Montessori education was named after its founder Dr. Maria Montessori, a brilliant woman who in many respects was ahead of her time. More than 100 years ago, Maria Montessori challenged the conventional thinking on how to educate children and devised a new method based on her clinical observations of how children naturally learn. It weaves together the disciplines of sociology, psychology, education, and philosophy and creates an ordered environment that follows the child based on his or her developmental readiness. She believed that children have an innate desire to learn, and that learning is a naturally joyful human experience.
Born in 1870 in Italy, Maria Montessori was the first female to obtain an M.D. from the University of Rome at the age of 26. Her observations in her medical practice led her to analyze how children learn and her rapt inquisitiveness led her back to the university to study psychology and philosophy where she became a professor of anthropology in 1904.
Maria Montessori left her medical practice and university chair and in 1907 opened Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, a school for underprivileged children considered to be unruly and unteachable in one of Rome’s worst neighborhoods. It was here that she applied and refined her educational theory and saw quick results. Her observations of these children formed the foundation of the Montessori method of education.
News of her success at Case dei Bambini spread and the Montessori method of teaching began to take root throughout Europe and around the world as Dr. Montessori spent the rest of her life training teachers, developing schools and advocating peace.
Interesting Facts About Maria Montessori
- Dr. Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times in 1949, 1950, and 1951
- Maria Montessori came to the United States in 1913, the same year that Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel founded the Montessori Educational Association at their Washington, DC, home. Among her other strong American supporters were Thomas Edison and Helen Keller.
- At the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, the Montessori “glass house” classroom attracted world attention to this successful teaching method. She was brought to San Franciscoby a committee that included Margaret Wilson, daughter of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.