Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel (1782-1852) is commonly best known as the originator of the Kindergarten system. He was a German educationalist who was brought up with a strong Christian faith, which was pivotal to his educationalist thought. His love for nature also weighs heavy on his ideas and faith. He gained recognition from his first major work in 1826 The Education of Human Nature, but became renowned later in life when his kindergarten system gained acknowledgement. His ideas of kindergarten later took root in England, America and Australia and his work and ideas later influenced Karl Marx.
Froebel believed in the unity in all things stating that: "an eternal law pervades and governs all things. The basis of this all-controlling law is an all-pervading, living, self conscious and therefore eternal unity. This unity is God." He believed in the unity of knowledge and the interconnection of all things. Froebel was of the opinion that there are defined stages of infancy, childhood, boyhood and manhood. Stage two of childhood was what Froebel deemed the most important because he felt that at this stage they begin to come to terms with the unity of the universe and begin asking questions about life. His understanding of childhood was such that each child has a divine essence and is linked to the universe: "it is, then, with childhood that real education begins. At this time the mind demands more care and attention than does the body"
Froebel believed in the child as fundamentally good. He said " the only infallible remedy for counteracting any shortcomings and even wickedness is to find the originally good sources, the originally good side of the humanâ€¦" his belief of the inherent goodness of a child relates to his ideas that the child should be encouraged to help and educate themselves in a certain respect. He thought that individual human prospects would come about through the work of the individual. He believed that "the purpose of education is to encourage and guide man as a conscious, thinking and perceiving being in such a way that divine inner law through his own personal choice; education must show him the ways and meanings of attaining that goal."
Froebels' conviction that children are naturally creative individuals and through play they become aware of their place in the world led to one of his central element of his pedagogical system, which is that of play. He felt that broadens their understanding of the environment they live in. Froebel thought that "play is the purest, most spiritual activity of man at this stage," and that "play, then, is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in the child's' soul."
Froebel placed this emphasis on play in Kindergarten with the use of gifts (play materials) and occupations (activities). He believed that humans are essentially productive and creative and through engaging with the world, understanding could unfold. He presented the children with a series of geometrical gifts that were in a system of categories. A gift was given one at a time and the child was left to discover its properties and possibilities for design. Here, Froebels idea of unity was put into practice, as each toy related to the next in some way, which exemplifies the unity of all objects and things in the world. For example, the first "gift" is a ball. Froebel writes that we should be "concerned only with the ball itself in its simplest form and in its simplest relations. It may be free, or attached to a string, and in each case it can be moved either freely and indeterminately or vertically, horizontally, or obliquely, with reference to given surfaces. Here, as it were, it acts as a guide into the world of things, tracing their outlines by its movements, and so representing themâ€¦should be considered in relation to the child himself." In this way, the child is free to discover the elements of the ball and educate and learn for themselves simply by observation and interaction with the ball. Froebel thought that "Every external object comes to man with the invitation to determine its nature and relationships" the succeeding gift after the ball would be the Globe. Its has obvious similarities to the ball, but for a child, it represents a new level of understanding, for example its weight means that it moves in a different way to the ball. The globe did not banish or replace the ball; it reinforced the previous gift of the ball. The child would progress through stages of gifts and simultaneously each stage of understanding. However Froebel was sure that "only the adequate development of man at each preceding stage can effect and bring about adequate development at each succeeding later stage." He ultimately felt that: "a plaything is any thing which is related to the child as means to a purpose, and which, by creating pleasant anticipation, calls forth play in which he finds fresh and continuous pleasure."
The activities set for the children in Kindergarten included games, songs and stories designed to assist in sensory and physical development and socialisation. By playing, children socialise and imitate adult social and economic activities as they are gradually led into the larger world of group life. This relates to Froebels' idea of whole child education, where the child is being educated all round as an individual of society.
Froebel believed that the teacher-student relationship should be one of equality, not authority and felt that there should be a strong influence of the parent and siblings on the child's educational learning and maturation. He believed that the child should receive a religious education as well. He states:
"I would educate human beings who with their feet stand rooted in gods earth, in nature, whose hands reach even into heaven and there behold the truth, in whose hearts are united both earth and heaven, the varied life of earth and natureâ€¦"
I have discussed Froebels idea of the importance of play in kindergarten and in the development of the child. I believe it is one of his most specific and most emphasised elements of his pedagogical system. However In saying that term from the question, it raises a few problems. Pedagogy usually refers to a teaching system of a comprehensive plan on how to educate, whereas Froebels "pedagogy" would be not to have one. He believed that the child's environment made up the curriculum for the education and the children would teach themselves in certain ways and understand the environment and discover things for themselves. He said that: "â€¦each individual learner contributes to, and collaborates in, his or her own learning." Through this problem it is evident that Froebel had certain ideas on childhood that began his theoretical ideas on kindergarten, which later developed more fully into a sort of pedagogy.
In conclusion it is clear that Froebel was highly interested in the central figure of the child and their individual learning experience, similar to that of today's child centred education. Froebel ultimately believed "the essential business of the school is not so much to teach and to communicate a variety and multiplicity of things, as it is to give prominence to the ever-living unity that is in all things" Froebels kindergarten system and his idea of the nature of children are quite cohesive in such ways that he allows the child to educate themselves in the setting of the kindergarten thought use of his gifts and allows the child a certain freedom to explore the natural world and in turn develop their understanding of the universe. He wanted to develop individuals who were all rounded in their education and who had certain moral stances and who were in a way, free thinkers. In conclusion, his overall understanding and aim of kindergarten was that: " Education in other words, should lead man to a clear knowledge of himself, to peace with nature, to unity with God."