About Dr. Maria Montessori
Frequently Asked Questions about The Montessori
BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF DR. MARIA MONTESSORI, MD
was born in Italy in 1870. In her work at the University of Rome's
psychiatric clinic, Dr. Montessori developed an interest in the
treatment of children and for several years wrote and spoke on their
behalf. At age twenty-eight, she became the director of a school for
mentally-disabled children. After two years under her guidance, these
children, who formerly had been considered ineducable, took a school
examination along with normal children and passed successfully.
Educators called Dr. Montessori a miracle worker. What was her response?
If mentally disabled children could be brought to the level of normal
children, Dr. Montessori wanted to study the potential of "normal"
children. She went back to school to study anthropology and psychology
and finally, in 1907, was asked to take charge of fifty children from
the dirty, desolate streets of the San Lorenzo slum in the city of Rome.
Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by
means of some exterior reward that would flatter his baser sentiments,
such as gluttony, vanity, or self-love, in order to foster in him a
spirit of work and peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a
child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower
instincts. I then urged the teachers to cease handing out the ordinary
prizes and punishments, which were no longer suited to our children, and
to confine themselves to directing them gently in their work.
Dr. Montessori was then invited to set up a classroom at the
Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco so that more
interested people could observe her methods. A room was built with a
glass wall behind which spectators sat and watched the children.
Twenty-one children, all completely new to a Montessori environment,
attended for four months. The observation seats were filled every day
and at noon, when the children served lunch to their classmates and
washed up afterwards, there was standing room only in the audience. The
two gold medals awarded for education at the Panama-Pacific
International Exposition both went to the Montessori class.
After W.W.II Dr. Montessori's concern with education for peace
intensified and she was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She
instituted the study of Cosmic Education for the child from six to
twelve years of age, since she could see that in meeting the needs of
the child, the needs of the world would also be met. "Cosmic Education"
is the child's gradual discovery, throughout the whole of childhood, of
the interrelatedness of all things on earth, in the past, in the
present, and in the future.
"When the children had completed an absorbing bit of work, they appeared
rested and deeply pleased. It almost seemed as if a road had opened up
within their souls that led to all their latent powers, revealing the
better part of themselves. They exhibited a great affability to
everyone, put themselves out to help others and seemed full of good
will." — Dr. Montessori, MD
Reprinted from: Child of the World,
Essential Montessori for Age three to Twelve. Excerpted from