Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori

Maria Montessori was born on August 31, 1870, in Chiaravalle, Italy.

After the family moved to Rome, when she was 14, Montessori attended classes at a boys' technical institute, where she further developed her aptitude for math and her interest in the sciences—particularly biology.

Facing her father's resistance but armed with her mother's support, Montessori went on to graduate with high honors from the medical school of the University of Rome in 1896. In so doing, Montessori became the first female doctor in Italy.

As a doctor, Montessori chose pediatrics and psychiatry as her specialties. While teaching at her medical-school alma mater, Montessori treated many poor and working-class children who attended the free clinics there. During that time, she observed that intrinsic intelligence was present in children of all socio-economic backgrounds.

Montessori began to conceptualize her own method of applying educational theories, which she tested through hands-on scientific observation of students at the Orthophrenic School. Montessori found the resulting improvement in students' development remarkable. She spread her research findings in speeches throughout Europe, also using her platform to advocate for women's and children's rights.

In 1907 she was placed in charge of the Casa dei Bambini school.

The school, called Casa dei Bambini (or Children's House), enabled Montessori to create the "prepared learning" environment she believed was conducive to sense learning and creative exploration. Teachers were encouraged to stand back and "follow the child"—that is, to let children's natural interests take the lead. Over time, Montessori tweaked her methods through trial and error. Her writings further served to spread her ideology throughout Europe and the United States.

By 1925, more than 1,000 Montessori schools had opened in the United States. During World War II, Montessori developed Education for Peace in India, and earned two Nobel Peace Prize nominations. She died May 6, 1952, in Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

Today, Montessori's teaching methods continue to "follow the child" all over the globe.

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