Fred Froebel was a German Educationalist who is best known for his work on the importance of play and as the “inventor of kindergarten.” Froebel believed that a child’s educational environment is important in helping a child reach his or her full potential. Froebel also stressed the importance of developmentally appropriate activities, free play, and the involvement of parents in the growth of a child educationally and socially. He provided the theoretical basis for early childhood education.
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Many practices used in the classroom today involve free self activity, creativity, social participation, and motor expression, which are the four main components in Froebel’s philosophy of education. Unlike many educators before him, who believed that children should be taught to become productive members of society as soon as possible, Froebel believed that a child should be taught what is appropriate for their developmental level and ability. Froebel envisioned a small world, know as kindergarten, where children could play with others their own age and experience their first taste of independence. It was Froebel’s belief that through play, or free self-activity, those children could engage with others through movement and externalize their imaginative powers and thoughts. Children could think of an activity, plan it out, and then act it out. Froebel believed that the idea and concept of fee self-activity, thinking, planning, then acting, could carry a child from one educational level to another.
To help children grow from one educational level to another, Froebel designed stimulating instructional materials which he called “gifts and occupations.” Froebel’s “gifts” included such items as cubes, spheres, and cylinders. These objects could help children understand the concepts of dimensions, shape, size, and their relationships. Froebel felt that children should learn by doing. The “occupations” were items such as paint, clay, or other materials where children could make what they want. For Froebel, this was a way that children could show what was going on in their minds. Froebel believed that children should not be rushed through the educational process but, that they should be able to grow and develop and their own pace. They should not be molded into what society wants them to be. Froebel believed that through free self-activity and the use of instructional materials, children would begin to understand themselves and the world around them.
Froebel believed that an important part of a child’s education was their parents. Parents were, and still are; the child’s first educator’s and provides the most consistent form of education in a child’s life. The child understands the nature of the home and how it works. Naturally, the child will act this out during free play. It was important for Froebel to provide a family setting within the school. Children could engage socially in a non-threatening environment. Thus, children could express themselves freely and develop social skills that will help them as they move from one education level to another and every day in their lives.
Froebel provided the theoretical basis for early childhood education. At the time, his ideas and theories were revolutionary. He tried to get others to see the importance of his theories and pushed for adding kindergarten to a child’s formal education. He saw limited success in his lifetime but, his theories and practices are apparent in any early childhood classroom today. Early childhood practices and classrooms are designed around Froebel’s ideas and theories of free self-activity, creativity, social interaction, and motor expression.
John Pestalozzi was a writer, philanthropist, and educator who greatly influenced the development of the educational system in Europe and America. Teachers from all over the world would travel to observe and study his methods. Pestalozzi was influenced by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Like Rousseau, he believed in the “natural goodness” of people, the corruption of society, individual differences, and one’s readiness to learn. Pestalozzi centered his educational philosophy around love. He stressed the impotance of children’s feelings, self-respect, and their emotional security. Pestalozzi’s contributions to education include his educational philosophy and instructional method, sensory learning through object lessons, and his use of activities, excursions, and nature studies.
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Pestalozzi envisioned schools that were “homelike.” He believed that a learning environment where children felt emotionally secure, was the setting for successful learning. Pestalozzi worked with orphans. He believed that everyone had a right to a good education and worked to provide them with a school that would meet their educational and emotional needs. Pestalozzi also believed that instructions should follow the general process of human conceptualization that begins with sensation. He designed object lessons where children observed the shape, size, and weight of an object and, named it after their experience with it. He designed a series of elaborate object lessons that ranged from simple to abstract. During these lessons he included materials from nature such as, plants and animals. Pestalozzi’s object lessons encouraged the entrance of natural science and geography into the elementary classroom, and was the most popular and widely used ideas of Pestalozzi. These ideas also encouraged what we now call field trips, nature walks, and even dissecting animals in science class.
Pestalozzi emphasized children’s interest and needs. His influence can be found today in child-centered classrooms, child permissiveness, and hands-on learning activities in the classroom. He also viewed the child as a whole, focusing on their mental, physical, and psychological development. Pestalozzi’s greatest contribution to education is philosophy of natural education that emphasized a child’s dignity and the importance of actively engaging children in the learning process through sensory experiences.