Maria Montessori, the first woman physician in Italy, was one of the great pioneers in the study of child development. In 1908 Dr. Montessori’s dramatic accomplishments with a group of young children in the slums of Rome earned worldwide acclaim and became a landmark event in education.
Dr. Montessori noted that many children were frustrated by a lack of proper stimulation and inadequate opportunities to achieve. She observed that children became happier and more self-controlled after a period of time in the orderly environment she had created. Here they were introduced to challenging tasks which not only absorbed their energies but resulted in a sense of achievement. This led Montessori to develop the planned system of education that bears her name.
Many Montessori schools were established during her lifetime and the Montessori movement continues to thrive now more than 50 years after her death. There are Montessori schools in more than 50 countries as well as more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the United States. Montessori classes also have been set up in a number of public school systems in states across the nation. Many of the hallmarks of Montessori education were radical ideas when Dr. Montessori proposed them and now have become accepted wisdom. Dr. Montessori observed that children learn through hands-on activity, that parents are vital partners in their children’s education, and that a child’s early years are a critical period of brain development setting the pattern for subsequent learning.
These Web sites also contain a wealth of information about the Montessori philosophy: