“When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guarantee of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious.”
“Passivity of attitude, mechanical massing of children, uniformity of curriculum and method are the typical points of the old education. It may be summed up by stating that the centre of gravity is outside the child.”
“Now the change which is coming into our education is the shifting of the centre of gravity. It is a change, a revolution, not unlike that introduced by Copernicus when the astronomical centre shifted from the earth to the sun. In this case the child becomes the sun about which the appliances of education revolve; he is the centre about which they are organized.” (Dewey; Wheeler)
Let’s look back …
The idea of kindergartens began in Germany with Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852.) Germans moving to the US brought the idea over when they settled there. In 1855, in Watertown, Wisconsin, Mrs Carl Schurz, a former student of Froebel, established America’s first kindergarten. (Castle)
In Hawaiʻi, the earliest mention of a kindergarten program is in 1892 in connection with Francis Williams Damon’s work with the Chinese. Damon was interested in Chinese boys, and opened a kindergarten in the Chinese Mission on Fort Street. Charles Reed Bishop provided some financial support.
In 1893, the Woman’s Board of Missions for the Pacific Islands opened four kindergartens specializing in several racial groups: Portuguese, Japanese, Hawaiian and one for children of all other races. (CharlesReedBishop-org)
In Hawaiʻi, free kindergartens began under private support. The Islands’ first kindergarten teacher might have been Miss Birch Fanning, who arrived in Honolulu August 3, 1889.
Although she announced her plans to start her own kindergarten, she ended up as a teacher for Punahou Preparatory School on Beretania Street in 1892. This experience was short-lived, and Punahou did not begin a permanent kindergarten program until 1900.
Because of the success, the Woman’s Board of Missions, founded in 1878, organized four kindergartens in 1893. Separated along racial lines, they were organized for Japanese, Portuguese, Hawaiians, and for a group classified as “other races.” (Castle)
Local training of teachers began two years later for “select young ladies” who “have worked hard and acquired great proficiency in the mysteries of Froebel’s admirable system of training infant minds.”
The programs proved extremely popular; and, the work was exceeding the capacity of the Woman’s Board of Missions. As a result, the Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association of the Hawaiian Islands was established in 1895. (Forbes)
Because of its newness, the Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association was soon in search of an educational methodology to implement its mission. Harriet Castle, the guiding spirit of the Association, would be responsible for shaping this direction through importing the academic views of John Dewey, a friend of the Castle family.
Dewey’s theory, which would help to shape education for the 20th-century, resulted from his rejection of the rigid and formal approach to education that dominated schools in the late 19th-century. The old approach was based upon a psychology in which the child was thought of as a passive creature upon whom information and ideas had to be imposed. (Castle)
Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association, one of Hawaiʻi’s first eleemosynary organizations, offered the first teacher training program and free kindergarten to all of Hawaiʻi’s children.
Some of the children were taught in the old Mission School House, “the great single room … on Kawaiahaʻo Street. Cool, spacious, dignified, generous in the proportions of its ample length and breadth, of its lofty ceiling, of its deeply recessed windows….” (The Friend, December 1, 1924)
The early Mission School House, built about 1833-35 was the regular meeting place of the annual missionary gathering, known as the “General Meeting.” This building stood south of Kawaiahaʻo Church, at the foot of a lane. (Lyons)
In 1899, the Henry and Dorothy Castle Memorial Kindergarten (1899-1941) was founded, funded and operated by the Castle Foundation. Mary Castle used a major substantial part of the proceeds of the trust to fund a memorial to her late son and granddaughter. (This program established the reputation and identity of the foundation.) (Castle)
Castle asked Dewey to create a kindergarten modeled upon his educational theories. The facility was built on the Castle family homestead on King Street, where Henry was born and Dorothy spent her early years. The school was later turned over to the University of Hawaiʻi (founded eight years later in 1907) to operate.
Eventually, the teacher training program was eventually moved to what became the University of Hawaiʻi, and the kindergartens were taken over by the Territorial Department of Education. (KCAA)
Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association also established the first public playground in Honolulu in 1911, Beretania Playground, at the corner of Beretania and Smith streets in the heart of Chinatown. It was intended for boys and girls under ten, and for older girls accompanying the very young, and the “play garden” was open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm.
“In recognition of the truth of Joseph Lee’s declaration, ‘A boy without a playground is father to the man without a job’, the Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association is making a valiant effort … to secure a trained playground worker for Honolulu.” (The Friend, April 1912)
Just like the private founders forming and funding the Kindergarten program, initially, private groups, rather than public agencies, undertook efforts to build playgrounds.
A major objective of private playground organizers was to convince city officials that public recreation ought to be a municipal responsibility. As a result, by the opening decade of the twentieth century most large American cities had established playgrounds owned and operated by municipal governments.
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