Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952)
Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravell, Italy, and died in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. She was the first woman to graduate in Medicine from University of Rome (1894). In 1899, she started research in education for children, based on a few ideas conceived by Dr. E.Seguin. Dr. Montessori observed that methods applied successfully to mentally disabled children could also be applied to normal children. She started working with children in public and private schools in Roma and received great support from the reformers.
From 1900 to 1907, Maria Montessori lectured in pedagogical anthropology at University of Rome, and was appointed inspector of Italian schools in 1922.
From this point onwards, she wrote books on education methods that she had employed. She did many training courses for teachers in Spain, India, UK, the Netherlands, US…
Dr. Maria Montessori was a distinguished educator of the modern era. Her observations of children whilst being a doctor had enabled her to analyse our learning approaches sharply. She drew the conclusion that children develop knowledge all by themselves through what they perceive in their daily environment. To better understand the role of children’s psychology, Dr. Montessori started her studies in psychology and philosophy in 1901. Three years later, she became a lecturer in anthropology at University of Rome.
Her desire to improve education for children was so strong that in 1907, she left both academy and medical practice to dedicate her time to taking care of tens of children in one of the poorest working districts of Rome. It was here where she founded the first “Children’s House” (Casa Dei Bambini) in 1907. This historic house was the cradle of what would later become the internationally well-known Montessori Method later.
Montessori educational method bases itself on scientific deductions and observations. Montessori was convinced that children had this (as if effortless) ability to absorb knowledge from the environment. To her, children had this tireless interest in manipulation of learning materials. All learning aids, in-class activities, teaching methods that she created stemmed from what she observed that children could do “naturally” without assistance of adults. “Children teach themselves” is a profound truth that inspired her in reinventing education for children as well as in training of teachers in many parts of the world, especially in the US, UK, the Netherlands and India.
In “Casa Dei Bambini” which was similar to today’s American “Day care center” in that poorest district of Rome, she applied her theory and method. The children in her program were at first very annoying and undisciplined. Yet surprisingly, they gradually grew fond to that humanistic approach created by her, a teacher who always respected them and encouraged her colleagues to do the same.
The concrete outcomes of this method during the past 100 years show that Montessori method provides a child with a natural and genuine educational experience. She once said “I studied my children, and they taught me how to teach them”. Her foresight is the pillar of modern children education in developed countries. For example, a system of math’s teaching materials for 4 to 5-year- old kids were prepared by her for the school to probe children’s interest in math. This is the age group thought to be too young to comprehend. She was the first educator to make small, child-sized desks and chairs for the comfort of those young students. She believed the educational environment was as important as the education itself. Thanks to that belief, Montessori schools are often tidy and peaceful places that children love and are their personal space to think and learn.
Until now, Montessori’s philosophy and method of education were and still are being experimented and tested continuously all over the world, from the Children’s House in New York or Paris to Tibetan children’s village in Dhamrasala or schools in Africa, from Childcare centres in Torres Strait, Australia to kindergartens in China or Thailand. It shows that seemingly strange terms in the works of Maria Montessori have become textbook to people interested in education of children all over the world. They are not obstacles for those who would like to study and apply the Montessori educational approach. Today, this approach has been tested and proven thanks to the latest findings from scientific studies in brain development, psychiatry, psychology, and genetics …
It has been more than a century since Dr. Maria Montessori passed away, yet her illustrious career lives on through Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) that she herself founded in Amsterdam in 1929… As of now, AMI is present in more than 100 countries in the world, contributing to create a solid and true foundation to education of children that plays a part in creating a peaceful and progressive world for human.