The first Montessori school opened more than 100 years ago in 1907. The school introduced what was a new approach to education at that time. Today, Montessori schools are found on every populated continent, and the methods first used by Maria Montessori have become popular in public and private schools alike.
The Origins of Montessori Method
In 1896, Maria Montessori became one of the first women to become a doctor in Italy. Her focus was on psychiatric methods to help educate children with disabilities. Far from accepting that these children were unable to learn, she looked for alternative ways to reach their natural curiosity. She experimented with different methods which seemed to show more success, and in 1900, she was given a role as co-director of a training institute for teachers in the field of special education. She put many of her earlier observations into practice, and the program turned out to be a success.
The Children’s House
Maria Montessori’s flagship experiment, Casa dei Bambini, opened in an underprivileged Italian district in 1907. Children who were considered ill-behaved or even unteachable responded enthusiastically to puzzles, hands-on education, and real-world activities. Maria observed how the children responded to stimuli, teaching themselves by playing and performing enjoyable tasks. Instead of forcing the children to learn using unfamiliar materials, she designed a classroom that was child-centered and interesting. The Montessori Method was born, and soon achieved recognition throughout Italy. By 1910, Montessori education began to be accepted worldwide, and a new way to educate children had arrived.
Child Based Learning
The tenets of the Montessori method were revolutionary and based on the idea that children learn better in their own environment and at their own pace. The Montessori classroom was designed around children rather than the adults and teaching materials included enjoyable activities. She believed that children are learning even when they are playing, and her classrooms were developed to encourage children to get involved and entertained as they learn. Instead of forcing children to learn in an academic situation, she fostered participation by making the learning process more enjoyable, using play and real-world activity rather than focusing on textbooks and rote memorization.
Child, Environment, and Guide
Teachers in a Montessori school are typically referred to as guides. Their primary purpose is to create an environment which children can identify with and respond to in a positive manner. The guides maintain a sense of order while allowing children to move about the different activity centers freely. To help foster learning, multi-age classrooms allow younger children to learn from older ones, which has the added benefit of creating a sense of worth and responsibility in children as they grow.
The Montessori method is a different approach to education, but one that has been shown to work, not just over the last century, but throughout the history of mankind. Children have always learned by observing and doing, and Maria Montessori developed a way to bring those traits into the classroom.
Montessori Children’s Center in Fremont, CA offers Montessori programs for children ages 3 months to 6 years. Our teachers and staff follow the methodology first established by Maria Montessori herself more than 100 years ago. Contact us today to schedule a tour and see the impact of child-centered teaching.