What is Montessori Education?
The Montessori Method is a child-centered educational method based on theories of child development originated by Italian physician Maria Montessori (1870-1952). The methodology is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed inquiry on the part of the child, preparation of a “prepared environment” by the teacher to foster learning, and the use of self-correcting materials that introduce complex and abstract concepts concretely.
The Montessori name is not a trademark and is associated with many organizations. Unfortunately, there are schools that are “influenced” by Montessori but that actually bear little resemblance to schools that have a closer lineage to Maria Montessori’s intended methodology.
Who was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle Italy in August 1870. She became the first female physician in Italy upon graduation from medical school in 1896. Through her medical practices and clinical observations she analyzed how children learn and concluded that children “build themselves from what they find in their environment”.
In early 1900, Montessori shifted her medical career and returned to school to study psychology and philosophy. In 1906 she began working with sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo ghetto of Rome. Here, she founded the first “children’s house” or Casa dei Bambini. Through scientific observation of these children and note of their ability to easily absorb knowledge from their surroundings and tireless interest in manipulative materials, Maria Montessori’s methodology was born.
Every item placed into the Montessori child’s environment, including exercises, materials and equipment were designed by Montessori as a result of her observations of what children do “naturally”, by themselves, and unassisted by adults.