Kindergarten Day is celebrated in honour of Friedrich Froebel, born on this date in 1782, the founder of the world’s first kindergarten. The first ever kindergarten was opened in 1837 and was built upon the idea that through the scandalous activities of song and play (unheard of in schools before this), artistic activities and close contact with the natural world children could develop into wonderful mini-humans as they learnt to effectively learn, observe, reason, express and create through play. Many kindergartens actually had real gardens in them that the children worked on and Froebel believe that this kind of activity led to them cultivating their own inner lives (how sweet). Froebel was German, and the term “Kindergarten” directs translates as “children’s garden”.
Froebel introduced various “gifts” to the kindergarten environment that did not have one particular use, but could instead be manipulated by the children to aid in “the creation of a sensitive, inquisitive child with an uninhibited curiosity and genuine respect for nature, family and society.” (David Elkind, Play’s the Thing, New York Times, 7/09/1997, reviewing Norman Brosterman’s “Inventing Kindergarten”). These gifts included objects such as parquetry tiles, coloured geometric shapes that promoted abstract thought, patterns and complimentary colour thinking and simple wooden rectangular prisms to encourage thinking about things such as area, volume, symmetry and balance.
Froebel also believed that women, having given birth to children had a special affinity towards educating young children and consequently employed women in his schools. This was virtually unheard of as at that time in history the family home was the sole place for the woman, and Froebel’s decision opened up the opportunity for more women to enter the workplace and gain a greater education once kindergarten teaching became an accepted occupation for women.
On Froebel: http://www.froebel.com.au/en/about-froebel/friedrich-froebel/
On Kindergarten Day: http://www.recess.ufl.edu/transcripts/2005/0425.shtml
Picture source and more on Froebel: http://froebeleducation.com/2012/happy-230th-birthday-friedrich-froebel/