Who was Maria Montessori?

Posted on: Apr 26

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician, educator, and innovator who is known for educational method that builds on the way children naturally learn.

Maria’s early medical practice focused on psychiatry. She also developed an interest in education, attending classes on pedagogy and immersing herself in educational theory. Her studies led her to observe and question the current methods of the time for teaching children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Maria was given the opportunity to improve on these methods in 1900, when she was appointed
co-director of a new training institute for special education teachers. She approached the task scientifically, by observing and experimenting to learn which teaching methods seemed to work best. Many of the children made unexpected gains, which caused the program to be proclaimed a success.

In 1907 Maria accepted a new challenge to open a childcare center in a poor inner-city district. The youngsters were unruly at first, but in short amount of time showed great interest in working with puzzles, learning to prepare meals, and manipulating materials that held lessons in math. She observed how they absorbed knowledge from their surroundings, essentially teaching themselves.

Utilizing scientific observation and experience gained from her earlier work with young children, Maria designed learning materials and a classroom environment that fostered the children’s natural desire to learn. News of the school’s success soon spread through Italy and by 1910 Montessori schools were acclaimed worldwide.