Maria Montessori was accepted into the University of Rome Medical Program after a brief time exploring engineering in the 1890s. She graduated with a certificate of physics-mathematics when she was 20. However, she discovered she had a love for medicine and though discouraged at the time due to her gender, she went on to graduate with honors from The University of Rome in 1896. Her perseverance opened doors for women in the field, as she was the first female physician in Italy.
Maria’s early medical practices focused on psychiatry, which later developed into an interest in education. She immersed herself in pedagogy educational theory which led her to call into question the prevailing methods of teaching children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 1900, she was given the opportunity to improve these methods when she was appointed co-director of a new training institute for special education teachers. Many children made unexpected gains with her new teaching methods and the program was proclaimed a success.
“The education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life.” ~Maria Montessori
In 1907, Maria Montessori opened her first childcare center in a poor inner-city district of Casa dei Bambini. This became the first quality learning center for children in this area. Utilizing scientific observation and experience gained from her earlier work with young children she was able to design learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered the children’s natural desire to learn. By 1910, the news of the school’s success had spread throughout Italy and Montessori schools were acclaimed worldwide.
“And so we discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”~ Maria Montessori
In 1913, Alexander Graham Bell and his wife founded the Montessori Educational Association after a visit from Maria. During her second visit in 1915, Dr. Montessori attended the Panama-Pacific International exhibition in San Francisco and gained world attention with her “Glass House” classroom.
In 1917, the Spanish government invited Dr. Montessori to open a research institute and in 1920 she began a series of teacher-training courses in London. Later in 1922, she was appointed as a government inspector of schools. Five years later in 1929 she founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). However, because of the fascism that was brought by Mussolini in Italy, she left in 1934. Maria Montessori then traveled to Spain and opened a Montessori Training Center in the Netherlands in 1938. In India, she founded a series of training courses in 1939. In 1949 she founded the Montessori center in London and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950, and 1951. Her life came to an end in 1952 although her work continues on throughout the world. Currently, there are about 7,000 certified Montessori schools worldwide and at least 4,000 in the United States.
“Following his own direction, he becomes quiet and contented, becoming an active worker, a being calm and full of joy.”~ Maria Montessori
Thanks to Maria Montessori we now are able to have prepared learning environments that are clean, inviting, and beautiful. With everything being child size and materials at their level we are able to maintain an environment that speaks to a child’s spirit and promotes a student lead learning environment both inside the classroom and outdoors in nature.
With the freedom to explore children learn responsibility. They are able to choose their own work and move freely around the classroom as long as they are exercising self-control and respect for others.
“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.”~ Maria Montessori
TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM VS MONTESSORI CLASSROOM
Traditional Classroom Montessori Classroom
Textbooks, pencil and paper, worksheets
Working and learning without emphasis on social development
Narrow, unit-driven curriculum
Block time, period lessons
Students passive, quiet, in desks
Students fit the mold of school
Students leave for special help
Product-focused report cards
Prepared kinesthetic materials with incorporated control of error, specially developed reference materials
Working and learning matched to the social development of the child
Unified, internationally developed curriculum
Integrated subjects and learning based on developmental psychology
Uninterrupted work cycles
Students active, talking, with periods of spontaneous quiet, freedom to move
School meets the needs of students
Special help comes to students
Process-focused assessment, skills checklists, mastery benchmarks
“Maria Montessori believed that education, rather than being a rote transfer of information, must seek to serve the “whole child” and to nurture the human potential of each individual. A child naturally learns to walk and talk, and Montessori found that within the child is the same type of ability to naturally acquire skills for reading, writing, and mathematics. In the Montessori environment, the material are self-correcting, which allows the child to learn in an atmosphere of success and positive reinforcement. The child corrects his own errors as he works towards mastery of concepts, through repetition of manipulations with the material. His motivation is not for external reward but for internal fulfillment. The educational philosophy and methodology of Montessori is not just another educational theory. It is the“scientific method” of education. Montessori employed the scientific method in her observations of the child and applied her knowledge of medicine to create a new model of the human stages of development.”~ S.V. Wilhelmi