Maria Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator and is best known for the philosophy of education which bears her name. Her educational method is in use today in public and private schools throughout the world.
Maria Montessori was Italy’s first female doctor when she graduated in 1896. Her natural intellectual curiosity led to an exploration of children’s minds and how they learn. She believed that environment was a major factor in child development.
Dr. Montessori opened her first Casa Dei Bambini- house for children in an apartment tenement in the slum area of San Lorenzo, Rome, on January 6th, 1902. It was here that she refined the educational theories and Montessori materials she had been developing whilst working with abandoned and intellectually challenged children as part of her work at the University of Rome.
Montessori applied the principles and methods of philosophers Itard and Seguin that children learn best through a sensorial approach and with a scaffolded approach, with that of Froebel and Pestalozzi, who believed that children learned through activity. Montessori believed that educators must follow the child by creating nurturing and stimulating environments where they could freely choose activities based on their interests. She believed that small children under the age of 6 years strive for independence and them catch cry is: “Help me to do it by myself”
Dr. Montessori’s work has inspired children and educators for more than a century and is as respected and popular now as it was when she first attracted worldwide attention in 1907. Dr. Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1949, 1950 and 1951.