Maria Montessori was born in Ancona, Italy in 1870. She was a very unconventional woman, interested in mathematics and biology.
She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School in 1894. After graduation, her first work involved the children committed to the University's psychiatric clinic. Teaching these children led her to dedicate her life to education, so she returned to the University to study philosophy, psychology, and anthropology.
In 1907, she was asked to direct a daycare center in a slum section of San Lorenzo. Word spread of her success and more schools opened using her methods of teaching and her equipment. Dr. Montessori traveled, lecturing and training teachers. In 1909, the first book about her work, The Montessori Method was published.
Montessori education was first introduced to the United States in 1912 but prevailing educational beliefs conflicted and interest waned. After her death, her methods of teaching were reintroduced in the United States in 1958 by Nancy Rambusch and have subsequently been gaining in popularity.
Foundation of Philosophy
Maria Montessori used a scientific approach in developing her educational philosophy. She pooled ideas from other scientists and philosophers, like Sequin, Itard, Piaget, and Nunn, to create a hypothesis. She used the classroom as her laboratory to test her theories and create her learning materials. The following are some of her conclusions:
Maria Montessori believed, as many researchers do now, that the pathways in the brain must be stimulated when the child is young or they may be lost.
In The Classroom
The Montessori classroom is a community where all citizens are responsible for its care. Not only the teacher, but every member of the class is given the responsibility of caring for himself and for the environment. The teacher models respect for the contents and the citizens of the community and in this manner instills this respect in the child.
The aim of Montessori education is the development of concentration, coordination, self-discipline, and independence within the child. These aims are realized by allowing the child to explore freely in a carefully prepared environment and to progress at his own rate. Although the students are sometimes doing work beyond what is offered in more traditional settings, academic superiority is not a goal.
There are four main areas of the classroom: Practical Life, Sensorial, Mathematics, and Language. Younger children and first year students tend to spend more time in the Practical Life and Sensorial areas. These areas lay the groundwork needed for the more academic areas. The benefits of the activities include building the muscles in the hand for handwriting and increasing concentration for longer lessons in numbers or letters.
The equipment, either Montessori- created or teacher-created, is purposeful as well as beautiful. The materials entice the child to work with them. Tasks start with the concrete and move to the abstract. They also progress from simple to more difficult.
There is a built in control of error so the child can correct himself. Some activities, like pouring, spooning, and sweeping, prepare the child for life. Some activities, like the tower of cubes and the broad stair, also prepare the child for future learning (decimal system, volume, and geometry).
Sources of Information: