Friedrich Froebel, Founder of Kindergarten

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Friedrich Froebel, Founder of Kindergarten

Friedrich Froebel was a German educator of the nineteenth century who developed an Idealist philosophy of early childhood education. He established kindergarten and education for four and five-year-old children. Kindergarten is now a part of education worldwide.

Friedrich Froebel was born in the small town of Oberwiessbach, Germany in 1782. His mother died when he was a baby. His father remarried, but Froebel never liked his stepmother. His feeling of rejection and isolation remained with him for life. This had a strong effect on his theory of early childhood education. He believed the kindergarten teacher should be loving, kind and motherly.

Froebel also had an unsatisfactory relationship with his father which, along with his shyness, caused him to be “introspective and socially inept” (Gutek, 2005, p. 261). Therefore, he wanted his kindergarten to “foster a sense of emotional security and self-esteem in children” (Gutek, 2005, p. 261).

At the age of ten, Froebel went to live with his uncle. As a young child, Froebel spent a lot of time playing in the garden around his home. This led to his love of nature and had a profound effect on his educational philosophy.

When he was fifteen years old, Froebel apprenticed with a forester and surveyor and studied forestry, geometry and surveying in school. He briefly attended the University of Jena from 1800-1802. Then he studied architecture at Frankfurt University. Although he ended his studies without receiving a degree, Froebel gained a sense of artistic perspective and symmetry he later used to design his kindergarten “gifts” and “occupations.”

While in Frankfurt Froebel was hired as a teacher at the Frankfurt Model School, which was a Pestalozzian school. He studied the Pestalozzi method of instruction which emphasized using objects to teach. His method rejected the use of corporal punishment and emphasized respecting the dignity of children. This method of teaching very much appealed to Froebel. Froebel wanted to incorporate Pestalozzi's method and creation of a loving and secure environment for children in his own teaching methods. After teaching at the Model School for three years, Froebel studied with Pestalozzi for two more years

Froebel also decided to study languages and science at the University of Gӧttingen. He wanted to identify linguistic structures that could be used in language instruction. During this time he became very interested in geology and mineralogy, and also pursued this in his studies. Froebel believed that the process of crystallization (moving from the simple to the complex) emulated a “universal cosmic law that also governed human growth and development” (Net Industries, 2008, Biography section, ¶ 3). He would later incorporate the geometric shapes and formations in crystals to create his kindergarten “gifts.”

In 1816, Froebel started a school in Griesheim called the Universal German Educational Institute. He enrolled students who were 7 years old or older. The school eventually moved to Keilhau. The school remained opened until 1829 when it struggled and was forced to close. However, Froebel was able to test and develop some of his educational ideas in his school.

In 1818 Froebel married Henrietta Hoffmeister. She shared Froebel’s love of children and assisted in his educational work until her death.
Froebel established an educational institute at Wartenese in 1831. Later, he was invited to establish an orphanage at Burgdorf. Here he conducted a school for the town children and a boarding school for those who lived away. He trained teachers and established a nursery school for 3 and 4 year olds. He developed songs, rhymes, games, physical exercises and other activities for the nursery school. He experimented with the objects and other materials that eventually became his kindergarten gifts. He also stressed play and its role in education.

In 1837, at the age of 55, Froebel...
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