Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator who developed a method of education that has transformed and revolutionised teaching practices. This method focuses on self-motivated growth in all areas of development - cognitive, emotional, social, and physical.
She was one of the first women in Italy to graduate in medicine. She initially worked with children with special needs. Soon after, she focused and dedicated over 40 years of her life towards developing materials, training and lecturing teachers, and advocating for a modernised educational method for children all around the world.
She initially dedicated her time to work with young children, but later moved on develop teaching practices for the adolescent years. Having lived through two world wars, Dr. Montessori actively promoted for and integrated education for peace and social justice into her curriculum.
Her influence is felt throughout more than 25,000 schools (both public and private) all over the world! These schools either fully implement her methods, or adopt some of it into their curriculum.
A Scientifically Proven Approach
The scientific approach of Dr. Maria Montessori has been one of the most successful and innovative ways where children explore and learn about the world paired with an innate desire for learning.
As a scientist, Dr. Montessori actively used the scientific method by asking questions, researching, testing, analysing, and drawing conclusions. She observed the children regularly to prove her findings over and over.
The Montessori environment provides a safe and secure space where children's natural inclination for learning can be supported. Dr. Montessori realised that an environment and activities that were designed to support their natural development would learn most effectively. The Montessori method gives children plenty of opportunities to become responsible, resourceful, and engaged individuals who, in the future, will be capable to bring about a better world for everyone.
The Prepared Environment
Step inside a Montessori classroom, and you should instantly see and feel the difference from any other classroom you visit.
A true Montessori environment should have shelves lined with attractive, beautiful, age and developmentally appropriate materials that are available for children to reach and use at any time. The trained Montessori guides are usually on the sidelines and ready to assist children only when they are asked or needed.
There is freedom. The child is free to explore and follow his interests and needs. While there is freedom, there is also structure (sounds contradictory, huh?). The Montessori environment is prepared in such a way that it reflects an organised system (i.e., concrete to abstract lessons and materials lined in order), and the children internalise what they see around them.
Finally, the Montessori environment not only prepares them academically, but also meets their socio-emotional needs. Children are allowed to talk and work with their friends and Montessori guides. As they develop over time, they develop more social-awareness.
Child Centered Approach
A Montessori classroom fosters a close and caring community where each child is valued as a unique individual. Since children learn in different ways, the environment is designed to accommodate all learning styles.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all curriculum, each child has a different lesson plan, designed solely on the individual needs, readiness, and ability. The child is the curriculum, and the environment is there to support it. The child moves on to more abstract concepts once they have mastered the pre-requisite. This allows the child to fully grasp new lessons because of the strong foundation of knowledge from their previous work.
Imagine a child so inclined and excited to be introduced to a new material, not afraid or confused from their previous work. If a lesson is not fully comprehended, the Montessori guides adjust and adapt to their learning styles and re-present the materials. This is done with care and understanding. NOT with shame and doubt.