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

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