Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) is a celebrated German educator who redefined the concept of education and coined the term ‘Kindergarten’ meaning ‘a garden for children’. Raised in an unhappy household and neglected by his stepmother, Froebel maintained a passion for nature and built himself a life as an apprentice forester before attending the University of Jena for 2 years.
In 1805 he started teaching at the Pestalozzian Frankfurt Model School and once fully trained he moved to Gruner's Model School before returning to study under the headmaster of his old school, Pestalozzi. Froebel was greatly influenced by working with Pestalozzi and shared his believe that the early years shaped the future personality, character and reasoning ability of a child; a difficult thing to accept when you come from a background as disrupted as his.
Years later he formed the Play and Activity Institute at Bad Blankenburg which would later become the first Kindergarten. The establishment, which accepted children aged 3-4, revolutionised early years education by incorporating fun songs, stories and activities. By 1840 the schools, which had quickly grew to prominence across Germany, had begun to be called Kindergartens. The Baroness Bertha Marie von Marenholtz-Bulow was extremely impressed with Froebel’s work and connected him with various Dutch dukes and duchesses, helping him collect donations for his cause.
Froebel died in June 1852 but the legacy of this visionary lives on in the current approach to early years education and Froebel College which is now a constituent college of Roehampton University in South West London.