Maria Montessori (1870 -1952)
During the time that women were oppressed and children were often neglected, Dr. Maria Montessori was a unique individual, and ahead of her time. Dr. Maria Montessori. She was born in 1870, and at age thirteen, against the wishes of her father but with the support of her mother, she began to attend a boys' technical school. In 1896, Dr. Maria Montessori became the first woman to be granted a diploma as a physician in Italy. Following her interest in human development, she assisted at a clinic for children with mental illness.
In 1906 she was given the opportunity to oversee and take charge of fifty poor children from low-income families in the San Lorenzo slum on the outskirts of Rome. Dr. Maria Montessori applied her work and method to children and the first Casa dei Bambini "Children’s House" was opened in 1907, enrolling 50-60 children from ages 2 to 6. Soon, the success of the Children’s House spread around the world. The children in her programs continued to exhibit concentration, attention, and spontaneous self-discipline. People came from far and wide to see the children for themselves. Dr. Montessori was as astonished as anyone at the realized potential of these children. One of Dr. Maria Montessori’s famous quote: “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” The quote summarized Dr. Maria Montessori’s devotion for the children. Dr. Montessori then conducted her first international training course in Italy in 1913, and her first American training course in California in 1915. Over the next 20 years, Montessori traveled and lectured widely in Europe and gave numerous teacher training courses. Montessori education experienced significant growth in Spain, the Netherlands, the UK and Italy.
During World War II, Dr. Montessori was forced into exile from Italy to India because of her antifascist views. It was in India that she developed her work Education for Peace, and established many of the ideas taught in her training courses today. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949 and 1950. She continued working, teaching, and writing up to the time of her death on May 6, 1952.
One of Montessori's many accomplishments was the Montessori method. The Montessori method is a perspective that stresses children's learning development through curiosity and creativity. The method allowed children to develop at their own pace and provided teachers with a new world of understanding in children's development. With teachers' guidance, the children learn through activities that involve manipulation, exploration, repetition, order, abstraction, and communication. Montessori's book "The Montessori Method" presents the method in detail. Montessori teachers who followed this model set up environments to meet students' needs in three age groups: 0-3 years, 3-6 years, 6-12 years. Teachers encourage children in the 0-3 years and 3-6 years age groups to use their senses to explore and manipulate materials in their immediate environment. Children in the 6-9 years group deal with abstract concepts based on their newly developed strengths of reasoning, imagination, and creativity.
However, the name Montessori is not legally protected with a trademark, and can be used by anyone without oversight. Today, more than ever before, this happens when people promote a person, book, blog, school, online education conference, parent or teacher course. The Association Montessori International (AMI) was established by Maria Montessori in 1929 to protect the integrity of her work and to support high standards for both teacher training and schools. Today, AMI continues to uphold Maria Montessori’s vision while collaborating with research in neuroscience and child development.
I was honored to have a chance to travel to the very first Case dei Bambini (Children’s House), founded by Dr. Maria Montessori in 1907. It is located in a suburban area. My husband and I took a train and bus to reach there. They still have a classroom, but unfortunately, I was not able to take any pictures inside. The rest of the building is now an apartment. I was in tears and full of appreciation when I visited such an important and historical landmark for all educators.
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Maria Montessori, MD (1870-1952)
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