Dr. Montessori (1870-1952), a revolutionary educator of the early 20th century, is credited for influencing the way children are taught in public and private schools around the globe today.
Born in Chiaravalle, Italy, Dr. Montessori received formal training as a scientist and medical doctor, making her Italy’s first woman doctor in 1896. Her interest in children’s development was peaked while working with children with mental/learning disabilities, thrusting her into the study of psychology and human behavior. In 1906, she embarked on a quest to re-engineer the field of children’s education, with the goal of rehabilitating society’s discarded children. Her discoveries proved to be life-changing and led her to create the Montessori Method, an educational philosophy that has successfully been in application worldwide for over a century.
The Montessori Method of education is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy is centered on the idea that children have an innate drive and desire to learn, and that they are naturally equipped to absorb a tremendous amount of information about the world that surrounds them. Her research and observations further revealed that children actually learned best when given the freedom to explore and discover the world in a safe, age-appropriate, hands-on environment. Given tools and materials that they can access on their own, the children under Dr. Montessori’s care were able to work independently and broaden their understanding in all areas of life.
Dr. Montessori also discovered that when grouped in small differences in age range (2, 4, 6-year-olds), children were able to work together and develop necessary social skills. Older children were able to apply their newly acquired skills and develop nurturing skills by helping the younger ones, while the younger children learned new skills they had not yet unraveled on their own.
Dr. Montessori observed that children of all ages flourished when given the freedom to master the life skills that peaked their curiosity at their own pace. Children experienced an increase in pride and self-esteem, and their eagerness for learning blossomed with the opportunity to contribute to the environment they had a newfound grasp on.
Above all of her findings, Dr. Montessori felt that the most important was the revelation that the role of the instructor is to observe and pay attention to the child, and not the reverse, an ideology that was completely contrary to the teachings of her time. The Montessori Method trains educators to observe the way each child responds to divers lessons, in order to decide what lessons or materials to present to them next. This allows for personal development, based on each child’s unique needs and ability.
The Montessori Method has been proven to be effective on all types of children, including those with disabilities and behavioral issues; and it has had a successful track record unobstructed by cultural, economic, or social barriers.
How it Works
Dr. Montessori was able to identify a Sensitive Period in children’s development, where they are most adept at absorbing information and perfecting the skill sets they uncover. It is during this period, at ages 0 to 6, that children seek knowledge with an intense curiosity. It is imperative that during this crucial time, the learning environment provided to the children is equipped with the tools for possibilities of self-discovery.
The Montessori Classroom is structured in a way that allows children to work in an exploratory and independent manner. Furniture, equipment, and other materials are classified in an orderly and logical fashion, to allow for accessibility and facilitate the children’s interactions and thinking. It is essential that the children are able to move freely and investigate whatever peaks their interest.
The materials in the Montessori Classroom are organized within five learning categories: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, and Cultural.
Why it Works
The Montessori Method is effective because it encourages freedom and exploration, as children work independently, with access to guidance from their instructor. Children are given the opportunity to allow their curiosity to lead them to discoveries, a concept that develops a life-long love of learning. Educators are trained to observe and document each child’s growth to efficiently introduce the proper materials as they steer them through their journey in development.