Artfully Learning Audio Series, Episode 6: Froebel’s Gifts to Contemporary Art

Vivien Collens, sculptures from the Squirt series.
Installed at the George H. P. Smith Park in Lewes, Delaware.

Joining me on this episode of the Artfully Learning audio series is sculptor, Vivien Collens. Vivien and I discuss her work within the context of education, specifically the influence of Friedrich Fröbel, a nineteenth century educational reformer who is notable for developing the first modern kindergarten. Fröbel has been frequently cited in posts throughout this blog (see: Fröbel’s Gifts, Noguchi’s Playgrounds, We all scream for STEAM, Portraying Pedagogy’s Progression and Art Education: The Gift That Keeps on Giving). Along with his establishment of early childhood schools, Fröbel invented a series of educational objects called Fröbel’s Gifts, which are still utilized as foundational learning materials in early childhood education curricula.

I am sure that everyone is familiar with at least one or more aspects of Fröbel’s educational philosophy and teaching methods. If you have ever created a house out of blocks or made a dome or tower using sticks and dried peas (or marshmallows and toothpicks), then you have engaged in playful learning that was encouraged by Fröbel.

The three-dimensional and geometric designs of the Fröbel’s Gifts enables children to construct realistic understandings of abstract spatial relationships by discovering the function of aesthetic forms within natural and material environments. As educator and pedagogical researcher, Dr. Louisa Penfold explains, “wooden blocks could be used to teach numeracy and counting. Then the same blocks could be used to build a house, allowing children to learn about concepts such as height and size. Finally, the block house could be used to construct a story and teach literacy and language skills” (Penfeld, 2020).

Vivien Collens’ “broken cube” sculptural motif is an ode to Fröbel’s Gifts. The cube is a module that enables Collens to explore her aesthetic ideas in an active, hands-on manner that combines guided and spontaneous artistic processes. “Broken cube” is a key component of Collens’ Froebel’s Gifts sculpture series (2017-ongoing). The title of the collective body of work references and reflects some of the processes and products associated with Fröbel and his active learning methodologies.

The sixth episode of the Artfully Learning audio series, Froebel’s Gifts to Contemporary Art, is now available on the Artfully Learning YouTube channel (be sure to subscribe!).

You can also listen to it below:

Artfully Learning audio series, Episode 6: Froebel’s Gifts to Contemporary Art.

References, Notes, Suggested Reading:

Mars, Roman. “Froebel’s Gifts.” 99% Invisible, 9 April 2019.

Penfold, Louisa. “Froebel’s Gifts and Isamu Noguchi’s Playgrounds.” Art. Play. Children. Learning, 15 April 2020.

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