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Prints from Elementarwerke fur die Jugend und ihre Freunde
(Berlin, Germany, 1774)

From plate 11 in John Bernard Basedow, Elementarworke fur die Jugend und ihre Freunde, Berlin, Germany, 1774. Click here to view a larger image. Click here to view a larger image. Click here to view a larger image. Click here to view a larger image.

John Bernhard Basedow was a German educational reformer who made practical the theoretical reforms of Rousseau. Basedow presented his blueprint for the education of children in Elementarwerke fur die Jugend und ihre Freunde and put it into practice at his school called the Philanthropinum, founded in 1774.

Basedow believed that during the educational process children should be allowed to be children. Approximately half of each educational day, therefore, was devoted to intellectual activities, with the remainder devoted to physical activity. He offered the first physical education classes in "modern" education, allotting three hours to recreation such as riding, dancing, music, and fencing. All of these activities were also considered genteel accomplishments. Other physical activities included running, throwing and jumping, shuttlecock, tennis, skittles, and ball games. The children also spent two hours in manual labor, such as carpentry.

These prints show activities that Basedow felt were appropriate for children. In the first print, the young ladies appear to be role-playing at entertaining their friends, perhaps to tea. In the second print, a mixed-gender group of children plays Blind Man's Buff (or Bluff). In the third print, boys fly kites, whip tops, and roll a hoop. The fourth print shows boys and girls playing shuttlecock and a ball game.

This article was written by Cathy Hellier, Historian, Department of Historical Research, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.