In the first decade of the 1900s something was taking root in Rome, Italy. Something revolutionary that would grow to become a worldwide movement. A theory was being tested – and proven. It was extraordinary and it changed the way education is practiced around the world. It was all sparked by one pioneering scientist’s curiosity about how children learn. That scientist was Dr. Maria Montessori, and the theory is what became known as the Montessori Method.
A medical doctor specializing in pediatrics and psychiatry, Maria Montessori brought a scientist’s approach to education. She observed. She learned. She theorized. The consummate scientist, she also tested her theories and the teaching materials she developed, working with children in one of the poorest districts of Rome. Many had suggested these students were unable to learn, but the results were (repeatedly) remarkable and her philosophy of educating groundbreaking.
But then, Maria Montessori always was a maverick.
As a young girl in the 1870s, she attended a boys’ school with an emphasis on science and engineering. In 1896, despite her father’s opposition, she became the first Italian woman to earn a medical degree, graduating with high honors. She later became a strong advocate for women’s and children’s rights and peace, speaking internationally and prominently on these issues. In a rare distinction, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for three consecutive years (1949,1950 and 1951).
Although she is rarely credited as the source, Maria Montessori pioneered the concept of child-sized furniture in schools. She believed in developmentally appropriate practice and the use of hands-on teaching aids. She stressed ecology and conservation at a time when unchecked industrial growth was the norm. And she felt that without self-esteem, a child cannot learn.
Independent. Curious. Peaceful. Leader. Critical thinker. These are some of the qualities that defined Maria Montessori, and it is these same qualities that, through their Montessori education, come to define our Montessori students. Maria Montessori proved that, in educating children, the method matters, and that with the right method – the Montessori Method – the results are outstanding.
The world did not know it yet, but it changed forever on August 31, 1870. For on that day, a maverick named Maria Montessori was born, and the learning landscape would never be the same again.
For more about Maria Montessori and the Montessori Method, check out the following: