Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Inventer of Kindergarten

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Friedrich Froebel was born in Germany in 1782 and his early childhood was lonely, lacking in parental attention. This period of early solitude affected his entire life, and he spent a great deal of time playing alone in the gardens of his Fathers property where he remained in close contact with nature all of his life. Despite this early setback, he went on to study and work in an array of occupations, some of which included learning woodcraft, the skills of farming, bookkeeping and training as an architect, all of these having a major influence towards his final calling. He spent some years teaching at the Frankfurt Model School which was based on the progressive pedagogy of Johann Pestalozzi. This in turn took him to Switzerland where he trained under Johann Pestalozzi (1746-1787) who was also a very influential pioneer of early education. His two year visit in 1808, weighed heavily on his mind, as he was impressed with the warmth and human kindness that was evident in the classroom, however he felt a lack of harmony in Pestalozzi’s teachings. Froebel left the institution accepting the basic principles of Pestalozzis theory permissive school atmosphere, emphasis on nature, and the object lesson. However he felt that something was missing in Pestalozzis theory the spiritual mechanism that, according to Froebel, was the foundation of early learning.

After spending the next two and half decades involved in further teaching and a variety of study, Froebel was finally in a position to colaborate all that he had learned and he subsequently opened his first institution dedicated to early childhood education. “Eventually Froebel’s concern for children’s moral, spiritual, physical and intellectual growth led him to focus on their needs just prior to entering school”. He wanted to provide a place for children aged 4 - 6, a sort of half-way house between home and entering school; a place that would nurture and protect his young pupils from the harsh realities of the world; a place that respects and fosters the growth of the whole child. Froebel believed that children were like tiny flowers, where by they are varied and need plenty of care. Therefore he reasoned for his school to be called Kindergarten - the garden of children. Kindergartens became part time educational programs, orimarily serving the middleclass families of the day.

Aside from concentrating his efforts into educating the young, he also set about the training of many young woman to become the teachers, whom at the time were sparsely represented in the teaching profession. The mid nineteeth century was a time in history that began to see a shift in the beliefs of the womans role, and Froebel whole heartdly encouraged young woman to enter the vocation of teaching as he favored their maternal tendencies over those of their male counterparts. This bold move by Froebel was met with much ridicule and distaste but helped the cause of the evolving feminine movement that is alive and strong today. He also encouraged mothers to participate in the training in an effort to help them support their childrens natural development through educational play.

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Another very important part of the kindergarten, was the items and materials Froebel himself designed and created otherwise known as "gifts". “The gifts consisted of various materials used to teach the child the nature of form, number, and measurement”. It is important to remember that this was a time in history known as the industrial revolution, and German working class children only attended school for approximately four years before being apprenticed into a craft or trade. Most of these occupations required manual skills and dexterity and so we must give Froebel credit for creating gifts that not only interested and amused the young children whom they were designed for, but also prepared them for skills they would latter need in the workforce; developing them through meaningful activities. Central to Froebels philosophy was the conscious unity of all things, he felt that all things relate and connect.

Brosterman, N. Inventing kindergartens. New York Delmar Publishers.

Braun, S. & Edwards, E. History and theory of early childhood education. Belmont Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Bruce, T. Early childhood education. Columbus Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co.

Krogh, S. & Slentz, K. Early childhood education Yesterday, today and tomorrow. London Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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