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by Friedrich Froebel

The first Kindergarten was officially opened on 28 June 1840, the day when the fourth centenary of the develpment of the printing press by Gutenberg was celebrated. To give birth to the Kindergarten on Gutenberg's day was to link two events of outstanding educational magnitude.

For several months Friedrich Froebel had been searching for the right name to give his new venture. He was sure that it should not contain the word school in it, as schooling in the sense of putting in was contrary to the main purpose of such an institution. The fostering of a child's nature implied guarding, tending and cultivating it like a good gardener tending a young plant. The name Kindergarten came to him like a revelation and united so many ideas, principles and visions in one symbolic word.

The House above the Cellar had been made available by the town council of Bad Blankenburg (near Keilhau). Visitors, locals and holiday makers were constant observers of the games, occupations and activities whihc forty young children carried out under the guidance of Froebel, Middendorf and their trainees.

first Kindergarten Museum in Bad Blankenburg

A long strip of land, in front of the house, became an essential part of the Kindergarten. The plan drawn up by Froebel himself and still in existence, shows a central area divided into single plots of about a square yard (square meter), one for each child, surrounded by a path and and adjoined by similar size plots for growing flowers, fruit and vegetables. One either side of the central area were playgrounds for the children and overlooking all this, a paved area for Visiting Parents and Friends of Children.

While each child was free to arrange his or her own patch to grow what interested him or her, the enclosing beds were communally worked, thus emphasising the uniqueness of the individual as well as his or her responsibility toward the community.

source: A Child's Work: Freedom and Guidance in Froebel's Educational Theory and Practice by Joachim Liebschner

Barop recalls the moment

When Friedrich Froebel came back from Berlin, the idea of an institution for the education of little children had fully taken shape in his mind. I took rooms for him in the neighbouring Blankenburg. Long did he rack his brains for a suitable name for his new scheme. Middendorf and I were one day walking to Blankenburg with him over the Steiger Pass. He kept on repeating, "Oh, if I could only find a suitable name for my youngest born!" Blankenburg lay at our feet, as he walked moodily towards it. Suddenly he stood still as if fettered fast to the spot, and his eyes assumed a wonderful, almost refulgent, brilliancy. Then he shouted to the mountains so that it echoed to the four winds of heaven, "Eureka! I have it! Kindergarten shall be the name of the new Institution!"

source: Barop 1862 in edition of Froebel's works edited by Dr Wichard Lange at Berlin, translated in 1886 by Emilie Michaelis and H Keatley Moore

footnote: The word Kindergarten combines two German words meaning children and garden. It has been accurately translated as, The Garden for The Children.

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