Thinking back on kindergarten probably makes you think of colorful crafts, educational games, or recess playtime with the sun shining on your face, much like a flower in a sunny garden. But did you know kindergarten has been around since 1837 and literally translates to "children's garden" or "garden of children"? April 21st is National Kindergarten Day, so there's no better time to talk about the importance of the "children's garden" that is kindergarten.
Children aren't unlike plants, if you water them, they will grow! Things like nutritious school meals, lessons on the basic concepts of math, reading, writing, and shapes, and practicing behavior and social skills all help kids grow into successful students and lifelong learners. Like a greenhouse for plants, Kindergarten is the perfect growing environment for our young Pennsylvanians.
Kindergarten has led to a number of additional programs that support young children and communities, including the Head Start program in 1965, designed to help communities meet the needs of disadvantaged preschool children. Today, Head Start is a primarily federally-funded program that provides education, health and social services to families with children aged three, four, and five. Head Start helps young kids develop academic and social skills that will prepare them for school– kindergarten and beyond.
National Kindergarten Day pays tribute to Friedrich Froebel, the founder of the kindergarten system. Froebel opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany in 1837, and it didn't take long for the concept to travel to the United States, eventually turning into the system we know and love as kindergarten today. The first U.S. kindergarten was a German-language school for young kids that opened in Wisconsin in 1856, however Boston, Massachusetts can claim the first English-language kindergarten, started in 1860. The last state to create a public kindergarten program in the United States was Mississippi in 1982.
There are countless ways to celebrate National Kindergarten Day, whether you're reading books together, spending time outside exploring, or playing traditional games like hopscotch or hide-and-seek, be sure to thank a kindergarten teacher for helping some of our youngest students (and ourselves!) build an important foundation for lifelong learning.
Although kindergarten has changed since its inception, the importance of nurturing children's development has not. Kindergartens encourage children to express themselves artistically, learn in a curiosity and interest-driven environment, gain social and emotional skills through interactions with their peers, and foster independence– all things that serve as the foundation for the remainder of their primary and secondary school education.
What are some of your favorite kindergarten memories? For us, we look fondly back on kindergarten as a time of making homemade applesauce, reading books on our classroom's inflatable elephant couch, and making friendships that carried us all the way through high school graduation or beyond.