A fundamental belief of the Montessori Method is that children learn best within a social environment that supports and respects each child’s unique development — a comfortable setting filled with developmentally-appropriate materials and experiences that contribute to the growth of self-motivated, independent learners.
Over 100 years ago Dr Maria Montessori pursued a medical degree in what once was an all-male field, overcoming many barriers to become the first female doctor in Italy.
As a physician Dr Montessori chose paediatrics and psychiatry as her specialties. She treated many poor and working-class children and during that time, she observed that intrinsic intelligence was present in children of all socio-economic backgrounds. She conducted extensive research into early childhood development and education.
Dr Montessori observed that children under six absorb limitlessly and effortlessly from the world around them. She identified certain windows of opportunity for children, that she called ‘sensitive periods’, during which they are irresistibly drawn to things that assist in the development of their human potential.
Montessori’s success with developmentally disabled children spurred her desire to test her teaching methods on children who were not developmentally challenged. In 1907 the Italian government afforded her that opportunity and she was placed in charge of 60 students from the slums, ranging in age from 1 to 6 years. The school, called Casa dei Bambini (or Children’s House), enabled Montessori to create the “prepared learning” environment she believed was conducive to learning and creative exploration. The essence of this prepared environment is still used in Montessori classrooms today.
In today’s world, walk into any Montessori classroom and you will experience an atmosphere of serenity as you witness young children happily concentrating for surprisingly long periods of time. Our highly qualified Montessori teachers act as unobtrusive observers, inspiring and directing each child in the learning process.
Children work individually, in a group or with a friend and are free to choose materials that appeal to them. Montessori classrooms use special materials that are beautiful and designed to help children develop concentration and work through the process of learning. These materials introduce concepts in concrete terms, which then enable abstract learning and reasoning when this is developmentally appropriate. Dr Montessori deliberately designed her materials so that children can spot their own errors, self-assess and complete tasks on their own.