Who Was Maria Montessori?

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Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori approach to education, was born in Italy in 1870. As a teenager she was determined to become an engineer, but later abondoned that idea in favour of studying medicine. Graduating as Italy's first female medical practitioner she embarked on a career in mental health.

This brought her into contact with children diagnosed as educationally subnormal, and excluded from the educational system. She devised special apparatus to help them learn through movement and achieved some remarkable results.

Following on from this she was asked to head up a childcare project for a social housing initiative and her first 'Children's House' opened in San Lorenzo, a suburb of Rome, in 1907. Here too she introduced the equipment she had designed and observed the children very closely as they used it, tailoring what she provided in the environment to meet their developmental needs. There was great astonishment at the amount of learning that these pre-school children showed themselves to be capable of, not least their explosion into 'writing'.

Responding to demands to explaining her 'method' Montessori began to write about her discoveries and to train people to work with children the way she advocated. From this time onward education became her life and she continued to develop educational theories to fit what she observed among the children in her care.

A For the rest of her life she travelled extensively, training, teaching and lecturing around the world, increasingly convinced that it was only through effective education of the rising generation that universal peace could ever become a reality. She died in Holland in 1952, leaving an international legacy of Montessori schools and training centres around the world, all following the Montessori approach, transcending cultures, faiths, linguistic traditions and political systems.

Recommended Reading:

The following books by Dr. Maria Montessori and Dr. Maria Montessori provide essential background reading.

  • The Absorbent Mind
  • The Secret of Childhood
  • The Discovery of the Child
  • The Formation of Man
  • To Educate the Human Potential
  • Advanced Montessori Method - Book 1
  • Education For Human Development