Maria Montessori was born in the town of Chiaravalle in Italy in 1870. She was the first Italian woman to qualify as a physician. Despite endless prejudices and obstacles, she was the first appointed doctor at the Rome University Psychiatric Clinic. It was here that she became very interested in the study of children’s learning and began to develop a philosophy of education now known as the Montessori Method. As a young woman, she saw the potential that the education of young children could have in changing the nature of society. When she started her first school, Casa Dei Bambini, in 1907 the results were so outstanding for both the children involved and their families, that it caused an enormous amount of interest, both in Italy and elsewhere. She was as astonished as everyone else by the children’s progress, both socially and intellectually and realized that she had uncovered something extraordinary about their learning abilities. This then became the focus of her life’s work and the Montessori Movement was formed. Her work became internationally renowned and she became famous, not only for her educational work but her interest in world peace through moral reform. She was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.
What is Montessori?
Montessori is a comprehensive educational approach from birth to adulthood, based on the observation of children’s needs in a variety of cultures all around the world. Beginning her work almost a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori developed this educational approach based on her understanding of children’s natural learning tendencies as they unfold in “prepared environments” for multi-age developmental groups(0-3,3-6,6-9,9-12,and12-14).
The Montessori environment contains specially designed, manipulative “materials for development” that invite children to engage in learning activities of their own individual choice. Under the guidance of a trained teacher, children in a Montessori classroom learn by making discoveries with the materials, cultivating concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.
Today, Montessori schools are found worldwide, serving children from birth through adolescence. The Association Montessori Internationale (AMI), founded by Maria Montessori in 1929, maintains Montessori educational principles and disseminates Montessori education throughout the world.
Montessori children are unusually adaptable. They have learned to work independently and in groups. Since they’ve been encouraged to make decisions from an early age, these children are problem-solvers who can make appropriate choices and manage their time well. Encouraged to exchange ideas, discuss their work freely with others, such students’ good communication skills ease the way in new settings. Research has shown that the best predictor of future success is a positive sense of self-esteem. Montessori programs, based on self-directed, non-competitive activities, help children develop strong self-images and the confidence to face challenges and change with optimism.