Presented by:

Stacey Hoover and Michelle Dupuis – Dr. Nauman (Spring 2003)


“I believe that the social life of the child is the basis of concentration, or correlation, in all his training or growth.  The social life gives the unconscious unity and the background of all his efforts and of all his attainments.”

---John Dewey





“Life in school is only another setting for life anywhere.  If we were preparing our children to live under an autocratic regime I could understand the need for iron discipline, for suppression of playfulness and friendliness, of adventure or individualism wherever it raises its head.  But we are preparing our children to be responsible citizens in a democracy, perhaps some day in a democratic world.”

---Caroline Pratt

If teaching is to be effective with young children, it must assist them to advance on the way to independence. It must initiate them into those kinds of activities which they can perform themselves and which keep them from being a burden to others because of their inabilities. We must help them to learn how to walk without assistance, to run, to go up and down the stairs, to pick up fallen objects, to dress and undress, to wash themselves, to express their needs in a way that is clearly understood, and to attempt to satisfy their desires through their own efforts. All this is part of an education for independence."
---Maria Montessori


What is Progressivism?

Believing that people learn best from what they consider most important in life, progressivism centers the curriculum around the experiences, interests, and abilities of each student.

·        Teachers plan lessons, which arouse curiosity.

·        Students learn by doing or through experience.

·        Learner’s impulse and interest and the current problems of a changing society are recognized.

·        The local community is utilized as an education resource.

·        Subject matter is not isolated. 

·        Learners participate in the formation of activities.

·        Subject matter is derived from ordinary life experiences.

·        Instruction begins with experiences learners already have.

·        Social and cooperative activities are used to develop a democratic environment.

·        Direct concern for health, vocation, and the quality of human life.

·        Progressivism is defined as the principles and practices of progressives.

·        Progressive Education is defined as the system of education based on the principles of John Dewey and his followers, characterized by emphasis on fitting a course of study to abilities and interests of pupils rather than fitting pupils to a given curriculum.


History of Progressivism

·        Progressivism can date back two hundred years to educators John Henrich Pestalozzi and Wilhelm Froebel of Germany.  Pestalozzi founded a school, which contained a flexible curriculum suited to each child’s abilities.  This school was organized to help underprivileged boys who living on the streets in Switzerland.  Froebel founded the first kindergarten, which contained pleasurable surroundings, self-motivated activity, play, music, and the physical training of the child.

·        The actual progressive movement began in late 1800s in response to urbanization, immigration, and the Second Industrial Revolution.

·        Pre-World War I progressive schools concentrated on improving conditions for inner-city children.  These children were often from immigrant or poverty stricken families.  The goal was to equip them with experiences that would help them become a successful part of American society.  (talk about vocational schooling, free lunch, extended care, hygiene instruction, trade schools, sewing clothes, elimination of illness – malnutrition – foreigness – language barriers – and ignorance)

·        Post-World War I progressive schools focused upon child-centeredness, individual expression, and creativity.  Progressive schools became a part of middle to upper class society.  They were often found in elite public and private schools.  Many universities, such as Columbia University, set up progressive style laboratory schools.

·        As a self-conscious movement, Progressivism in America was defined by historians as an attempt to develop the moral will, the intellectual insight and the political and administrative agencies to remedy the accumulated negligences of a period of … growth.

·        Although some progressive schools were successful, and there was extensive research to support the movement, the progressive movement began to weaken in the 1940s and 1950s. Some reasons for this demise are as follows:

o       Teachers had to be extremely flexible and creative.

o       Students had to be self-motivated.

o       The traditional role of the teacher was neglected.  Teachers were required to alter their teaching style radically.  They became less of an authority figure and more of a facilitator.

o       Junior high and high school teachers found complete integration difficult to implement due to departmentalization.

o       This form of instruction tended to be costly.

o       Many felt that progressivism emphasized amusement of the students rather than education.  There was a fear that the core curriculum was being neglected.

o       Conservatism and social bias were also elements in progressivism’s failure.

·        Progressive practices can still be found in some public and private schools.  Progressivism is a common thread in over four thousand Montessori schools across the country.  It is also evident in the holistic education movement.

Dominant Figures of Progressivism

John Dewey (1859-1952)-

·        Provided the Progressive Movement in education its intellectual leadership.

·        In 1896, began Lab School with his wife, Alice. The school opened with 16 children and 2 teachers. By1902, there were 140 children and 23 regular children and 10 graduate assistants from the University of Chicago. The school closed in 1904.

·        Schools for Tomorrow was published in 1915. This book presented his views on education.

·        In his book, he highlighted the School for Organic Education in Fairhope, Alabama. Marietta Johnson founded the school in 1907. Before she opened her school she was a teacher in St. Paul, Minnesota. She asked the Superintendent why the school programs have so little relation to children’s natural development. His response--to paraphrase—was “Isn’t it disgraceful that they don’t?”


Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

·        As a young child she wanted to be an actress—she did NOT want to be a teacher.

·        She was the 1st woman in Italy to graduate with a medical degree.

·        Her motto was “I have lived.”

·        She began working with mentally handicapped children and adults. She studied the work of Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin.

·        She believed in Sensory Education. She believed that children learn through their senses. “The education process is based on this: that the control of the error lies in the material itself and the child has concrete evidence of it.”

·        In 1907, The Casa dei Bambini (The Children’s House) was opened. This was the first Montessori School.

·        Montessori schools weren’t of a fixed type. They may vary based on the financial resources.

·        Montessori Education was divided into three parts: sensory education, motor education, and language.

·        She taught the children to write before they were taught to read. This turned the traditional world upside down.

·        By 1911, Italy and Switzerland adopted the Montessori Method as the approved teaching method.

Caroline Pratt (1867-1954)

       •        Pratt’s childhood was spent in a prosperous farming community (Fayetteville, NY), which influenced her idea of education through assigned jobs and woodworking.

        •        She began teaching career in the Fayetteville school. After two years, Pratt received a scholarship to attend the Teachers College in New York City. There she demonstrated her interest in woodworking and manual training.

        •        After attending the Teacher’s College, Pratt was hired to teach manual training at the Normal School for Girls in Philadelphia. Here she met her life-long partner, Helen Marot, who was a supporter of progressive social and political issues.

       •        Caroline Pratt decided to open her own school. This new “play” school, called the City and Country School, was in a three-room apartment in Greenwich Village. The school served young children from the neighborhood, particularly working class families, who through play, might come to understand their environment. Vital educational materials included blocks, hammers, nails, saws, and the daily activities of the neighborhood. At first, the children who attended were four years in age. However, as the school became more widely known and accepted, older children gradually became a part of the school. By 1921, the school accommodated children from ages four to thirteen.

       •        The school functioned as a democratic, self-sufficient community. Jobs were an integral part of the curriculum for the students.

       •        Pratt believed in the premise that children learn by play and that for children, play was really hard work. She believed that play leads to new opportunities for further experiences and therefore, as Dewey might also have concluded, growth.

       •        The City and Country School was initially designed to serve working class families. However, the parents of these children were generally more conservative in nature. Artists and writers in the neighborhood took interest in Caroline Pratt’s theories of education. The population of the school has become mostly that of children from upper class or “yuppie” families.

       •        John Dewey had a large influence on the pedagogic practices in the City and Country School. The curriculum was based on the needs and interests of children at various ages and on both inquiry and experimentation. Pratt believed that young children should initially learn experimentally from their immediate environments, then, as they mature, they should be introduced to more complex tasks and materials (books).

        •        The City and Country School is still in existence today. Although it retains the beliefs of Caroline Pratt, a number of necessary curricular reforms have been introduced. It still uses blocks and jobs as its primary learning tools. However, computers have been installed, Latin and Spanish are available, preparation for standardized tests is now offered in the upper grades, and athletics has become a part of the curriculum.

Traditionalism vs. Progressivism
Traditional Education
• subject-centered
• direct instruction by teacher
• teacher is an authority figure
• mastery of factual information emphasized
• book-based learning
• memory of rules and isolated facts
• student role is passive receiver of knowledge
• independent work and learning
• assessment is usually objective an norm-referenced
• grades are assigned by comparing performance to other students on that grade level
• whole class instruction
• desks are arranged in rows
• strict, rigid discipline is used to manage classroom conduct
Progressive Education
• curriculum is based on student interest
• students take part in developing instruction and activities
• teacher is a facilitator
• teachers provide warm human understanding
• learning is investigative and experimental
• students have access to a large variety of materials and media to enhance learning and self-expression
• emphasis is placed on how to find and utilize needed information
• community based learning
• many field trips to enhance real world experiences
• portfolios containing individual collaborative projects are utilized for assessment
• grades are downplayed – teacher comments on progress are used for tracking performance
• desks are arranged in clusters
• self-discipline is utilized to manage classroom conduct

Directions: Follow each step carefully. If you finish the assignment, place it in the “finished work” bin. If you are still working on the geography lesson, place your work in the “work in progress” bin. Please remember to clean your area. Replace all materials that you used. Your station should look exactly the same way it did when you arrived!

1. Find Mesopotamia on the globe. Mesopotamia is now known as the country Iraq and a small portion of the country Iran. Look at the latitude and longitude of this area and that of your own state. How do they compare?
2. Read the information sheet on the geography of the Fertile Crescent (Ancient Mesopotamia.)
3. Using the Venn diagram, compare and contrast Ancient Mesopotamia to where you live.
4. Think about what type of clothing you would wear if you lived in southern Mesopotamia. Next, construct a paper doll using the provided materials. Your paper doll should be dressed appropriately for life in southern Mesopotamia.
5. Write a description of your doll’s clothing. Explain why she/he is dressed in this manner.


Directions: Follow each step carefully. If you finish the assignment, place it in the “finished work” bin. If you are still working on the geography lesson, place your work in the “work in progress” bin. Please remember to clean your area. Replace all materials that you used. Your station should look exactly the same way it did when you arrived!

1. Read the information sheet on cuneiform writing.
2. Use the cuneiform rebus chart to help you construct a story in this form of writing. Use the golf tees and push pins to imprint a short story into the clay tablet.
3. Write the short story in English on a sheet of loose-leaf paper. Skip a line and answer the following questions. Which form of writing you preferred to use when writing your story? How are these two techniques different? Why do you think we do not use this form of writing today?
4. When you have finished, mold the clay tablet back to its original shape (blank) using your hands or the provided plastic spoon.


Directions: Follow each step carefully. If you finish the assignment, place it in the “finished work” bin. If you are still working on the geography lesson, place your work in the “work in progress” bin. Please remember to clean your area. Replace all materials that you used. Your station should look exactly the same way it did when you arrived!

1. Read the information on Babylonian numbers. Babylon was a major city located in southern Ancient Mesopotamia.
2. Use the available toothpicks to form the following numbers in Babylonian marks
a. 48
b. 39
c. 26
d. 75
e. 82
f. 125
g. 304
h. 533
i. 764
j. 953
k. 1296
l. 2407
3. Write a detailed explanation describing which number system you prefer, Babylonian or our base tens system. Explain your choice. Also explain why you think the Babylonian system is no longer used today.

Practical Life

Directions: Follow each step carefully. If you finish the assignment, place it in the “finished work” bin. If you are still working on the geography lesson, place your work in the “work in progress” bin. Please remember to clean your area. Replace all materials that you used. Your station should look exactly the same way it did when you arrived!

1. The people of ancient Mesopotamia did not have the enormous range of food that is available today. Some common food items were:

a. barley cakes
b. goat’s milk
c. onions
d. cucumbers
e. dates
f. turnips
g. chickpeas
h. wheat bread
i. wild fowl
j. wild boar
k. lal (date honey)
l. lentils
n. pigs
o . leeks
p . gazelle
q . garlic
r . goat’s meat
s . fish
t . eggs
u . mustard
v . lettuce

2. Using the food items available at your station, prepare a dish that you feel would serve as a meal. What is the name of your dish? Write an expository essay explaining the steps in the preparation of your dish. Don’t forget to include the name of what is being prepared.
Sensorial / Art

Directions: Follow each step carefully. If you finish the assignment, place it in the “finished work” bin. If you are still working on the geography lesson, place your work in the “work in progress” bin. Please remember to clean your area. Replace all materials that you used. Your station should look exactly the same way it did when you arrived!

1. One very famous and powerful city of Ancient Mesopotamia was the city, Ur. Read the information sheet about life in Ur.
2. Pretend you are a merchant in this ancient city. Choose on job (ship builder, weapon maker, metal worker, artist, jewelry maker, potter.) Create a product to barter with other members of the Ur community. You may use any material available to create your product. Make sure you replace any material used. Use an index card to label your creation. Make sure you have included your name and job title.

Works Cited

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        University of Chicago Press, 1964.

Cohen, Ronald D., and Raymond A. Mohl. The Paradox of Progressive
        Education: The Gary Plan and Urban Schooling. NY: Kennikat Press
        Corp., 1979.

Dewey, John. "My Pedagogic Creed." The School Journal 54 (1897): 77-80.
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Knapp, Clifford E. "Progressivism Never Died, It Just Moved Outside: What
        Can Experimental Educators Learn from the Past?" Journal of
        Experimental Education 17:2 (1994): 8-12.

Kramer, Rita. Maria Montessori: A Biography. Chicago: University of
        Chicago, 1976.

Montessori, Maria. The Absorbent Mind. New York: Dell Publishing, 1967.

Moore, Rob. "For Knowledge: Tradition, Progressivism and Progress in
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Pignatelli, Frank. Toward a Postprogressive Theory of Education. Educational
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Pofahl, Jane. Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia. MN: T.S. Denison &
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Pollard, Michael. Maria Montessori – The Italian Doctor who Revolutionized
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Pratt, Caroline. I Learn From Children. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1948.

Rambusch, Nancy McCormick. Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook. By Maria
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Semel, Susan F., and Alan R. Sadovnik. Schools of Tomorrow, Schools of
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Sharp, L. B., and E. G. Osborne. "Schools and Camping: A Review of Recent
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Washburne, Carlleton. What Is Progressive Education? NY: The John Day
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