How Kindergarten Got Its Name



Before American children enter grade school, they must first flex their budding curiosity in kindergarten. This academic regimen, intended for 4- to 6-year-old children, leads directly into first grade, where these primed tots can begin to soak up knowledge beyond crayons and snack time. When you think about it, a German phrase for American schooling is kind of peculiar. So, how did we come to call this tot training kindergarten? You can thank Friedrich Froebel, the German educator who started the first kindergarten around 1840. In German, “kinder” means “children” and “garten” means…..you guessed it…..”garden.” Froebel spent much of his youth outside in the family garden, fascinated by the world around him, and as an adult became an educator at the Frankfurt Model School, which encouraged active learning. When he left to become a private tutor, he often spent time in gardens with students, so when he finally opened his own school, it seemed like a natural fit to call it a “kindergarten.” “Children are like tiny flowers; they are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers,” said Froebel. Froebel died in 1852 having ushered in a crucial new addition to education, and it wouldn’t be constrained to Germany. Not long after his kindergarten opened, German immigrants Caroline Frankenberg and Margarethe Schurz started kindergarten classes in the United States for German-speaking children. By 1860, America’s first English-speaking kindergarten opened in Boston, with 40 more opening by the 1880s.