The Montessori Approach
Dr Maria Montessori was one of the most important early years educators of the 20th century, the innovator of classroom practices and ideas which have had a profound influence on the education of young children the world over.
She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome medical school and became interested in education through her work as a doctor, treating what today are known as children with special needs. When she went on to establish schools for the disadvantaged children of working parents in Rome she approached their education as a scientist, using the classroom as her laboratory for observing children and finding ways to help them to achieve their full potential.
It soon became apparent that Dr. Montessori had developed a highly effective method of teaching which could be used with great success with each and every child. She began to travel the world, establishing schools, lecturing about her discoveries and writing many articles right up to her death in Holland in 1952 at the age of 82.
The Montessori approach is holistic and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child's early years from birth to six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn. One of her key discoveries is the idea that children are intrinsically motivated. They are driven by a desire to become independent and competent beings in the world. She saw that children learn best by doing and that happy self-motivated learners form positive images of themselves as confident, successful people. She created specially designed developmental appropriate materials in a carefully prepared environment to foster independence and a love for learning from an early age.
Dr Montessori talked about her philosophy of education as being “education for life”. A recent study identified collaboration, problem solving and innovation, self-regulation and communication as some of the most important skills children need in today’s society.
In a Montessori environment, these skills are built into the very fabric of the curriculum. Children take charge of their own learning. They work collaboratively with their peers to uncover solutions. This process of trial and error is often the very doorway for finding a new way to approach and solve a problem.
The Montessori environment becomes a learning community where children bring forth their own unique contributions as well as upholding their responsibilities for caring for their environment, for themselves and for others.
She was a true pioneer of child-centered education. Her innovative classroom practices and ideas have had a profound influence on the education of young children all over the world.