This upcoming weekend residents of Utah will be celebrating their second big holiday of the month, Pioneer Day. The 24th of July represents the day when the pioneers to the west first arrived in the state. Of course, there are all types of pioneers in all sorts of different areas. Two years ago we discussed six individuals who made huge advancements in providing the most effective and available education possible. This year we’d like to discuss six others who also have made a huge impact.
Froebel was a German educator whose experiences as the head of an asylum for orphans inspired him to create more effective learning opportunities for young children. He recognized how critical early learning was and established an infant school which he eventually titled “Kindergarten.” His ideas eventually spread throughout Europe and into the rest of the world. Today children in many countries around the world experience some form of this early childhood education, all thanks to Froebel and his observations and care.
Between the late 19th century and the early 21st, Charlotte Mason pursued an education style that was available to children of all social classes. She focused primarily on creativity and artistic pursuits and encouraged real experience as opposed to dry textbooks. She also promoted the instruction of parents in how to better educate their children, inspiring the beginnings of homeschool programs that are still used today.
Around the same time in Italy, Maria Montessori became the first woman in Italy to become a doctor. Once her training was completed, she began a position working in a mental institution. There she had experiences that spurred on an interest in education, leading her to create her own school for children. Much of her ideas in regard to education focused on more individualized teaching, working one on one with children to more effectively teach them in a way that they will understand and appreciate. Since then, many schools have utilized a Montessori pedagogy.
A bit later in the 20th century, Bruner, an American psychologist, began exploring the relationship between discovery and learning. He played a large role in the development of cognitive psychology and applied what he learned to education. He explained that when a child is able to discover information for themselves, they are able to better remember and learn that information. He also found that children remember better when they are able to connect what they learn to things they already know. This has become a key tool in many classrooms.
Judith Sargent Murray
Murray was an American essayist in the late 18th to early 19th centuries who strongly advocated for the education of women. She made arguments that women were not hindered by physical limitations, as was commonly believed at the time, but by lack of access to education. She actually educated her daughter at home until she was old enough to attend an academy and wrote a collection of essays that were endorsed by both President Washington and John Adams.
Mary Jane Patterson
Born into slavery, Mary Jane eventually became the first African American woman to graduate from a four-year college. Throughout her life she worked in several positions, where she was able to continue to provide education to black children of all ages. She also worked with organizations to provide training and other resources to other African American women who had an interest in strengthening both themselves and their children. Though less outspoken than some civil rights activists, Patterson helped to provide opportunities for many who may not have otherwise had them.