The Montessori Method
The aim of the Montessori Method is to foster the growth of the whole child through a student-led and self-paced approach to learning. In a Montessori environment, children can choose to work on any meaningful or challenging activity that sparks their interest. This is key to capturing their attention, keeping them engaged, and developing an intrinsic motivation to learn. Even though the learning process is self-directed, it is still guided, assessed and enhanced by highly skilled and trained Montessori educators, as well as supplemented by the leadership of their peers.
According to Dr. Montessori, in The Absorbent Mind, “The teacher’s task is not to talk, but to prepare and arrange a series of motives for cultural activity in a special environment made for the child.” In a Montessori school, the learning spaces, materials and activities are all thoughtfully designed to nurture the development in each area of the whole child – cognitive, emotional, social and physical.
Another key component of the Montessori classroom is uninterrupted work periods. During these blocks of time, students have the freedom of choice to work through the tasks that they selected at their own pace, without any external interruption. These uninterrupted work periods develop the child’s concentration, coordination, independence and sense of responsibility.
“A child who has become master of his acts through long and repeated exercises, and who has been encouraged by the pleasant and interesting activities in which he has been engaged, is a child filled with health and joy and remarkable for his calmness and discipline,” —Dr. Montessori in The Discovery of the Child.
A Brief History
The Montessori approach to education was developed over 100 years ago by the Italian physician, educator and scientist Dr. Maria Montessori. She opened a childcare center, which she called Casa dei Bambini, or “Children’s House,” in a disadvantaged, inner-city district of Rome in 1907. Dr. Montessori created this school with the purpose of proving that children who were previously unschooled and thought to be unable to learn, could indeed learn under her guidance and educational method.
Through her child-centered approach to education, Dr. Montessori succeeded on multiple fronts. Her students, who were initially unruly, began to show calm and peaceful behavior. They also exhibited self-discipline, deep concentration, and a sense of order in maintaining their environment. Dr. Montessori observed that her students absorbed knowledge from their surroundings and that she was essentially helping them teach themselves. Her uniquely designed materials also fostered the child’s innate desire to learn.
Dr. Montessori opened two more Casa dei Bambinis later that year and her great success generated interest all around the world. Just a few years after her first Casa had opened in 1907, there were Montessori schools on 5 continents! In 1911, the first Montessori school opened in the United States and by 1916, over 100 Montessori schools were thriving there.