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Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 11:15am

A new book by Helge Wasmuth, Ph.D., associate professor of childhood education, explores the work of Friedrich Fröbel, a nineteenth century pioneer of early childhood education whose pedagogy is still studied and practiced today all over the world.

Fröbel’s Pedagogy of Kindergarten and Play: Modifications in Germany and the United States, published in February by Routledge, has already generated excitement among Fröbel scholars around the world. In coming months, Wasmuth will present a series of talks, including the keynote address at a conference to mark the 180th anniversary of kindergarten. This prestigious gathering will be held at the Friedrich-Fröbel-Museum in Bad Blankenburg, Germany, the birthplace of kindergarten and site of numerous societies and organizations dedicated to the study and analysis of Fröbel’s work.

Wasmuth, a renowned expert on Fröbel, who coined the term “kindergarten” and is considered its founding father, was interviewed on camera for a documentary, The History of Kindergarten. The producer of the film, impressed by Wasmuth’s deep and broad knowledge, urged the Mercy professor to write a book.

“Many of Fröbel’s writings, especially his letters and certain papers, have never been translated from German into English,” Wasmuth explained. “My fluency in both languages, as well as my deep interest in the man and his philosophy and pedagogy, offered me a rare opportunity to fill in some of the gaps that exist in the worldwide understanding of Frobel’s pedagogy.”

Fröbel scholars and childhood educators from all over the world are praising the work, calling it “long overdue,” “a must-read for understanding how ideas about play developed and evolved,” and “revealing new insights into the way Fröbel’s original kindergarten pedagogy was modified and indeed forgotten or lost.”

While extraordinarily popular in the U.K., Japan and New Zealand, Fröbel is not as well known in the U.S., largely due to the lack of adequate translations, and his ideas are not always fully understood. While many Fröbel scholars enjoy debating whether today’s kindergarten focuses too much on academics and not enough on play, Wasmuth points out that is not the focus of his book.

“My book takes an historical view of the invention of kindergarten, incorporating Fröbel’s worldview, the evolution of his pedagogy and how that changed over time,” he said. “It’s primarily for scholars, but it’s also fascinating to examine the work of pioneering theorists in light of today’s practices. If anything, I hope my book will serve as a reminder that we can always think differently about children, whether educating them, raising them, or simply living with them.”