When Friedrich Froebel created the organized system of preschool education known as Kindergarten in Germany 180 years ago, he fundamentally changed the course of human history. Yet today, few people in the United States know his name, let alone the story of the rise and fall of his influence on the American education system.
Froebel invented Kindergarten, the first play-based system of education, and helped children develop design, creative problem solving, and critical thinking skills, which he saw as critical to their success in the adult world. He even created a number of tools – most notably the geometric building and pattern activity blocks known as Froebel Gifts – to engage children in these kinds of experiences. It didn’t take long for Froebel’s pedagogy to spread to America, where it would shape our burgeoning education system throughout the mid to late 1800s and go on to drastically influence music (“Happy Birthday”), architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller), design (Charles Eames) and visual art (the Bauhaus Movement), among many other facets of our culture.
Fast forward to the present day, and education in the U.S. is as a top-down managed, curriculum-focused system dependent on standardized testing. How did it come to stray so far from its roots in Froebel’s ideas? Why has the system failed us? And most importantly, what can we do to fix it?
“The History of Kindergarten” was born out of a desire for answers to these questions. Drawing on hours of exploration into the ongoing influence of Froebel, the importance of design education, and the connection between creativity and innovation, this documentary series will bring audiences along on this fascinating journey through America’s pedagogical evolution and inspire critical dialogues about the future of education in our country and beyond. Join the project’s creator, veteran toy designer and Froebel advocate Scott Bultman, as he shares his vision for this ambitious and timely project.
“The History of Kindergarten” was produced in collaboration with West Michigan-based film production company Match Frame Creative, and is sponsored by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Design West Michigan, the Association for Childhood Education International, Bruderhof, Uncle Goose Toys, and Jim & Regina Rosier.
About Scott Bultman:
Scott Bultman uses his extensive experience in product development, design, and education gained from 30+ years in the toy business to support creative opportunities for children of all ages through play and design thinking.
After managing Grand Rapids, MI-based Uncle Goose Toys alongside his brother for 15 years, Bultman now shepherds a number of brands focused on helping children develop critical thinking creative problem solving skills through design-based play, including Wholemovement™, a process for teaching children pattern formation by folding paper plates; the Kaleidograph™, an award-winning pattern design toy based on the geometry of crystals and flowers; and Froebel USA, a publisher and distributor of educational material based on ideas, tools, and methods developed by German education pioneer Friedrich Froebel, who created the concept of kindergarten.
Bultman’s fascination with Froebel has inspired him to research, promote, and celebrate the Froebel Kindergarten method and the value of creative education around the world, including organizing and hosting international Froebel education conferences in 2002, 2010, 2012, and 2013, as well as an upcoming event to be held in Grand Rapids in August of 2017.