By Sofia Coraines
Maria Montessori was an early pioneer in childhood education who was born in 1870 and lived in Italy. In her early childhood she grew up in Rome which was a paradise of libraries, fine schools and very good schools. She was a very good student and enjoyed studying.
She applied for medical school at the University of Rome, but was originally rejected, so she took on additional coursework to better prepare. She ultimately was accepted and became one of the first women in Italy to become a doctor.
She focused on psychiatry in her earlier years as a physician and developed a deep interest in childhood education, involving herself in more studies in educational theory. She observed also the current methods of the day for teaching children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Then she was given the opportunity in 1907 of opening a brand new center for childcare that was located in an inner city area of Rome. This eventually became the first learning center of quality, or a Casa Dei Bambini, for younger children. The kids were very difficult to control at first, but they began to calm down with Montessori's use of puzzles, materials where the children could manipulate things that taught math, and learning all about preparing meals. She concluded that the children absorbed knowledge by observing their surroundings and in that process, they actually taught themselves.
The success of the school became widely known and by 1910 the Montessori type of education had become well known throughout the world, as Maria was in great demand. She spent the rest of her life dedicated to her cause lecturing and teaching others to follow her footsteps by using the Montessori methods.
The actual method of instruction in the Montessori method involves children in mixed age groups of 2 1/2 or 3 years to 6 years old. The students have a range of prescribed choices of what they are actually going to pursue in the way of an activity, within a range of options. Generally a block of time lasts for a period for about 3 hours.
The main thrust of the program involves a discovery type of teaching, or a constructive theory where the students adapt to learning concepts from the working with the various materials, as opposed to the direct instruction technique.
All of the materials that are used for the students's classwork are materials that were specially designed by Montessori herself and have been successfully used for years in her schools. There is always a lot of freedom of movement allowed from withing the classroom, as the students are not required to remain formally in seats. There is always a trained Montessori teacher available in the classroom.
Montessori teaching emphasizes a pedagogical approach to teaching where teaching of children is involved, and the emphasis is also made in the teaching of social and practical skills along with the academic side of the teaching equation, thus creating a well-rounded student.