Dr. Maria Montessori, the creator of what is called “The Montessori Method of Education,” based this new education on her scientific observations of young children’s behavior. As the first woman physician to graduate from the University of Rome, Montessori became involved with education as a doctor treating children labeled as retarded. Then in 1907 she was invited to open a child care center for the children of desperately poor families in the San Lorenzo slums of Rome.
She called it a “A Children’s House,” and based the program on her observations that young children learn best in a homelike setting, filled with developmentally appropriate materials that provide experiences contributing to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.
Montessori’s dynamic theories included such revolutionary premises as:
- Children are to be respected as different from adults and as individuals who are different from one another.
- Children create themselves through purposeful activity.
- The most important years for learning are from birth to age six.
- Children possess unusual sensitivity and mental powers for absorbing and learning from their environment, which includes people as well as materials.
She carried her message throughout the world, including the United States as early as 1912. After an enthusiastic first response, interest in the U.S. waned until a reintroduction of the method in the mid-1950’s, followed by the organization of the American Montessori Society in 1960.