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Born Apr. 21, 1782, in Oberweissbach, Thuringia; died June 21, 1852, in Mariental, Thuringia. German educator and theoretician of preschool education.
Froebel attended the University of Jena from 1799 to 1801. In 1805 and again from 1808 to 1810 he worked with J. H. Pestalozzi at the University of Yverdon. In 1837, Froebel founded an institution in Blankenburg (Thuringia) that combined play and learning activities for young children; on the basis of this model, he developed the concept of the kindergarten.
Froebel was an idealist in his philosophical views and regarded preschool education as the sole means of eliminating social evil and improving mores. His system of education was based on the notion of the child’s active nature: his mobility, directness, continual physical and mental development, sociability, and curiosity. Froebel called for the establishment of kindergartens to perfect these natural qualities in children. He organized the training of female teachers (“gardeners”) and designed a system of working with children based on the development of the sensory and motor organs as well as of thought and speech.
Froebel revealed the educational significance of games in childhood. He proposed the use of special didactic material, or “gifts,” in a learning-through-play system: Froebel’s gifts, as they were called, were balls and geometrical shapes—small spheres, cubes, cylinders, and bars—which could be taken apart into smaller and differently shaped segments. The process of building various objects was to help children develop their perception of space, movement, shape, color, size, and number, as well as their combinatorial reasoning faculties. In addition to the “gifts,” Froebel’s system included “occupations,” which involved the use of such materials as sticks, pebbles, and sand. Froebel stressed the importance of activities—specifically, discussion, storytelling, singing, drawing, clay modeling, cutting out paper designs, and gardening.
Froebel’s teachings established preschool education as a separate branch of pedagogy. The defect of his system is the rigid regimentation of the child’s activity. His “gifts” represented in many respects a formalistic and pedantic approach. Froebel’s system was extensively adopted in many countries, including Russia.
WORKSPädagogische Schriften, vols. 1–3. Vienna-Leipzig, 1883.
In Russian translation:
Pedagogicheskie sochineniia, vols. 1–2, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1913. (Translated from German.)
REFERENCESVodovozova, E. N. Umstvennoe i nravstvennoe vospitanie detei ot pervogo proiavleniia soznaniia do shkol’nogo vozrasta, 7th ed. St. Petersburg, 1913. Chapters 13–18.
Poznanskii, N. F. Ideia trudovogo vospitaniia u F. Frebelia. Saratov, 1926.
Istoriia pedagogiki: Uchebnoe posobie dlia doshkol’nykh pedagogicheskikh uchilishch, 3rd ed. Edited by M. F. Shabaeva. Moscow, 1961. Chapter 5.
Schuffenhauer, H. Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel. Berlin, 1962.