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.
Principles of Montessori Education
Montessori identified 4 planes of development on the child’s passage from birth to adulthood.
- In the first plane from birth to age six, the child is characterised by his or her “absorbent mind’, absorbing all aspects of his or her environment, language and culture.
- In the second plane from age six to twelve, the child uses a “reasoning mind to explore the world with abstract thought and imagination.
- In the third plane from twelve to eighteen, the adolescent has a “humanistic mind” eager to understand humanity and the contribution he or she can make to society.
- In the last plane of development, from age eighteen to twenty-four, the adult explores the world with a “specialist mind” taking his or her place in the world.
It is the principles and practices of plane one of development which are applied at
Southbank Montessori Childcare Centre.
First principle. The Absorbent Mind.
- Montessori believed that an infant possesses the capacity to absorb the
environment simply by being in it. She used the way the child learns to speak as an
example of this.
- Montessori believes that the first three years are those of unconscious absorption.
- We don’t know that the child has been absorbing things from the environment until the child brings them to a conscious level e.g. says his/her first word.
- All of a baby’s impressions are registered by his senses. The child touches everything, examines it minutely and puts it in his mouth.
- From about the age of three the child brings what he/she has already and continue to absorb to a conscious level
- The child now begins to classify impressions e.g. colour red into shades of red.
- This sub stage which lasts until about the age of six is characterised by the acquisition of language and the mastery of physical movements.
Second Principle – Sensitive Periods for Learning
- Montessori believed that there are sensitive periods for learning in which the child will learn effortlessly.
- Once they have passed the learning can still be done but it is with effort only.
- These are now known as windows of opportunity and have been validated by recent brain research findings.
From zero to six years the child is sensitive to:
- Acquiring Language
- Social Aspects of Life
- Small Objects
- Learning Through the Senses.
Guiding Montessori Principles
- The child wants to learn.
- The child has an innate tendency to explore.
- The child wants to choose it and do it for him/herself.
- The child learns through his/her senses.
- The hand is the chief instrument of the brain.
- The child wants to do what we do and use the same things we use.
- The child is fascinated by small objects.
- The child likes things to be orderly and beautiful.
- The child wants a chance to practice things
- The child wants to do it right.
- Practice makes perfect and permanent.
- The child is interested in his /her social group.
- The child has an intense desire to communicate and is particularly receptive