Early Childhood Education

Temple, Alice (1871-1946)


Early in the twentieth century, the Alice Temple program was a vital element in the integration of kindergarten and elementary schools and in the training programs for their teachers. She became a model for those working at both levels of the educational system.

From birth until her retirement in 1932, Alice Temple lived and worked in Chicago. Her kindergarten teacher training began in the Chicago Free Kindergarten Association program at age eighteen. In 1904, she enrolled as a full-time student at the University of Chicago, where John Dewey and Anna Bryan had established a curriculum reflecting children’s interests. She continued there as a teacher, developing a model kindergarten-primary program and becoming chairman of their new Kindergarten-Primary Department in 1929.

Kindergarten, originally for children aged three to six or seven, had functioned outside the public school system after its introduction in the 1870s. In the early 1900s, it was accepted as the “first step on the ladder” for the public elementary schools of Illinois, but was limited to one or two years before first grade. Temple based the integration of kindergarten and primary grades upon Dewey’s idea of continuity between these two levels, a proposal that fit into the public and professional discourse about social efficiency and scientific measurement. Her system, coauthored with Samuel Parker, was published in 1928 as Unified Kindergarten and First Grade Teaching.

Temple joined the International Kindergarten Union (IKU) in 1900. She was identified as a “Liberal” when divisions developed between those who maintained a structured use of curriculum materials and those who credited Friedrich Froebel for originating the kindergarten in the 1830s but were heeding his directives to modify it through continued study. She advocated free play with building blocks, a “housekeeping area” with miniature utensils and dolls, and varied art activities to be used creatively. She emphasized, however, that some subject matter should be determined by the teachers and that appropriate assistance and guidance be given to the young students.

Temple was involved with many IKU committees and activities, with elective offices including vice-president (1923-1925) and president (1925-1927). She was instrumental in establishing their journal, Childhood Education, in 1924. After the IKU merged with the National Council of Primary Education to become the Association for Childhood Education in 1930, she served on its Advisory Board until her death in 1946. “She was always ready to throw in her efforts with those of others wherever she could serve. Cooperation was the keynote of her working methods as were unity and continuity the theme of her motivation.” (Snyder 1972, p.212)

Temple had a major influence upon students who became leaders in the IKU and the emerging nursery school movement, not only from the course content but by patterning their own professional lives upon hers. Perhaps her lifetime is best summarized in Snyder’s list of Dauntless Women in Early Childhood Education: “Alice Temple, a great teacher. Her students spoke of her reverently, as they acclaimed the lasting influence she had exerted on them and then found it difficult to recall specific things she had said” (1972, p. 360).

Further Readings: Mayhew, Katherine Camp, and Anna Camp Edwards (1936). The Dewey school: The laboratory school of the University of Chicago: 1896-1903. New York: Teachers College Press; Parker, Samuel C., and Temple, Alice (1925). Unified kindergarten and first grade teaching. Boston: Ginn and Co. Snyder, Agnes (1972). Dauntless women in early childhood education—1856-1931; Washington, DC: Association for Childhood Education International. Weber, Evelyn (1984). Ideas influencing early childhood education. New York: Teachers College Press.

Dorothy W. Hewes and Shunah Chung