Dr Sacha Powell, CEO of the Froebel Trust, reports from the 2023 International Froebel Society Conference held at Maynooth University, Ireland

Participants travelled from around the globe to Ireland for the 10th Biennial conference of The International Froebel Society (IFS) held 15 - 17 June 2023.

Maynooth University’s Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education hosted an outstanding programme of academic and social events.

Student ambassadors and faculty members led by Head of Department, Niamh Fortune ensured everyone received a warm welcome and gifts, including wooden blocks and wild flower seeds.

The conference theme, “Childhood Today: A Froebelian Perspective” offered 50 presentations across three days with keynote speeches from distinguished educators and scholars.

Niamh Fortune opens the IFS Conference 2023

Day 1 of the conference began with a meeting of the IFS Executive Committee and the election of its new officers. Delegates thanked outgoing joint-Presidents, Dr Larry Prochner (Canada) and Dr Kristen Nawrotzki (Germany) and welcomed new President, Grace Choi (China) and Vice President Dr Andrea Schmid (Germany).

There was a buzz of excitement at the announcement that the 2025 conference would be held at the University of Erfurt in Thuringia, Germany – Froebel’s homeland.

The conference presentations covered diverse topics (from STEM to Sewing) and theoretical perspectives (from developmental psychology to posthuman materiality).

The Froebel Trust’s funded projects were well represented at this year's conference by:

Froebel Trust committee members and associates were also significant contributors to the conference programme:

  • Froebel Trust pamphlets editor, Dr Jane Read presented fascinating histories of Froebelian journeys, including her own, both illustrated by the many examples of Froebelian books that have been published in the last 200 years
200 years of Froebelian scholarship

  • Professor Tina Bruce’s keynote lecture was a masterclass in Freedom with Guidance as she expertly articulated ways of understanding and extending children’s play with adults positioned as sensitively attuned and observant companions.
  • Opportunities to delve into a new archive of materials and podcasts with the late Irish Minister of Education were promoted by Dr Laoise Ní Chléirigh, coordinator of the Irish Froebel Network. Her colleague, Laura Thornton shared the thoughtful and creative approach she had adopted to design the network’s logo - including the inspiration she had taken from a photograph of the first Froebelian in Ireland more than 100 years ago.

The social programme for the conference included wonderful Irish music, singing and shared meals in the beautiful surroundings of Pugin Hall at St Patrick’s College. These informal gatherings allowed for many new conversations and connections and an opportunity to remember friends we have lost.

Remembering Froebelians and IFS members, Dr Catherine Lally and Yordanka Valkanova

The Froebel Trust was delighted to be able to provide bursaries in Yordanka’s memory, to help students and trainee tutors to attend the 2023 IFS conference.

Interested in attending the next IFS conference in 2025?

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