Few people know that the word and idea for “kindergarten” hale from the same country as Christmas Trees and Silent Night: Germany. Lucky for us, the idea proved so popular that it moved across the ocean and found fertile soil on the shores of the United States.

A Religious Beginning

The story of kindergarten begins with a German man by the name of Friedrich Froebel in the year 1817. Due to his religious upbringing, Froebel believed that a school could only succeed if it was based on God’s law and thus created an educational program for young children that was essentially religious in nature.

A Growing Garden

After several years teaching at the first school, Froebel moved to a different town called Blackenberg, where, in 1837, he established his second school and created the term “Kindergarten.” During this time he recruited the women in the area to come together to tend the “garden of children.” This model proved amazingly successful because it was founded on the idea that children learn through play. Froebel believed that children could learn basic concepts through play and that the play would become more complex as the children’s abilities expanded.

An Uncommon Refugee

Almost a decade after Kindergarten had taken root in Germany, its seeds spread across the ocean upon the backs of German refugees and found fertile soil in the United States. One of these immigrants was Margaretha Meyer, whose family settled in Wisconsin. It was in her home in 1855 that the first Kindergarten opened and revolutionized the way the United States educated its young.

From the home of Meyer, Kindergarten next moved to Boston, where it was taught in English for the very first time by Elizabeth Peabody. In the decade to follow, the United States’ government turned to Kindergarten for the standardized education of its youngest pupils. We at Newport Avenue Preschool and Kindergarten are honored to be part of such an amazing and storied legacy.