored her younger sisters and brothers, spoke French with her governesses, and finally went east to a finishing school for girls. When her father was appointed Minister to Brazil immediately after the Civil War had Susan traveled with him. Then, with her family, she went to Europe. In Germany, she learned about the early childhood work of Friedrich Froebel, an educational reformer.

Inventing Childhood

Picture the Europe of 1633. The Thirty Years' War was devastating villages; food was scarce; Protestants like Comenius were running for their lives. It was a difficult world, and children worked hard and died young. But Comenius was a utopian who believed the pathway to an earthly Eden was education. If children were not loved, not educated early and well, their souls could be lost.

After Comenius's death much of his work was forgotten. Then, 100 years later, Jean-Jacques Rousseau advised parents to let children savor nature. Soon Swiss reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi was running the first infants' school. By 1837, Friedrich Froebel had opened a kindergarten in Germany.

Froebel, Friedrich Wilhelm August 1782-1852,

German educator and founder of the KINDERGARTEN system. (In an educational situation less formal than elementary school, children's play instincts are organized constructively through songs, stories, games, simple materials, and group activities, to develop habits of cooperation and application. In the U.S. kindergartens are generally part of the public school system. The first American kindergarten was established in 1856, the first public kindergarten in 1873.) Having little formal schooling himself, he stressed pleasant surroundings, self-directed activity, and physical training for children. Influenced by SCHELLING, (whose concept of art as the unity of the natural and the spiritual was a bridge between German idealism and romanticism) Froebel also insisted upon spiritual training as a fundamental principle. He founded (1816) the Universal German Educational Institute to train teachers and opened the first kindergarten in 1837. The most important of his several books on education is The Education of Man (1826).

Freidrich Froebel's ideas provided the major direction for kindergarten curriculum during the last half of the nineteenth century.

Freidrich Wilhelm Froebel is best known as the founder of kindergarten. Between 1808-1810 he attended the training institute run by John Pestalozzi at Yverdon. Froebel left the institution accepting the basic principles of Pestalozzi's theory: permissive school atmosphere, emphasis on nature, and the object lesson. Froebel, however, was a strong idealist whose view of education was closely related to religion. He believed that everything in this world was developed according to the plan of God. He felt that something was missing in Pestalozzi's theory: the "spiritual mechanism" that, according to Froebel, was the foundation of early learning. "Pestalozzi takes man existing only in appearance on earth," he said, "but I take man in his eternal being, in his eternal existence." (Shapiro,1983, p.20.) Froebel's philosophy of education rested on four basic ideas: free self expression, creativity, social participation, and motor expression.

Froebel began to focus on the needs of children just prior to entering school. He envisioned a place attended by 4-6 year olds where children would be nurtured and protected from outside influences--like plants in a garden. Froebel decided to call his school kindergarten, which in German means "child garden." Froebel began a training institute for the teachers of his schools. He believed that teachers should be highly respected people with values that the children should imitate. The teacher should also be a sensitive, open, and easily approachable person.

Froebel's first kindergarten was founded in 1837 in Blakenburg Germany. It featured games, play, songs, stories, and crafts to stimulate imagination and develop physical and motor skills. The materials in the room were divided into two categories: "gifts" and "occupations." Gifts were objects that were fixed in form such as blocks. The purpose was that in playing with the object the child would learn the underlying concept represented by the object. Occupations allowed more freedom and consisted of things that children could shape and manipulate such as clay, sand, beads, string etc. There was an underlying symbolic meaning in all that was done. Even clean up time was seen as "a final concrete reminder to the child of God's plan for moral and social order." (Shapiro, p.20). The teachers were to point out the symbolism to the children, and it was expected that they would understand.

The Prussian government did not agree with Froebel's ideas. They were considered dangerous and detrimental to children. The government ordered the schools closed in 1848. Froebel died in 1852 not knowing the impact his work would have on the U.S. school system.

Many Germans immigrated to the United States after the German Revolution. Among them were women trained in the Froebel system of education. It was these women who were responsible for bringing kindergarten to the United States. The first U.S. kindergarten was for German immigrant children. It was started by Margarethe Schurz in Watertown Wisconsin and taught in German. William T. Harris, superintendant of St. Louis schools, was the first to incorporate kindergarten into the public school system in 1873.

Freidrich Froebel's ideas provided the major direction for kindergarten curriculum during the last half of the nineteenth century. Many of his ideas can still be observed in kindergarten today: learning through play, group games, goal oriented activities, and outdoor time. His theories on "Spiritual Mechanism," as well as others have been forgotten or discredited, but his role as the developer of kindergarten is remembered.

Sources Shapiro,M. Childs Garden. University Park, Pa: Penn State University Press, 1983.
Krough,Suzanne Lowell. Educating Young Children Infancy to Grade Three. Mc Graw-Hill Inc, 1994.
Foundations of Education: 6th edition, 1997
Prepared by Alison Dewey

Susan Blow Born June 7, 1843

The average poor child in 1860s St. Louis completed three years of school before being forced to begin work at age 10. Susan Elizabeth Blow addressed that problem by offering education to children earlier. Applying Friedrich Froebel's theories, she opened the United States' first successful public kindergarten at St. Louis' Des Peres School in 1873. Blow taught children in the morning and teachers in the afternoon. By 1883 every St. Louis public school had a kindergarten, making the city a model for the nation. Devoting her life to early education, Susan Blow was instrumental in establishing kindergartens throughout America.

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