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About Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy and died in 1952 in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

She became the first woman medical doctor in Italy, and early in her career, she started working with children in the slums of Rome. Her training as a scientist allowed her to observe children with an eye to recognizing their intrinsic needs. She went on to create educational materials that matched children’s developmental needs.

Maria Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 1949, 1950, and 1951. A scientist, educator, humanitarian, and philosopher, she was also a visionary.

About Montessori Education

In 1907 Montessori opened the first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome. In this environment, children were introduced to activities and then allowed to choose to participate or not. Montessori learned from the children which activities were appropriate. Gradually Montessori accumulated a series of materials that are still used in Montessori schools around the world. As well as the materials, her observations led her to theories on how children learn best. Many of her “discoveries” are well-accepted in early childhood education today.

  • Respect for the Child: Children are different from adults and each other; each one of us is unique and deserves respect.
  • The “Absorbent Mind:” The first six years of life are immensely important in terms of learning. During this period, children have extraordinary abilities to learn almost effortlessly; they “absorb” information from their environment, whatever that environment might be.
  • The “Prepared Environment:” Children learn best and become confident individuals in an environment (home or school) where appropriate activities are available, where they can choose their own activities, and where they can progress at their own pace using self-correcting materials. Montessori tells us to “follow the child.”
  • Purposeful Work: Through meaningful activities designed so children can succeed, children create themselves. The child, in essence, is asking us to “Help me do it by myself.”
  • The Human Potential: Education begins at birth… and never ends. If children’s developmental needs are met, children will be able to maximize their potentials, whatever they may be. Montessori extended this premise to the world as a whole, where fulfilled and well-balanced adults would begin to behave better towards each other, leading eventually to a world at peace.

There are many resources available for a more in-depth look at Montessori education. Look in our Books & Resources section for resources on various aspects of Montessori theory and practice.

Also visit the websites of various Montessori organizations, all of which provide information about Maria Montessori, her life, her work, and how Montessori education is practiced today.

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