Date of Award
College of Arts & Sciences
Bachelor of Arts
St. Louis is home to the first continuously running public kindergarten in the United States. In 1873, Susan Blow began teaching a small group of students at the Des Peres School using the methods of German educator Friedrich Froebel, “the father of the kindergarten.” Despite the rejection of Froebel’s ideas in Germany, Blow studied his pedagogy and implemented his curriculum into classrooms in America. Her first class was known as the kindergarten “experiment,” which would later become a standard in schools across the nation. Froebel’s kindergarten curriculum was unique because it was based on learning through play, an understanding of nature, and an appreciation for art. He believed childhood should be separated from adulthood and sought to create a learning environment that would interest and accommodate young people, asserting that children’s earliest experiences would shape their entire lives.
This thesis will explore the lives of both Froebel and Blow to better understand their motivations for creating and spreading the kindergarten movement. It will discuss how this movement brought women into the public sphere as educators, and how Blow worked to improve the reputation and competency of teachers through the rigorous training programs she created. It will look at the changing ideas about early childhood education since the seventeenth century, and argue that Blow’s kindergarten represented the culmination of centuries of theories about children. The curriculum she created allowed children, on a large scale, to benefit from the many theories about education developed by previous educators and scholars. The fate of the kindergarten movement came down to the experiment at the Des Peres School. Blow’s devotion to the project and careful implementation of Froebel’s curriculum made it possible for children through age six to have a place to play, learn, and grow across the country.
Silber, Madelyn, "From Seed to Mighty Tree: Susan Blow and the Development of the American Kindergarten Movement" (2012). Undergraduate Theses—Unrestricted. 26.