Dr. Maria Montessori was born in the small town of Chiaravelle, Italy. She graduated from the University of Rome Medical School in 1896 and became the first female physician in her country. Her interest in practicing general medicine soon waned and she began to ask larger questions about life and compassion, and her focus shifted toward the problems and needs of what at that time were called “retarded” children. People often miss, however, the significance of her medical background.
At the age of 29, Dr. Montessori became the first director of Casa Dei Bambini (“Home for Children”) and through years of close scientific observations and experimentations she developed her method while working with poor and mentally challenged children. The special educational materials that she created helped these children to learn and pass state educational examinations. Once Dr. Montessori saw how well these educational materials and methods worked with developmentally delayed children, she decided to apply these to all children.
Her educational materials and method became world renowned and many countries adopted them. Today we still use the same materials and methodology with children all over the world. Montessori’s success rests on the approach that every child carries unseen within them the potentiality of the person she/he will become. The child needs a carefully prepared environment that allows for growth to the fullest. Her “whole child” philosophy of education emphasizes physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development simultaneously.
There are 3 components in Montessori Method: the child, the specially prepared environment with Montessori materials, and the specially trained adult, the Directress. All three components have equal importance in order to create the ideal learning environment. Within this structured environment, children are free to learn, find the joy of learning, and become motivated learners.
Dr. Montessori’s long life was devoted to increasing our theoretical and practical knowledge of development for normal and atypical children. By the time of her death at 82, Dr. Montessori had become a powerful voice for children all over the world.