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Who was Maria Montessori?

As a Montessori school, Sagebrush follows the teaching methods developed by Maria Montessori. Way ahead of her time, Maria Montessori developed a theory of education that continues to thrive more than a century after she opened her first school in 1907. So who was this amazing woman?

Maria was born in Chiaravalle, Italy in 1870. Despite the norms of her time, she was driven to study math and engineering and eventually medicine. Encouraged by her mother to pursue her education, she became the first woman to earn a medical degree from the University of Rome.


Dr. Montessori began to develop teaching methods when she worked as a pediatrician in a hospital for children with developmental disabilities. She took inspiration from many other researchers such as Seguin, Itard, and Froebel and began to develop hands on educational materials for the children who, at the time, were considered unteachable. The results she saw were unbelievable!


Dr. Montessori used the term "scientific pedagogy" to explain her continued study, research, and observations of young children. She designed lessons and equipment to help children develop their muscles, care for the environment (Practical Life), and educate the senses (Sensorial Materials). She also created innovative materials for language, math, history, geography, and science. These didactic materials remain relevant to this day, helping children learn skills from the simple to complicated, and from the concrete to abstract.


Following the success with special-needs children, Dr. Montessori was asked to create

a school for “normally developing” children. Her first Children’s House (Casa di Bambini) opened in the poverty-stricken San Lorenzo district of Rome in 1907. With her guidance and teaching, the children were dramatically changed. They learned to take care of themselves, the school, and were exposed to lessons and tools to help them succeed in life.


Dr. Montessori’s careful observation of children led her to develop theories on how children learn best. She observed that children have a naturally absorbent mind and a love of purposeful work. She designed a specially prepared environment where children could be independent and free to learn. Maria also had a strong belief in cultivating respect for each child as an individual.


Word of her work spread as she gave lectures on her discoveries. Other schools were opened in Italy, and she started her first teacher training course in 1909. By 1911 the Montessori method of education had spread around the world – to the United States, Argentina, England, Switzerland, Mexico, Korea and more. Today it is estimated that there are about 15,000 Montessori schools worldwide, with approximately 3,000 in the United States.


Maria Montessori believed in global peace through education. As a devoted humanitarian, she was nominated three times for a Nobel Peace Prize.


Bibliography


Hainstock, Elizabeth G., The Essential Montessori, An Introduction to the Woman, the Writings, the Method and the Movement, Penguin Books, 1978 (revised 1997).


Kramer, Rita, Maria Montessori: A Biography, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976.


North American Montessori Teachers' Association, A Montessori Journey: 1907-2007 - The Centenary Exhibit. The NAMTA Journal, Vol. 32, No. 3, Summer, 2007.


Pollard, Michael, Maria Montessori, Gareth Stevens Children's Books, 1990.


Standing, E.M., Maria Montessori, Her Life and Work, Penguin Books, 1957.


Adapted from Jacobs, Jane M., Maria Montessori: A Little History, Montessori Services, 2016.

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