Henriette Schrader-Breymann, a great-niece of Friedrich Fröbel, founded a model socio-educational project in Berlin in 1874: the Pestalozzi-Fröbel-Haus. She wanted to combine the demanding, professional training of kindergarten teachers with the innovative practice of a “people’s kindergarten”, which was developed as an educational facility for the children of all social classes. From the very beginning, training and practical work took place on the same premises with the aim of mutual inspiration and enrichment.

The PFH: a role model for progressive pedagogy

The Pestalozzi-Fröbel-Haus was the first educational institution to offer women academic training as kindergarten teachers. At the end of the 19th century, when women were still encouraged to concentrate on marriage and family, this was a revolutionary step.

At that time, society did not yet consider a professional occupation with children a public task, and women’s independent professional social and pedagogical work met with very little understanding. Childhood – a concept that had not yet seeped into the consciousness of the “normal” citizen – was seen solely as an intermediate stage to adulthood. Any special preoccupation with children was not considered necessary.

Within a few years, the Pestalozzi-Fröbel-Haus developed into a well-known educational institution for girls and women as well as a popular educational institution for children. Around the turn of the century, the PFH was regarded as the model for modern, progressive pedagogy and influenced educational and practical concepts across the whole of Europe.

Holistic education

Henriette Schrader-Breymann was guided by the pedagogy of Friedrich Fröbel and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and developed a concept that combines the care, education and upbringing of children. According to her concept, the kindergarten and family complement and strengthen each other.

It was vital to her that a kindergarten did not become a pre-school facility. For her, it was not only a matter of imparting knowledge and fostering the intellect; an all-round, holistic education was practised there. The kindergarten was meant to prepare children for life and to educate them to be responsible and independent. This also included the idea that the children lived in harmony with nature, where they gathered their own experiences.

Small groups and the fostering of individuality

Schrader-Breymann wanted to create a family atmosphere and be able to take the individual nature of each child into account. To do so, she broke up the then customary large groups of 50 to 60 children into small groups of about 12 children in the “Volkskindergarten”.

The schoolgirls in charge were urged to take special care of “their” children and to learn about their family circumstances and living conditions. Focusing on the personality of a child and its stage of development was an important part of the pedagogical work – a completely new approach at that time.

To this day, the network of training centres and hands-on facilities in the Pestalozzi-Fröbel-Haus is unique in Germany. It facilitates practical training and guarantees a high level of quality in all the fields of work of the PFH.