Maria Montessori



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Maria Montessori was an Italian educator and physician. She was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle, Ancona, to an educated middle class family. Yet even against the considerable opposition of her father and teachers, Montessori pursued a scientific education and in 1896 she was the first woman to become a physician in Italy. The Montessori method evolved almost by accident from a small experiment that Dr.Montessori carried out on the side.
As a physician, she specialized in pediatrics and psychiatry. She taught at the medical school of the University of Rome and through its clinics she came into frequent contact with the children of the working class and poor. These experiences convinced her that intelligence is not rare and that most new borns come into the world with a human potential that will be hardly revealed. Her work reinforced her humanistic ideals and, early in her career, she began to accept speaking engagements throughout Europe.
In 1901 Montessori was appointed Director of the new orthophrenic school attached to the University of Rome, used as the asylum for the “deficient and insane” children of the city. She initiated a wave of reform in a system that confined mentally handicapped youngsters in empty rooms, but Montessori insisted that the patients need for stimulation, activities and self-esteem.
At the same time, she began a meticulous study of all research done on the education of the mentally handicapped. Her studies led Montessori to the work of two French physicians of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin. From these two predecessors, she took the idea of a scientific approach to education, based on observation and experimentation. She studied her retarded youngsters and slowly she began to understand who they really were. Her success was given when, two years after she began, many of Montessori’s “deficient” adolescents were able to pas the standard sixth grade tests of the Italian public schools.
In 1907 Montessori jumped to the chance to coordinate a series of centers for working-class children, who were too young to attend public schools. These “Children’s Houses” were located in the worst slum district of Rome and her first class consisted of 15 children from two to five years of age. Montessori began by teaching the older children how to help out with the everyday tasks that needed to be done, introducing manipulative materials.
Montessori discovered also that the environment was important to obtain good results: she was the first to recognize the frustation that a little child experiences in an adult sized world, so she learned to design entire schools.
Montessori’s prime productive period lasted from the opening of the first Children’s House in 1907 until the 1930s. During this time, she continued her study of children and her schools were set up throughout Europe and North America.
Dr.Montessori, who was one of the world’s leading educators, has given a big contribution to the renewal of the children’s education and she also wrote some important writings like “The Montessori Methos” (1912) and “Advanced Montessori Methos” (1917).
She died in Noordwijk aan Zee, Holland, in 1952.