Dr. Maria Montessori
Maria Montessori, born in 1870, was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree. She worked in the fields of psychiatry, education and anthropology. She believed that each child is born with a unique potential to be revealed, rather than as a "blank slate" waiting to be written upon.
Montessori education as a philosophy began in 1907 with Dr. Maria Montessori’s founding of the Casa de Bambini in Rome. It is now offered in both private and public schools. Of the 1,377 accredited US Montessori schools, approximately 250 of them are established in a public school setting. This represents 18% of the Montessori school composition.
Dr. Montessori's main contributions to the work of those of us raising and educating children are in these areas:
- Preparing the most natural and life-supporting environments for the child,
- Observing the child living freely in this environment,
- Continually adapting the environment in order that the child may fulfill his or her greatest potential, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
After years of expression mainly in preschools, the Montessori philosophy is finally being used as originally intended, as a method of seeing children as they really are and of creating environments which foster the fulfillment of their highest potential - spiritual, emotional, physical, and intellectual - as members of a family, the world community, and the Cosmos.
Dr. Montessori gave the world a scientific method, practical and tested, for bringing forth the very best in young human beings. She taught adults how to respect individual differences, and to emphasize social interaction and the education of the whole personality rather than the teaching of a specific body of knowledge.
Montessori practice is always up-to-date and dynamic because observations and meeting the needs of the child are continual and specific for each child. When physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs are met, children glow with excitement and a drive to play and work with enthusiasm, to learn, and to create. They exhibit a desire to teach, help, and care for others and for their environment.
The high level of academic achievement so common in Montessori schools is a natural outcome of such a supportive environment. The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural, mixed-age group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults.
She believed that no human being is educated by another, but is motivated from within by curiosity and a love of knowledge that continues long after leaving the classroom. The Montessori education addresses itself to the development of the whole human being, allowing each child to find his or her own place in the world.
Maria Montessori was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize (1949, 1950, and 1951) for her committed efforts on behalf of children and her belief that world peace was a possibility through education.