Wednesday, September 2, 2009

SCHOOL DAYS The Children's Garden

What was the reasoning behind having a kindergarten anyway?

The first kindergarten opened in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852) designed this system to offer a preschool education to young children in a less formal environment. His plan was to offer an organized setting in which children's creativity and play instincts were nurtured in a constructive and supervised manner. He believed that children could be taught to become better, more cooperative learners through the use of tools like songs, stories, games, and other group activities. The central idea of his theory was that a good education starts with learning creative expression and social cooperation. This concept had a direct influence on American school systems.

In 1856 the first American kindergarten was founded in Watertown, Wisconsin, and by the end of the nineteenth century it had become a standard part of the American educational philosophy.

In New Solum Township, there was no kindergarten, children started school as first graders in the country schools. Old Trunks wonders if the younger children in the family didn't learn from their older siblings as they studied by lamp light. Odd, isn't it, that my grand parents never talked about their formal education. Certainly they were educated in some way.

Let's fast forward to my kindergarten experiences. I am not certain just why I decided to hide behind the piano while the teacher played and the class sang the songs. Once I heard a song I knew, I ventured forth and sat with the other children on the first day at Northrop. Perhaps it was because I had been plucked from my own envoriment and sent to my grand mother's to start school while mother was in the hospital with sciatica.

How clearly is the vision of grandma walking me to school on that first day. I can still see the dew on the grass. Grandpa had already left for work. I had sat on his lap at breakfast and helped him watch the old manual toaster so the bread didn't burn.

Northrop was about six blocks from my grand parents house. They lived on Arnold Avenue in the eleven hundred block. The next block was Duluth, then Knight, followed by a big street called Main. After crossing Main, there was one more block, LaBree. The school address was 9th @ LaBree.

After a few days, Grandma would meet me at Main Aveune and 11th and help me cross the big street. A few days later, I was certain I could make it to school by myself and home again. I walked with the kids from the neighborhood, looking for buildings that would bring me back home.

But the neighbor kids didn't go the same way. They passed a white house with green shutters and huge lilac bushes. Since grandma had no phone, I was not able to contact her if I should be lost. Kindergarten was in the morning, the neighborhood kids would not be leaving school at noon.

I felt confident when I left to go home. I walked to the end of the Northrop lot where the ice rink was in the winter and turned west on Labree. When I got to Main Avenue, there was that white house with the green shutters. Where was the junk dealer from here? Before tears, a man stopped in his car and asked if I needed help.

In today's world we would shutter if our child got in a car with a stranger. Maybe even in a town of 8,000 people it was a bad move, yet, the man said he knew Phillip and would take me home, which he did. The next morning, grandma walked me to school by the white house with shutters and the lilac bushes, I had my bearings and was feeling very confident about it.

Yes, there is more. By the time I was feeling really good about it, mother was home from the hospital and I had changed schools. This time it was old Washington, which when first built, was the high school.

It was the typical two story stone building with a basement. Grades K-3 where on the first floor. The second floor was 4-6, the principal's office, and the library. The basement had the lunch room and the bathroom's.

The kindergarten room had a salmon colored tile floor. Inlaid into the tiles were tiles which had a,b,c and 1,2,3. The first day I was there, they played a game called London Bridge is Falling Down. The idea is two people are chosen as captains. They stand with their arms in an arch and the rest of the students sing and walk under the arch.

London bridge is falling down, falling down
London bridge is falling down, falling down
My fair lady.

On my fair lady, a student is trapped as the arm arch falls.

Then, each captain whispers in ones ear a prize they will get for choosing to be on their team. I chose orange soda and lined up behind others who were lined up behind the captain. After all the students were trapped, there was a tug of war and whomever won got the prize. BUT WAIT!!! The prize was a virtual prize, although I waited all morning for it.

We were bused to school in the morning with the big kids and got a ride home at noon when kindergarten got out. Mrs. Hanson drove her son Lyle and myself. They had an old brown car with a shift on the floor and Lyle thought it was funny to take the car out of gear, at which time Mrs. Hanson would scream, "LY-LEE!".

What did I wear to school? Long white stockings held up with a garter belt and dresses. In the winter, one took off snow pants, boots, and coats and hung them on pegs. Some classes had coat rooms.

The bathroom in the basement had a number of stalls made of wood with big doors that creaked. They did not lock. I had already learned to look under the door to see if it was occupied. The entire basement smelled of sour milk and wax paper although, as a kindergartener, I did not eat there.

Greater than 50 years later, I would learn from the bus driver that picked me up in the morning that I was well behaved and always wore white mittens. How did I learn this? My sweet Thomas had a picture of me at the optical shop and when she came in for glasses, she said, "Is that Elodee?"

What was your kindergarten like?


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