Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. She was born in Chiaravalle in the province of Ancona, Italy on August 31, 1870. She received her Doctorate of Medicine degree from the University of Rome in 1896 and became the first woman in Italy to graduate from medical school. Shortly afterwards, Dr. Montessori was appointed Director of the new orthophrenic school attached to the University of Rome. There she worked with mentally deficient children and created an environment that was highly conductive to learning. In addition, she created materials based on the children’s interest and needs.
After two years, the children, who had been placed in this institution because they could not “function normally,” were able to pass the same aptitude test as children in the public schools. Her dramatic success led her to study the development of young children and create a methodology for preschool aged children. In 1906, Dr. Montessori was asked to direct a daycare center in the slum section of San Lorenzo, Italy. Here she developed the Montessori Method and created the Montessori materials we still use today.
In 1907, the first Casa de Bambini (Children's House) was created. From the opening of the first Children’s House until the 1930’s Maria Montessori continued teach, train, and direct the opening of several schools throughout the world. During this time, Dr. Montessori continued her study of children, and developed a vastly expanded curriculum and methodology for the elementary level as well.
Maria Montessori died in Noordwijk, Holland, in 1952, but her method lives on in Montessori schools across the world.
The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of each individual child in a natural, mixed-age group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults. It is a philosophy that respects the unique individuality of each child. Dr. Montessori believed in the worthiness, value and importance of children. The Montessori approach to education stresses individually paced learning, freedom of choice and movement, and the importance of self-discovery. The Montessori Method is an education approach that prepares children for life.
A Montessori teacher's role is to prepare the environment according to each child’s needs. In order to accomplish this quality time is spent during the class period observing each student in their interactions, what activities they are drawn too, discovering their strong areas and areas they may need work on. In addition, teachers are working one on one with children and maintaining their ability to work without interruption. Dr. Montessori believed that every child has a right to work without interruption for as long a period as they choose and to be able to repeat an activity if that is their choice. She believed that by placing children in a stimulating, specially prepared environment their natural curiosity would help them become self-motivated learners. And by doing so they would develop a love of learning that is invaluable.
Text by Alicia Zepeda. All rights reserved.
“Anyone who wants to follow my method should not honor me but the follow the child as his leader.”
- Maria Montessori