A look at Maria Montessori: the woman who influenced the world of education, resulting in the birth of a new approach to learning and teaching.
It has been said by many that children are the future. In each child lies a potential that is rarely reached. Some may come close, while in others, their potential remains dormant their entire lives. What is it that determines the difference between an intellectual giant, and a mediocre mind? Genetics? Wealth? Teachers?
Maria Montessori recognised that the environment in which a child is placed has an enormous effect on the way they learn, how the hunger for knowledge is instilled, and their drive to learn is developed. A scientifically-engineered environment can be the key to unleashing the potential within a child.
In the history of education, Maria Montessori holds a place as a visionary woman who saw much further than her peers. Maria was born in Italy, and early in life, she showed great intelligence - studying engineering at an all boys’ school. She later attended the University of Rome La Sapienza Medical School, and upon graduation, became Italy’s first woman physician.
After being appointed by the Italian Minister of Education to direct the Scuola Ortofrenica, and having much success there, Maria was asked to direct a school in a poor housing project in Rome. The school opened on January 6, 1907 and was called 'Casa dei Bambini' - Children’s House. It was here that the Montessori method of education was born.
At the heart of the Montessori method is teaching children to learn on their own, at their own pace, guided by trained teachers. This is was what Maria called “spontaneous self-development” and is what she strove to teach in Casa dei Bambini. The results were astounding and word of her success spread throughout the world - opening the way for her to travel the globe, promoting her ideas.
Dr. Montessori first visited the United States in 1913, where she had strong support from prominent Americans such as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Helen Keller. In 1915, she returned to speak at Carnegie Hall and set up a glass-walled classroom in San Francisco, where students were taught by the Montessori method for four months, whilst spectators observed.
Over the next several years, Maria moved from Italy to Spain, from Spain to the Netherlands, then to India where she and her son, Mario, were detained during World War II. All the while, Dr. Montessori continued developing the theory that would revolutionise education. She lectured, taught, wrote Free Reprint Articles, and was an example to all of devotion to learning, and childrens' potential.