The Montessori Method explained:
WHO IS MARIA MONTESSORI?
WHO IS MARIA MONTESSORI?
Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952), was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a "blank slate" waiting to be written upon.
Her main contributions to educating and raising children include:
- Preparing the most natural and life supporting environment for the child
- Observing the child living freely in this environment
- Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his greatest potential -- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Maria Montessori developed a teaching program that enabled 'defective' children to read and write. She sought to teach them skills not solely through repetition, but through working on exercises that prepare them to learn skills. Continuous work on these exercises would then lead them to the skills: Looking becomes reading; touching becomes writing.
The success of her method then caused her to ask questions of 'normal' education and the ways in which it failed children. Maria Montessori had the chance to test her programme and ideas with the establishment of the first Casa dei Bambini (Children's house or household) in Rome in 1907, taking charge of fifty poor children of the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenzo slum on the outskirts of Rome.
This house and those that followed were designed to provide a good environment for children to live and learn. An emphasis was placed on self-determination and self-realization. This entailed developing a concern for others and discipline and to do this children engaged in exercices de la vie pratique (exercise in daily living). These and other exercises were to function like a ladder - allowing the child to pick up the challenge and to judge their progress.
The news of the unprecedented success of her work in this Casa dei Bambini soon spread around the world. Dr. Montessori was as astonished as anyone at the realized potential of these children:
"Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants - doing nothing but living and walking about - came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love."
From Europe To The United States,
India, and the rest of the World
Invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and others, Dr. Montessori spoke at Carnegie Hall in 1915. She was invited to set up a classroom at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, where spectators watched twenty-one children, all-new to this Montessori method, behind a glass wall for four months. The only two gold medals awarded for education went to this class, and the education of young children was altered forever.
During World War II Dr. Montessori was forced into exile from Italy because of her anti-fascist views and lived and worked in India. Her concern with education for peace intensified and she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Since her death interest in Dr. Montessori's methods have continued to spread throughout the world. Her message to those who emulated her was always to turn one's attention to the child, to "follow the child". It is because of this basic tenet, and the observation guidelines left by her, that Dr. Montessori's ideas will never become obsolete.
Source: The Informal Education Encyclopedia/forum. www.infed.org