“Froebel designed his educational experience around a series of physical and mental activities, among them singing, dancing and gardening. At the heart of this pedagogical universe were formalized exercises centered round a set of “occupational gifts,” what we today (with sadly diminished vision) might call educational toys. Twenty in number, the gifts were tools designed to encourage the exploration of form. How, for example, could lines or squares or cubes be arranged to produce the form of a bird or a chair or a tree, or a pleasing, snowflake symmetry. As a crystal grows from its molecular seed, so too animals, plants and buildings could be assembled from the primitive units of the Froebelian gifts. Cutting and folding paper, weaving together wooden sticks, sewing thread onto cards, and building with blocks of various sizes, teachers and pupils together would construct the world. The exercises focused on making three types of forms: forms of nature (or life, and things of the world), forms of beauty (art), and forms of knowledge (science, mathematics and especially geometry). In the course of their training, teachers fabricated sample exercises of “fancy work” that they arranged in albums, progressing from simple to more complex designs.”
norman brosterman calls froebel’s invention of kindergarten “the seed pearl of the modern era.” at the core of this nascent form of childhood pedagogy was the idea that learning forms of nature, forms of beauty and forms of knowledge all in combination was an essential way to develop our sense of space and place in relation to the physical and mental world. this idea has had dramatic effects on how we exist and relate to space. a hybrid of the building blocks of nature, art, mathematics, and the body.