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The Project

What were some of the first kindergartens in the United States like?  What was the daily experience like for students?  Was it based on play or early number and letter recognition?  What type of materials did students use?  What are the similarities and differences in the kindergarten experience today?

The Florence Kindergarten was one of the first free kindergartens in the United States.  It opened in 1876.  Later it was known as the The Hill Institute and still exists today.Geographically it is  in close proximity to our school. Originally I wanted to learn about The Florence Kindergarten because I believed it was the first free kindergarten in the United States.  I soon began to question whether or not this was in fact true.  In my research I was unable to find substantial proof that it was the first.  However, it is still significant to look at because it was surely one of the first as the kindergarten the United States. Friedrich Froebel  was the creator of the kindergarten in Germany.  Elizabeth Peabody brought the kindergarten movement to the United States. Significant was the fact that  The Florence Kindergarten  was free due to the generosity and vision of Samuel Hill  . Samuel Hill was an entrepreneur and abolitionist. Samuel Hill heard Elizabeth Peabody speak a few times.  His interest in education and concern of others moved him to establish The Florence Kindergarten. 

There are many ways to learn about the past.  We can read books about particular times and events.  We can also look at original photographs, objects, and other primary source documents.The question then arises, can primary source documents be used with kindergarten students successfully?  

This project had three major components. First, students would look at primary source documents and make observations, comparing and contrasting.  Secondly, students would create  timelines to increase their understanding of the passage of time. Lastly, students would do an oral history of an elder about their early school experience.  The overriding goal of this project is to introduce the concept that history is all around us.  That history is about the past, but also about the present.  Students will increase their awareness of  the continuum from the past to the present. In addition they will explore the idea that some things change and some things stay the same.  

This project addresses the following Massachusetts history frameworks:
-Students will identify sequential actions such as first, next, last and use them to describe personal
-Students will correctly use words and phrases related to chronology and time (now, long ago, before, after)

Overall the project was very successful.  Over 90% of families participated in some aspect of the project either creating a timeline, completing an elder interview or attending the kick off or culminating event.  The multicultural composition of the classroom increased the richness of the project.