HISTORY OF MONTESSORI

"The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core. "

 

"We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones. We seek to sow life in the child rather than theories, to help him in his growth, mental and emotional as well as physical, and for that we must offer grand and lofty ideas to the human mind."

 

- Dr. Maria Montessori "To Educate the Human Potential"

Born in Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori became that country's first female physician in 1896. She specialized in pediatrics and psychiatry and taught at the University of Rome's medical school. Her work at the university's free clinics with working class and poor children convinced her that most of us are born with a potential that is hardly revealed.

In 1901, Montessori was appointed Director of a new school at the university, formerly used as an asylum for the city's "deficient and insane" children. Most of her students were mentally handicapped or autistic, and had simply been confined to empty rooms. Dr. Montessori studied these children and noted everything they said and did. She recognized their need for stimulation, purposeful activity and self-esteem, and learned what methods worked best for them. After two years, her "deficient" adolescents passed the standard sixth grade tests of the Italian public school. To Dr. Montessori, these results proved that the public schools should be able to achieve much better results with children of normal intelligence. She initiated a wave of reform in the treatment and education of mentally handicapped children.

In 1907, she began to coordinate a series of day-care centres in Rome's worst slum district. Her first class consisted of fifty children ages two to five, who exhibited generally aggressive and impatient behaviour. When she introduced the manipulative perceptual puzzles she had used with mentally handicapped children, she was surprised by how they were drawn to the materials. Children who had wandered aimlessly around the classroom began to settle down to long periods of constructive activity. They were fascinated by her materials and enjoyed learning practical, everyday skills that reinforced their independence and self-respect.

Learning Materials

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HISTORY OF MONTESSORI

"The secret of good teaching is to regard the child's intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core. "

 

"We do not want complacent pupils, but eager ones. We seek to sow life in the child rather than theories, to help him in his growth, mental and emotional as well as physical, and for that we must offer grand and lofty ideas to the human mind."

 

- Dr. Maria Montessori "To Educate the Human Potential"

Born in Italy in 1870, Maria Montessori became that country's first female physician in 1896. She specialized in pediatrics and psychiatry and taught at the University of Rome's medical school. Her work at the university's free clinics with working class and poor children convinced her that most of us are born with a potential that is hardly revealed.

In 1901, Montessori was appointed Director of a new school at the university, formerly used as an asylum for the city's "deficient and insane" children. Most of her students were mentally handicapped or autistic, and had simply been confined to empty rooms. Dr. Montessori studied these children and noted everything they said and did. She recognized their need for stimulation, purposeful activity and self-esteem, and learned what methods worked best for them. After two years, her "deficient" adolescents passed the standard sixth grade tests of the Italian public school. To Dr. Montessori, these results proved that the public schools should be able to achieve much better results with children of normal intelligence. She initiated a wave of reform in the treatment and education of mentally handicapped children.

In 1907, she began to coordinate a series of day-care centres in Rome's worst slum district. Her first class consisted of fifty children ages two to five, who exhibited generally aggressive and impatient behaviour. When she introduced the manipulative perceptual puzzles she had used with mentally handicapped children, she was surprised by how they were drawn to the materials. Children who had wandered aimlessly around the classroom began to settle down to long periods of constructive activity. They were fascinated by her materials and enjoyed learning practical, everyday skills that reinforced their independence and self-respect.

Learning Materials

Dr. Montessori developed special manipulative materials designed for maximum appeal and effectiveness to teach reading, writing and mathematics. She worked nights developing materials to keep pace with them in geometry, geography, history and natural science. She found that children preferred work over play most of the time. She constantly experimented with the class, and through trial and error and careful observation began to understand the inner mind of the child. She found that little children were capable of long periods of quiet concentration, even though they rarely show signs of it in everyday settings. She observed the children's almost effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings, and their tireless interest in manipulating materials, and concluded that children teach themselves. 

Learning Environment

Every piece of equipment, every exercise and every method that Dr. Montessori developed was based on what she observed children to do "naturally" by themselves, unassisted by adults.

Dr. Montessori changed the classroom environment. Recognizing the frustration a small child experiences in an adult sized world, she designed furniture and then entire schools around their size. She replaced the traditional locked cabinets containing learning materials with low, open shelves, from which the children could choose their own activities. Just as children love routine, they appreciate an environment in which everything has a place.

Early Success

The behaviour of Dr. Montessori's first group of students changed so dramatically, and their academic achievements were so remarkable, that the press broadcast this "human interest" story to the world. Dr. Montessori continued her study of children until the 1930's, and developed a vastly expanded curriculum and methodology for the elementary level. Montessori schools were set up throughout Europe and North America, and she gave up her medical practice to devote all of her energies to advocating the rights and intellectual potential of all children. During her lifetime, Dr. Montessori was acknowledged as one of the world's leading educators.

Montessori Materials

Another contributing factor to the studious atmosphere is the fact that the children are engrossed in play. Our classroom is not stocked with the usual commercial toys found in a pre-school setting, many of which have little play or educational value. Our materials were developed by Dr. Montessori through years of research and have stood the test of time. She recognized that children can grasp abstract ideas better when they are represented by physical objects, so she designed materials that allow the child to proceed, in graduated steps, toward abstract thinking. Eventually, the child recognizes that the mind is faster than the hand, and dependency on the material is no longer necessary.

Dr. Montessori observed that children go through various sensitive stages, in which they are very receptive to learning specific skills. Children naturally want to use their senses between ages two and six, so she designed materials that enabled children to learn through their senses. A "prepared environment" includes these scientifically developed materials, which build concentration and self-discipline while teaching new skills.

For example, in the preschool, children use tweezers and droppers to convey articles and liquids from one container to another. This exercise, which is always done from left to right, improves their manual dexterity and prepares them for writing. During this tactile phase, children enjoy tracing the letters of the alphabet, made of sandpaper. When they have the strength and dexterity required to begin to write, they remember the alphabet from their sandpaper letters exercises.

Children re-explore the same material at different levels. While preschool students manipulate materials for sensory experience, elementary students are expected to produce something that can be presented, shared and discussed. For example, a group of geometric solid figures can first be sensorially explored, then named, matched to others, duplicated using paper, pencil and scissors, and eventually explored mathematically and geometrically. This repetition aids in true understanding, rather than studying, being tested on and promptly forgetting a subject.

 

133 James St East (St. Davids Church) Orillia ON Canada L3V 6J8

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