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Celebrating Both Ends Of The Education Process Sharing Stories Of Lucy Wheelock
photo by Photo provided by Wheelock College Library. 1890Leading the way and championing kindergarten for her entire lifetime, Lucy Wheelock believes each graduation class is a celebration of education, democracy and life in America.
Tuesday June 10, 2014
By Cookie Steponaitis
As graduations around the state and nation signal the passing of the torch to the next generation and the end of a long and powerful segment in the lives of young people, families gather, tissue boxes are in full force and photos from Kindergarten appear to be compared to the graduating seniors on the podium in their caps and gowns. Smiling then and now the two photos signify the completion of a portion of their lives, education connecting the family in remembrances and realization that time is fleeting and decades pass in what seems like a blink.
The Valley Voice salutes not only the families and the graduates in celebration of the continuum of the educational process but a Vermonter history whose role and life helped define the educational process as we know it today. Lucy Wheelock was born in her grandparent’s home in Cambridge but grew up in Underhill. She was born to a family of talent and reputation who were descendants of John Adams and was home schooled where Lucy excelled at her studies. Lucy’s father was a minister and for over forty years he made the circuit through the towns of Cambridge, Jeffersonville, North Bend and back to Cambridge offering services and ministry to all.
Lucy was born in 1857 and did not have the opportunity to attend high school in her home community and was sent to live and study in Boston at Chauncy Hall School. She added German and French to her growing academic abilities and became a translator of children’s stories. Lucy became fascinated while attending school with the writings of Friedrich F. Nobel an educator who founded the concept of Kindergarten. She attended a Kindergarten Training School and in 1879 at the age of twenty-two began to teach Kindergarten children.
Lucy was influenced by Nobel’s ideas and also added her own perspectives. She created a room where the day started with circles, sharing, and singing and included a curriculum rich with nature and activities that engaged the senses. Lucy also went on to pioneer the idea of multi-cultural learning and would teach and read to her students in German and French. When schools in Boston began to add Kindergartens to their educational line-up Lucy Wheelock served as the coordinator and trainer for the young teachers.
Lucy was a gifted writer and speaker and lectured in America and Canada where she is remembered as one of the earliest experts on early education. She sat on several key committees at the national level and created laws supporting the need for Kindergarten nationwide and the training of early educators.
Regardless of the passage of time Lucy Wheelock would be front and center at this week’s graduation festivities joining the rest of the families in celebrating an educational journey that began for many in Kindergarten. She wrote in 1896 in a state publication the following: “With education, a man’s field is the world, without education, his field is his world.” She was a firm believer in balanced learning and felt that reading, writing, and arithmetic had to include music, art, literature and nature study as the building blocks for learning. Even naps and quiet time found their place in her Kindergartens and to this day are a part of the model. Many thanks, Lucy and to the Kindergarteners entering school this fall; welcome to one of the most exciting journeys of your life.
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