This month we 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 intrests 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.
By the 1840s, Froebel was even issuing stock in his enterprise, the Universal German Kindergarten, at around ten dollars a share. But the business never made him wealthy -- in fact, though the kindergarten idea spread throughout Germany in the mid-19th century, it was fiercely resisted by the autocratic Prussian state, which esentially outlawed it in 1851 because it was believed that Kindergartens promoted democratic ideas that were dangerous to the rigid status quo. Froebel would die a year later, in 1852 -- some say of a broken heart.