Who Was Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator, acclaimed for her educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn.
She opened the first Montessori school—the Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House—in Rome on January 6, 1907. Subsequently, she traveled the world and wrote extensively about her approach to education, attracting many devotees. There are now more than 22,000 Montessori schools in at least 110 countries worldwide.
Montessori education is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Some characteristics are:
- Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options
- Uninterrupted blocks of work time
- A Constructivist or "discovery" model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction
In a Montessori nursery, children learn about the world in their own preferred way, According to Dr Maria Montessori children are not merely adults in little bodies; children learn differently from adults and therefore their educational surroundings should reflect this.
Dr Montessori believed that children learn the most between the ages of 0-6 and they learn best when they are allowed to do so at their own pace, making independent choices about what they want to and when. Key workers will obviously be present in the room but guide the children rather than direct them in their play.
The child’s environment reflects this philosophy, with materials freely available for children to use and explore as and when they want to. The environment should exhibit the following characteristics:
- Construction in proportion to the child and his/her needs
- Beauty and harmony, cleanliness of environment
- Order An arrangement that facilitates movement and activity
- Limitation of materials, so that only material that supports the child's development is included
Classrooms are usually outfitted with child-sized tables and chairs arranged singly or in small clusters, with classroom materials on child-height shelves throughout the room. Activities are for the most part initially presented by the teacher, after which they may be chosen more or less freely by the children as interest dictates. Classroom materials usually include activities for engaging in practical skills such as pouring and spooning, materials for the development of the senses, math materials, language materials, music and art materials, and more.
Benefits of the Montessori method
Experiencing the joy of learning
Most of the learning activities are individualised in the sense that each child engages in a learning task that particularly appeals to him/her because they find the activities geared to their needs and level of readiness. Consequently, children work at their own rate, repeating the tasks as often as they like, and experiencing a series of successful achievements. In this manner, children build a positive attitude toward school and learning itself.
Creating a sense of order
Through a well-ordered and enriched yet simplified environment, the child's need for order and security is intensely satisfied. This is noticed in the calming effect the Montessori environment has on the child. Since every item in the Montessori classroom has a place and the ground rules call for everything in its place, the child's inner need for order is directly satisfied.
Fostering independence, building confidence
Tasks are designed so that each new step is built upon what the child has already mastered, thus removing the negative experience of frequent failure. A carefully planned series of successes builds upon inner confidence in the child assuring them that they can learn by themselves. These confidence-building activities likewise contribute to the child's healthy emotional development.
Developing a habit of concentration
Effective learning presupposes the ability to listen carefully and to attend to what is said or demonstrated. Through a series of absorbing experiences, the child forms habits of extended attention, thus increasing their ability to concentrate.
Encouraging critical thinking
In a rapidly changing society, we will all be students throughout our lives. A deep, persistent and abiding curiosity is a prerequisite for creative learning. By providing the child with opportunities to discover qualities, dimensions and relationships among a rich variety of stimulating learning situations, curiosity is developed and an essential element in critical thinking is established.
Promoting initiative, persistence and perseverance
By surrounding the child with appealing materials and learning activities geared to their inner needs, they become accustomed to engaging in activities on their own. Gradually, this results in a habit of initiative - an essential quality in leadership. "Ground rules" call for completing a task once begun and gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance for replacing materials after the task is accomplished. This "completion expectation" gradually results in a habit of persistence and perseverance.
The following books by Dr. Maria Montessori provide further information about the Montessori method.
- The Absorbent Mind
- The Secret of Childhood
- The Discovery of the Child
- From Childhood to Adolescence
- The Montessori Method To Educate the Human Potential
- Formation of Man Spontaneous Activity in Education (The Advanced Montessori Method)