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:
- Education is the construction of a human being so the materials need to reflect the seriousness of the task.
- The motivation to work and learn comes from within the child. The child has a vital force to perfect himself that stimulates him to perform activities.
- The child educates himself through his senses when provided the correct environment and the freedom to explore that environment. The teacher is a guide and an aide not a master. The teacher is responsible for preparing the environment and allowing the child to explore it. However, the teacher must recognize the difference between freedom and license.
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.
Sources of Information:
- Montessori: a Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard, published by Schocken Books, Inc.
- The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori, published by Henry Holt and Co.
- The Montessori Controversy by John Chattin-McNichols, published by Delmar Publishers, Inc.
- The Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori, published by Ballantine Books