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“We offer an enticing, child-centered, research-based, sequential array of hands-on learning materials that introduce each child, at his own pace, to every aspect of our world, from the skills that will enable one to function gracefully in everyday circumstances, to motor development, coordination and perceptions, to literacy in writing and reading, and competency in all mathematics operations and computations, to an introduction to a vast cultural treasure trove of science, geography, and history, all of which is aimed at developing a life-long love of learning…that begins at age three!”
that children are naturally good, naturally peaceful, and naturally motivated to learn. The scientific principles of observation, analysis, reﬂection, and action helped her to develop specific materials and methods for serving children at each developmental stage. We believe these same principles can be used in Montessori classrooms today, to serve the children in the environment and to help translate Montessori’s original vision to the demands of our modern world.
Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educational theorist in the early twentieth century whose observations of children revolutionized the field of education. One of the first female physicians in Italy, Montessori worked in a psychiatric clinic with individuals with intellectual and psychological impairments. Montessori applied the principles of the scientific method to her practice with young children in the institution, experimenting with educational materials and learning structures until she identified a strategy through which many of the institutionalized children were able to pass and excel on state achievement tests. Her curiosity led her to want to explore these same strategies with typically developing children.
Montessori continued to refine her model, expanding it to meet the needs of children from birth through high school and lecturing on children’s development and learning around the world until her death in 1952. Having lived through two world wars, Montessori believed that an education that was respectful of individuals would bring out the best of human nature and lead to a more peaceful world.
She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times. Montessori’s vision inspired generations of teachers to create Montessori environments of their own, following her original principles and, over time, leading to the establishment of thousands of Montessori teacher training programs and schools around the world. Today, the Montessori Method has been incorporated into schools of all kinds: private and public, small and large, and the Montessori community is committed to finding ways to make Montessori education accessible to all children.
Maria Montessori imagined classroom environments within which the natural development of children informed all other teaching choices. From child-sized furniture (a Montessori innovation!) to scientifically designed materials, many of Montessori’s original designs remain in practice today. Some of the unique qualities of Montessori you should expect to see include:
From the size of the chairs to the height of the counters, each component of a Montessori classroom is ideally designed to create an environment complete with everything a child needs for his or her independence at a scale appropriate for the child.
The Montessori materials are truly the shining stars of the Montessori classrooms. From practical life materials that teach self-care and care of the classroom environment to academic materials that allow elementary children to explore language, math, history, geography and the sciences, the Montessori materials are designed to allow independent exploration of complex concepts. The materials are carefully designed to match what we understand about children’s development, the concepts included often surpass the content typically expected of elementary children including those typically not taught until high school such as algebra, geometry, chemistry and physics. High-quality, beautiful materials entice the child to explore challenging concepts in ways that reﬂect specific qualities of the children’s growth and interests.
The multi-age classroom allows children to learn from each other, to explore a variety of social roles in authentic ways, and to cycle through periods of extraordinary growth and reassuring rest. Over the course of their elementary years, children are learners and teachers, leaders and followers, sometimes engaged in independent work and often engaged in group work with other children. By the end of their six years, the child’s confidence, self-efficacy, self-knowledge and ability to maneuver effectively within a diverse community of children reﬂects the invaluable experience derived from growing up within a mixed-age classroom community.
The Montessori teacher’s role diﬀers from that of a traditional teacher. Montessori teachers are expected to act as scientists in the classroom, carefully observing each child’s development to prepare an environment which is specifically responsive to their needs. Montessori teachers facilitate children’s curiosity by matching individual lessons to individual children. They have a strong knowledge of the developmental needs and interests of the children they work with and are skilled in giving practice in the areas of individual challenge and helping children soar in their areas of strength.
In a carefully prepared environment, rich in high quality materials and supported by expert teachers, the curriculum can closely follow the interests and rhythms of each child. Children choose the materials of interest to them and are introduced to new materials in the classroom when they are developmentally appropriate for the child. The teacher’s role is especially important to this model: teachers must be able to observe children carefully to determine the subtle cues that indicate a child’s readiness for diﬀering work and must document each child’s development to assure steady and balanced development. Elementary teachers insure that the children meet all of the curriculum requirements of their school district and then give children the opportunity to move beyond these basic requirements to explore more advanced and alternative areas of study. Children are encouraged to deeply explore areas of interest and to develop projects and research inspired by the teacher’s lessons or their own discoveries.