According to the Web site, Recess, this month we also celebrate Kindergarten Day, in honor of Friedrich Froebel who was born on April 21, 1782, and who started the first Kindergarten in Germany in 1837. The school was built upon a series of innovative principles that used the innate curiosity and interests of children to guide them to see what Froebel believed to be the harmonious, interconnectedness of all things -- through song and play (which was unheard of in earlier schools); daily lessons in drawing, design, and other artistic activities; and learning through active doing and close contacts with the natural world -- many of the kindergartens actually had real gardens attached to them that the children tended and in doing so, Froebel believed, cultivated their own inner lives.
I attended kindergarten in Germany, long before I knew the connection between Froebel, Germany and kindergarten. This just happened to be where my grandparents lived and where we were staying when I was 5. What are my memories of kindergarten? My best friend’s name was Christina and when I received a beautiful doll that Christmas, I named the doll after her. (I still have that doll!) I remember the annual Christmas program and singing carols in German by candlelight. I remember being scolded for being too loud and giggly (a recurring theme throughout my life!). I remember being equal parts exhilarated and intimidated by this new setting and experience.
Kindergarten is such a big step for the young child. A step away from home and into the world of others—without the comfort of family beside you. Here’s a poem to celebrate this momentous life experience.
“How are you today?”
by Stephanie Calmenson
Who’s ready to learn?
Who’s ready to play?
Who’s ready to start
Our kindergarten day?
From: Calmenson, Stephanie. 2005. Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More! New York, NY. HarperCollins Publishers.
*This poem begs to be read with pantomimed motions and expressions: sleepy, sniffly, jumpy, grumpy, silly, happy, listening, learning. Brainstorm which gestures and expressions to use together and then re-read the poem with accompanying actions.
*To follow up: Kids can discuss their first day of kindergarten. Was it a positive or negative experience? Were they happy or sad, excited or afraid? What about other memorable days or experiences in kindergarten? Any fun photos or drawings to share?
[With thanks to Nora Sanchez for finding and sharing this poem.]
Picture credit: Me in kindergarten in Germany