Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy in 1870. She was a brilliant woman who overcame many societal barriers and prejudices to become the first female physician in Rome.
While working in a Roman hospital, Dr. Montessori was given the care of a group of children with special needs. She had no preconceptions about how she was supposed to teach, and relied upon scientific observation of the children to develop her own theories and methods of teaching. These methods allowed the children to pass state examinations with scores similar to those of typically developing children.
After this success, Dr. Montessori was eager to try her teaching methods with typically developing children. She began her first Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House) in 1907 with a group of young children in Rome. She developed many of her own materials and hired a carpenter to create child-sized furniture and equipment (the first of their kind!). She observed that children had “absorbent minds” and were able to soak up new information and to learn through new experiences. She found that children, when allowed to engage in purposeful activity, and given a specially prepared environment, almost taught themselves!
By 1909, Dr. Montessori’s ideas had begun to spread to other countries in Europe and she began to train teachers to use her methods. By 1915, there were Montessori schools springing up in countries all over the world.
In 1929, Dr. Montessori founded the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in order to further the research and development of early childhood education. During her life, Dr. Montessori was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times for her work and her belief that peace could be brought about through education.
Dr. Maria Montessori passed away in 1952, leaving behind a legacy of literature, philosophy and thousands of Montessori schools around the world. It is safe to say that all modern early childhood education has, to some degree, been inspired or influenced by the work of Dr. Maria Montessori.