Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and Italy’s first female physician, based her work on the direct observation of children, and created a program and materials that complement and follow the natural development of the child. She opened her first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in Rome, Italy, in 1906. Today, Montessori schools flourish around the world, nurturing and educating children from birth through secondary school. Fundamental to Montessori’s view is a deep respect for the child and his/her potential to learn and develop into a complete human being.
Dr. Montessori’s developmentally appropriate approach to learning is designed to accept each child, rather than making each individual fit into a preset program. She believed that learning would best take place in multi-aged classrooms where children at different stages of development would learn from and teach each other by example. This learning takes place in a collaborative and individualized environment, so that each child can grow at his or her own pace.
Dr. Montessori observed that the best way for children to learn is through hands-on experiences. She developed the ideas of the prepared environment, where the classroom contains a wide variety of carefully designed materials that foster learning in many key areas. The materials do not just impart knowledge, but provide children with stimuli that capture their attention and initiate a process of exploration and concentration.