Dr. Maria Montessori

History

maria17Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was a pioneer in the field of early childhood education. She made history by being the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. Between 1886 and 1906 she represented Italy in two European women’s conferences, had a medical practice, and was made a professor of anthropology at the University of Rome.

In her medical practice Montessori began working with mentally delayed children. As she watched them play she became convinced they were capable of learning given the right opportunity. Trained as a scientist, Montessori began to experiment and develop materials. Finally she was confident enough to have some children take the state education exams. To everyone’s amazement they not only did well, but aslo surpassed some of the “normally developed” children. Her clinical observations formed during this time led to the conclusion that children construct themselves using what they find in their environment.

Montessori’s insights about child development received such acclaim that she was asked to begin a pre-school in Rome’s inner city. Although she had never intended to focus on education, she accepted, and founded the first “Casa dei Bambini” or “Children’s House” in 1907. In her work that followed, Montessori noted that children possessed natural abilities, which were far greater than imagined. She observed children had a wonderful ability to absorb information, could concentrate for long periods of time, and actively taught themselves. These observations, along with additional discoveries, eventually became the foundation of what was to be called the Montessori Method. Montessori also developed an array of unique developmental materials, most of which are still used today.

In 1913 Montessori made a visit to the United States where her method was hailed by such notables as Thomas Edison, Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell and his wife, who founded the Montessori Educational Association in Washington D.C. Although invited to open a Montessori training center in the United States she preferred to return to her native country. However, in 1934 she was forced to leave Italy due to her opposition of Mussolini’s government. She moved to the Netherlands where she opened a Montessori training center in Laren. She also founded a series of teacher training courses in India in 1939.

Dr. Montessori’s lectures around the world focused on educational reform, the pursuit of which she believed would lead to a better world. During the last years of her life, she was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace prize. Maria Montessori died in the Netherlands in 1952. Today her legacy continues on every continent, where Montessori schools serve children from birth through high school.

Books by Dr. Maria Montessori

  • The Montessori Method
  • The Absorbent Mind
  • The Secret of Childhood
  • The Discovery of the Child
  • Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook
  • The Advanced Montessori Method, Volumes I and II
  • What You Should Know About Your Child
  • Education for a New World
  • To Educate the Human Potential
  • Formation of Man
  • The Child
  • Reconstruction in Education
  • The California Lectures of Maria Montessori, 1915 (Clio Press)
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