What is the Montessori Method?
Montessori education is based upon the scientific discoveries and observations made by Dr. Maria Montessori. Montessori conceived of education as a natural process which occurs spontaneously as the child interacts with her environment. Her approach supports the development of every child’s full potential. Montessori classrooms are richly prepared, highly ordered environments. Children are placed in three year age groupings and given freedom to move around the classroom and choose their work from among growth promoting activities (many of which were designed by Montessori herself). The teacher acts as a guide, introducing children to the materials according to their individual development. Montessori is the single largest educational philosophy in the world, with over 8,000 schools spanning six continents.
Hallmarks of a Montessori education are:
- Respect for each child’s individual process of self-completion through recognized developmental milestones.
- Recognition that the young child is a sensorial explorer with a need for a highly- ordered, language-rich environment that permits extensive exploration, hand’s on activities, independence, and development of motor coordination.
- Children work at their own pace by freely choosing among activities that are carefully designed to facilitate their development and absorption of knowledge.
- Mixed age groupings which permit younger children to learn through older children, who in turn take pleasure and solidify their understanding by aiding younger children.
- Carefully prepared classroom environments designed specifically to meet the needs of small children and support their desire for independence.
- Nurturing, specially-trained Montessori guides who carefully observe each child and foster independence, language development, and development of gross and fine motor skills through communal and parallel activities.
- Specially designed Montessori teaching materials that appeal to the child’s natural curiosity and entice them to activity. The materials have built in control of error and permit manipulation, discrimination, exactness, repetition, and refinement of movements. They help the child to develop confidence, self-esteem, consideration of others, and basic cognitive understandings.
- A profound concern for the welfare of children and a passionate desire to aid and protect children’s natural curiosity and intrinsic love of learning without the need for external rewards for achievement.
Who Was Maria Montessori?
Maria Montessori lived from 1870-1952. She was the first female Doctor of Medicine in Italy. Through her work with handicapped, developmentally delayed, and socially deprived children, she began to develop her unique educational philosophy. Montessori achieved tremendous international acclaim when her disadvantaged children were able to pass public school examinations with high marks.
In January 1907, she opened the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome. As a result of further study, observation, and experimentation, she found her principles to be applicable to all children.
She had a tremendous impact on the field of education in general and on the way we understand and teach children today. Many of her insights into education and neural development are being confirmed by contemporary researchers.
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