A HISTORY OF MONTESSORI
Where it all began
DR. MARIA MONTESSORI
Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870. She became the first woman to graduate from medical school at the University of Rome in Italy in 1896. Soon after she joined the university’s psychiatric clinic, where she worked with mentally handicapped children. Using ideas/methods of earlier educators, such as Itard and Seguin, Maria Montessori taught these children, who had previously been abandoned as being incapable of normal function, the basic skills of caring for themselves. The results left Dr. Montessori convinced that similar methods applied to children of normal intelligence would also obtain dramatic results. She had her chance to test her theory in Rome in 1907 with the opening of the first Casa dei Bambini, or “Children’s House”.
At the school Dr. Montessori created a structured, natural environment in which the children could pick and choose the things they wanted to work with, thus fostering their independence. She scientifically observed the children and began making her own self-correcting, learning materials, constantly experimenting, modifying and adapting things as the need arose.
It didn’t take long for the Casa dei Bambini to attract attention throughout the world. A constant stream of visitors observed her classrooms and were amazed at the quiet activity within. As a result, Maria Montessori was recognized and acclaimed as the world’s foremost female educator. Her first training course was held in 1909, only two years after the opening of her first school. By 1913 there were nearly 100 Montessori schools in the United States with financial backers such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison. Today, the Montessori method continues to flourish with schools and training centers throughout the world.