1902 Encyclopedia > Kindergarten


KINDERGARTEN, a German word meaning "garden of children," is the name given by Friedrich Froebel (see FROEBEL) to a kind of "play-school" invented by him for furthering the physical, moral, and intellectual growth of children between the ages of three and seven. Froebel's observation of the development of organisms and his fondness for analogies drawn from trees and plants made him attach especial importance to our earliest years, years in which, as he said, lies the ,tap-root of much of the thought and feeling of after life. Although the analogies of nature had constantly been referred to before Froebel's days (" First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in ear "), and Bacon, speaking of education, had said that the-gardener bestows the greatest care on the young plants, the Renaissance left the imparting theory of education so-firmly fixed on the mind of Europe that for two hundred years the developing theory could hardly get a hearing, and little was done to reduce it to practice before the attempt of Pestalozzi. Pestalozzi and other great thinkers (notably Comenius), who attached much importance to the first years of life, looked to the mother as the sole educator. But in the case of the poor the mother might not have time to attend to her children; so towards the end of the last century Pestalozzi planned and Oberlin formed day-asylums for young children, the benefit of which was intended no less for the mother than the child. Schools of this kind took in the Netherlands the name of " play school," and in England, where they have especially thriven, of "infant schools." But Froebel's idea of the "Kindergarten" differed essentially from that of the infant schools. He maintained that there was something to do for young children which even the ideal mother in the ideal family could not do. The child required to be prepared for society by being early associated with its equals; and young children thus brought together might have their employments, especially their chief employment, play, so organized for them as to draw out their capacities of feeling and thinking, and even of inventing and creat-ing.

According to the development theory all education must be based on study of the nature to be developed. Froebel's study of the nature of children showed him that their great characteristic was restlessness. This was, first, rest-lessness of body, delight in mere motion of the limbs ; and, secondly, restlessness of mind, a constant curiosity about whatever came within the range of the senses, and especially a desire to examine with the hand every unknown object within reach. Children's fondness for using their hands was specially noted by Froebel, and he found that they delighted, not merely in examining by touch, but also in altering whatever they could alter, and further that they endeavoured to imitate known forms whether by drawing or by modelling in putty or clay. Besides remarking in them these various activities, he saw that children were sociable and needed the sympathy of companions. There was, too, in them a growing moral nature, passions, affections, and conscience, which needed to be controlled, responded to, cultivated. Both the restraints and the opportunities incident to a well-organized community would be beneficial to their moral nature, and prove a cure for selfishness.

Froebel held that the essence of all education was to be found in rightly directed but spontaneous action. So the children must be employed ; and at that age their most natural employment is play, especially, as Wordsworth has pointed out, games in which they imitate and " con the parts" they themselves will have to fill in after years. Froebel agreed with Montaigne that the games of children were " their most serious occupations," and with Locke that " all the plays and diversions of children should be directed towards good and useful habits, or else they will introduce ill ones" (Thoughts concerning education, § 130). So he invented a course of occupations, most of which are social games. Many of the games are connected with the "gifts," as he called the series of simple playthings provided for the children, the first being the ball, " the type of unity." The " gifts " are chiefly not mere playthings but materials which the children work up in their own way, thus gaining scope for their power of doing and invent-ing and creating. The artistic faculty was much thought of by Froebel, and, as in the education of the ancients, the sense of rhythm in sound and motion was cultivated by music and poetry introduced in the games. Much care was to be given to the training of the senses, especially those of sight, sound, and touch. Intuition or first-hand experience (Anschauung) was to be recog-nized as the true basis of knowledge, and though stories were to be told, and there was to be much intercourse in the way of social chat, instruction of the imparting and " learning-up " kind was to be excluded. Froebel sought to teach the children not what to think but how to think, in this following in the steps of Pestalozzi, who had done for the child what Bacoa nearly two hundred years before had done for the philosopher. Where possible the children were to be much in the open air, and were each to cultivate a little garden.

To judge by all appearances at the present date (1881), the kindergarten will be an important institution in the education of the future. The first kindergarten was opened at Blankenburg, near Rudolstadt, in 1840, but after a needy existence of eight years was closed for want of funds. In 1851 the Prussian Government declared that " schools founded on Froebel's principles or principles like them could not be allowed." But the idea had far too much vitality to be starved or frowned down. Although its progress has not been rapid, it has been constant. As early as 1854 it was introduced into England by the then famous Ronges, and Henry Barnard reported on it that is was '' by far the most original, attrac-tive, and philosophical form of infant development the world has yet seen " (Report to Governor of Connecticut, 1854). But the attempt failed, and though there are now a Froebel Society, an insti-tution for training young women to conduct kindergartens, and also some good kindergartens, Froebel's idea has hardly yet found a home in Britain. The great propagandist of Froebelism, the Baroness Marenholtz-Bulow, drew the attention of the French to the kindergarten from the year 1855, and Michelet declared that Froebel had "solved the problem of human education." In the department of the Seine the " Salles d'asile" now consist of a class for children from two to four years old, and a "Froebel class" of children from four to six. In Italy the kindergarten has been introduced by Madame Salis-Sehwabe, and is used in the education of the poor. In Austria it is recognized and regulated by the government, though the Voiles-Kindergarten are not numerous. But by far the greatest developments of the kindergarten system are in the United States and in Belgium. Dr William T. Harris, assisted by Miss Blow, tried the experiment of making the kinder-garten a part of the public education in St Louis eight years ago, and there are now no less than 8000 children, all over five years of age, in the St Louis public kindergartens. In Belgium the mistresses of the " Bcoles gardiennes " have for some time been instructed in the " idea of the kindergarten" and " Froebel's method," and in 1880 the minister of public instruction, Van Humbeeek, issued a pro-gramme for the " bcoles Gardiennes Communales," which is both in fact and in profession a kindergarten manual. This programme attributes the improvement in infant schools to " le souffle puissant de Froebel" ; and, after explaining that the method to be adopted is based on the laws which govern the development of the child, the minister continues : "In its great principles as well as in its main ' applications this method is that created by the genius of Froebel." This estimate of Froebel's principles contrasts strangely with the Prussian minister's thirty years earlier.

Literature.—Henry Barnard's volume, FroeheV s Kindergarten, Hartford, U.S.A., 1881, contains a large collection of papers on tlie subject, original and translated ; W. T. Harris's Reports give full accounts of the adaptation of the Kindergarten to public education at St Louis. Kindergartens in Germany are described in Joseph Payne's Visit to German Schools, 1876. Practical guides published in England are J. and B. Ronge's, 3d ed., 1855; E. Wiebe's Paradise of Children ; and Miss Lyschinska's, 1880. Other literature is cited in Steiger's Cyclopmdia of Education ; and in L. Waller's Die Frobellileratur, 1881. (R. H. Q.)

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