(WYTV) – Once upon a time, a little boy named Frank loved to play with blocks. This was in the 1870s and his mother had started a kindergarten in their Wisconsin home. Young Frank could build and shape things with the blocks. Keep Frank in mind — we’ll come back to him later.
Before American children enter grade school today, they grab their crayons and enjoy snack time and nap time in kindergarten.
Why are we using a German phrase for this American schooling?
A German teacher named Friedrich Froebel started the first kindergarten around 1840. “Kinder” means children in German, while “garten” means garden.
Friedrich spent much of his time growing up outside in the family garden. Later, as a private tutor, Froebel often spent time in gardens with his students so after he opened his own school for those under 7, he called it the “Garden of Children.” The kids actually had flowers, fruit and vegetables on school grounds they could grow.
Not long after the Garden of Children opened, German immigrants started kindergarten classes in the United States for German-speaking children. By the 1880s, 400 kindergartens had opened in this country and the name stuck.
Little Frank grew up to be Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most famous architects of the 20th century. He said he could trace his career directly to those happy hours creating with his building blocks in kindergarten.