How it began
Montessori education was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori as a result of her scientific observations of the behaviour and needs of young children. The first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, Maria Montessori became involved with education as a doctor treating children labelled as mentally challenged. In 1907 Montessori was invited to open a care centre for the children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome.
Montessori called it a "Children's House" and based the program on her observations that young children learn best in a nurturing environment, filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences contributing to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.
Among Montessori's revolutionary theories were the premise that:
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
- Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
- The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.
- Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials.
As early as 1912, Montessori was carrying her message throughout the world, including North America. After an enthusiastic first response, a reintroduction of the method in the mid-1950's followed, by the founding of a number of organizations such as the Association Montessori Internationale of United States (AMI-US), the American Montessori Society (AMS), the North American Montessori Teacher's Association (NAMTA), and The Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA), to name but a few.
There are more than 22,000 Montessori schools in the world today.
Dr. Maria Montessori