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What is the Montessori Method?

Montessori  is  an  established  style  of  education invented  by  Maria  Montessori,  one  of  the  first female physicians in Italy. She dedicated her life to learning about children and bettering their education. The methods she implemented were to help children build independence and confidence within a natural environment. She traveled all over the world and inspired many people to follow her approach to educating children. Montessori methods are still popular to this day, and there are now hundreds of Montessori schools worldwide. Montessori was an educator and innovator who sparked a new way of raising and teaching children. Maria was born in Chiaravalle, Italy, in 1870 and then grew up in Rome. She was surrounded by libraries,  museums,  and  good  schools,  and  she  took advantage  of  her  environment.  Her  parents  were intellectual people. Her mother was well-educated and an avid reader, which was a rarity in Italian women in that period. Her father was a financial manager. She had a great relationship with both of her parents, who encouraged her throughout her life.
Maria explored many subjects and studied vigorously before creating the Montessori methods. She was an exceptional student who didn’t let traditional expectations for women hold her back. At age 13, Maria entered an all-boys technical institute with the hopes of pursuing an engineering career, which was an unusual aspiration for a young girl at that time. When she graduated at age 16, Maria made the decision to take on further education within the same institute. At age 20, Maria graduated with good grades—especially in mathematics and science. By this point, she had changed her mind about her career goals. Maria had instead decided that she wanted to
become a doctor. She had to study vigorously to gain acceptance to medical school. When she first approached her medical studies, she was rejected from the University of Rome. However, she persevered and took on extra courses of study. She later obtained admittance to the school, opening doors for other women in this area. Maria graduated from medical school in 1896 as a doctor of medicine.
With her dedication, she defied expectations and helped contribute to paving the way for other women. Maria was interested in education after focusing on psychiatry in her early years of medical practice. She began to study pedagogy and educational theory. She observed the educational methods that were used to teach children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She later raised debate over these methods, criticizing the effects they had on the children. In 1900, Maria became the codirector at a training institute for special education teachers. She used her time to observe teaching methods and analyzed what approach worked best. She applied these methods in her teachings, and the children made unexpected achievements —leading to Maria’s methods being recognized as a success.
Maria opened the first Casa Dei Bambini in 1907, a childcare center in San Lorenzo. The center catered to underprivileged children aged 3 to 7. In the center, the adults left the children to their own devices while the parents went out to work. The methods that they used to take care of the children made for a high-quality learning environment. The children benefited considerably—they started to show interest in working with puzzles, learning how to prepare meals, and manipulating learning materials that Maria had designed. Maria would observe children and watch how they learned from their surroundings and the
environment. She used her observation and experience to create learning materials that would help the children and designed the classroom in a way that allowed children access to all materials. The children were allowed to pick out their own materials and make independent decisions without having to ask for help.
The methods that Maria used in her program led the children to learn and thrive. They started to display natural self-discipline, concentration, and attention. Word began to spread about Montessori methods and reached the attention of leading educators and journalists. The method became extremely popular, and by 1910, Montessori schools were all over Western Europe and were starting to become established worldwide. In 1911, in Tarrytown, New York, the first Montessori school in the US was opened.
Maria spent the rest of her life learning about children and developing her approach to education. She showed effort in her work through her lectures, articles, and books. She created a program for other teachers so that they could understand and implement Montessori methods. Many teachers and parents worldwide have adopted Maria’s approach to teaching and learning. Maria was an avid women’s rights activist, and she raised discussion on the lack of opportunities for women; she was passionate about the subject and wrote about it frequently. In Italy and beyond, Maria was recognized as a fierce advocate for feminism. In 1940 there were disruptions between Italy and Great Britain; during this time, Maria had traveled to India lecturing her work. She had to remain in India for the remainder of the war. Maria used this time to train and educate teachers on the Montessori methods. After the war, she returned to Europe and spent her final years in Amsterdam, dying peacefully in 1952. Maria received recognition worldwide for her marvelous work and was nominated for three years in a row for the Nobel Peace Prize.