1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kindergarten

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KINDERGARTEN, a German word meaning “garden of children,” the name given by Friedrich 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. For the theories on which this type of school was based see Froebel. Towards the end of the 18th century Pestalozzi planned, and Oberlin formed, day-asylums for young children. Schools of this kind took in the Netherlands the name of “play school,” and in England, where they have especially thriven, of “infant schools” (q.v.). But Froebel’s idea of the “Kindergarten” differed essentially from that of the infant schools. 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 as to draw out their capacities of feeling and thinking, and even of inventing and creating.

Froebel therefore invented a course of occupations, most of which are social games. Many of the games are connected with the “gifts,” as he called the simple playthings provided for the children. These “gifts” are, in order, six coloured balls, a wooden ball, a cylinder and a cube, a cube cut to form eight smaller cubes, another cube cut to form eight parallelograms, square and triangular tablets of coloured wood, and strips of lath, rings and circles for pattern-making. In modern kindergartens much stress has been laid on such occupations as sand-drawing, modelling in clay and paper, pattern-making, plaiting, &c. 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 recognized as the true basis of knowledge, and though stories were to be told, 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 Bacon 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.

The first kindergarten was opened at Blankenburg, near Rudolstadt, in 1837, 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.” As early as 1854 it was introduced into England, and Henry Barnard reported on it that it was “by far the most original, attractive and philosophical form of infant development the world has yet seen” (Report to Governor of Connecticut, 1854). The great propagandist of Froebelism, the Baroness Berta von Marenholtz-Bülow (1811–1893), 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 Italy the kindergarten was introduced by Madame Salis-Schwabe. In Austria it is recognized and regulated by the government, though the Volks-Kindergärten are not numerous. But by far the greatest developments of the kindergarten system are in the United States and in Belgium. The movement was begun in the United States by Miss Elizabeth Peabody in 1867, aided by Mrs Horace Mann and Dr Henry Barnard. The first permanent kindergarten was established in St Louis in 1873 by Miss Susan Blow and Dr W. T. Harris. In Belgium the mistresses of the “Écoles gardiennes” are instructed in the “idea of the kindergarten” and “Froebel’s method,” and in 1880 the minister of public instruction issued a programme for the “Écoles Gardiennes Communales,” which is both in fact and in profession a kindergarten manual.

For the position of the kindergarten system in the principal countries of the world see Report of a Consultative Committee upon the School Attendance of Children below the Age of Five, English Board of Education Reports (Cd. 4259, 1908); and “The Kindergarten,” by Laura Fisher, Report of the United States Commissioner for Education for 1903, vol. i. ch. xvi. (Washington, 1905).