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Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852)

A German educator who developed the Kindergarten or children's garden. Froebel accepted the ideas of Pestalozzi but set out to give them a sound philosophical base and to organize and systematize the methods of early childhood education.

Froebel's philosophy of education was based on Idealism. He believed that every human being had a spiritual essence and that every person had spiritual worth and dignity. Like Idealists, he also believed that every child had within him all he was to be at birth, and that the proper educational environment was to encourage the child to grow and develop in an optimal manner. This was the basis of the Kindergarten--a place for little ones to grow and blossom and be what they were destined to be.

One of Froebel's significant contributions to early childhood education was seeing play as a means by which children externalized their inner nature--and a way of imitating and trying out various adult roles. Moreover, he believed that mothers and Kindergarten teachers needed to be carefully educated about the child's nature and development stages.

Froebel's Kindergarten had a series of gifts and occupations designed by Froebel himself. A gift was an object given to a child to play with--such as a ball--which helped the child to understand the concepts of shape, dimension, size, and their relationships. The occupations were items such as paints and clay which the children could use to make what they wished. Through the occupations, children externalized the concepts existing within their minds.

the father of the Kindergarten

Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel was the father of the Kindergarten, "Children's Garden" a system which encourages fun and play based learning. In Froebel's days, children were thought to be tiny replicas of adults as portraits of the day illustrate. Froebel thought that the whole aim of education was to prepare the human being for his immediate life. Froebel states that in nature we allow plants and animals space and time to grow because their internal laws suggest they will develop properly only in this manner. He strongly advocates the extension and application of this rule to the education of children. Froebel's works included his theory of education - dwelling on his theory of Divine Unity and his idea of what good education is, his ideas on the stages in the development of the child, his development of the play-way method and the process of education-dealing with the subjects to be taught and how teaching can be made effective.

Froebel's Gifts are featured in Britannica Online Toys Through Time

The German educator Friedrich Froebel invented kindergarten in the 1830s, and the "gifts" he developed were fundamental to its success. These gifts consisted of common objects and materials--balls, blocks, sticks, paper, pencils, and clay--that were used to teach concepts in nature, science, and aesthetics. Through directed play, highly trained teachers encouraged children to draw analogies between the gifts and other forms, such as the body and other natural objects like nuts or the sun, and even abstract concepts, such as self, unity, perfection, and color.

Froebel characterized play as the "work" of childhood and described it as "the purest, the most spiritual, product of man at this stage." European education in Froebel’s time was rigid and prescriptive; children younger than the age of seven didn’t even attend school, since many believed that they lacked the ability to learn intellectual skills. But Froebel recognized that children began to learn as soon as they began to interact with the world, and he reasoned that since the interaction was mostly in the form of play, the way to educate children was through play.

In a Froebel kindergarten, group activities were balanced with individual play, direction from teachers was balanced with periods of freedom, and the studies of nature, mathematics, and art were balanced by exploring them through a single medium--the gifts. Using a single gift, children learned to pick out similar shapes in nature, to manipulate the gift in basic arithmetic operations and in representations of geometric concepts, and to explore aesthetic issues. By the 1860s, kindergarten was securely established as a bulwark of progressive education.

The Froebel Gifts

Created in the early 19th century by German educator Frederick Froebel, the 'gifts' were intended to teach kindergarten children about the principles of geometry and the discipline of design. American architect Frank Lloyd Wright often noted the profound effect the ten exercises or 'gifts' had upon his development as an architect.

Kindergarten Adventures

Friedrich Froebel, patriarch of the modern kindergarten, was an educational philosopher. Froebel built his concepte around children exploring, questioning, and touching dirt, grass, plants, the world. It was through these young learners interaction with their world that they began to develop an indepth view of the world around them. Wonderment. Amazement. Exhuberence. These were descriptors of the young learners that surrounded Froebel

inquiring, curious, inquisitive, explorers

Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May Alcott

"Kinder Garten: For little children, a ray of sunshine has fallen on their path from the kind soul of Froebel, in his carefully devised system of Recreation and Gifts for them. 'Tis the school master in the nursery and garden; the genius of sensibility set fairly to work for their edification and delight. 'It develops the facilities in a pleasing manner, gives perception of form, beauty, and color, manual dexterity, and lays the foundation for intellectual and moral culture.'"

Elizabeth Peabody, Alcott's assistant, was deeply devoted to the educational theories and practices of Friedrich Froebel, the German founder of the Kindergarten system. Alcott embraced Elizabeth's interests and put them to work in his schools starting with the Temple School in Boston.

Early Childhood Education

Frederick Froebel created the first kindergarten and introduced the idea that play was the young child's natural mode of learning and self-expression. Early childhood is a stage of life that should be considered on its own terms, not as preparation for later stages. If we think of early childhood in this way, we will create kindergarten and first-grade environments that are flexible, activity-oriented, and filled with plants and animals. Such environments liberate young children's abilities and provide them opportunities to experience the special pleasures--as well as the awful fears--that are unique to this stage of life.

Issues in Educational Thought

Froebel wanted his school to be a garden where children unfolded as naturally as flowers. Like Pestalozzi, with whom he had studied, he felt that natural development took place through self-activity, activity springing from and sustained by the interests of the child himself. The kindergarten provided the free environment in which such self-activity could take place.

It also provided the materials for self-directed activity. For example, blocks in different shapes and sizes led the child to observe, compare and contrast, measure, and count. Materials for handwork--such as drawing, coloring, modeling, and sewing--helped develop motor coordination and encourage self-expression.

Art, Design and Gestalt Theory

Of equal interest is Albers's and graphic designer László Moholy-Nagy's emphasis on unusual uses of common materials in the Bauhaus foundations course, in which students were presented with discarded materials (wire mesh, cardboard, newspapers, matchboxes, phonograph needles and razor blades) and instructed to basteln---to improvise or "rig up" something. It is said that this method was influenced by Friedrich Froebel's pedagogy of "education through play" (in part because Johannes Itten, who started the foundations course, was a Froebel-trained elementary school teacher), especially the celebrated Froebel "gifts" (cited by Frank Lloyd Wright as pivotal in his early education), which were sets of wooden blocks, presented in sequence to children between the ages of 2 months and 6 years, that could be rearranged in a variety of configurations

Friedrich Froebel 1782-1852 Educator, Author

In 1837, after years of trying to establish better schools for children, Froebel founded the first Child Nurture and Activity Institute, or Kindergarten. This school was designed for infants, reflecting Froebel¹s belief that an improvement to infant education was necessary for educational reform. In spite of Prussian government opposition to kindergarten, the idea spread throughout Europe, effecting a lasting change to children¹s education.

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