The Story of Montessori

  • Who was Maria Montessori?

    Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. She was the first woman to practice medicine in Italy, having graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rome in 1896. She developed her method of education over 50 years of intense, detailed scientific observation and direct work with children of all racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds.

"The goal of early childhood education should be to cultivate the child's own desire to learn."

-Maria Montessori
  • How does Montessori support the child?

    Dr. Montessori referred to the young child as having an absorbent mind. Children literally absorb information of all kinds from their environment effortlessly. Montessori believed that to develop the full potential of a young child, one must appeal to his instinctive love of and need for purposeful activity. The role of the adult, then, is to carefully prepare a beautiful, rich environment that allows children to meet their natural needs for movement, language development, independence, order, security and discipline. Montessori developed unique teaching materials that enable children to reinforce learning through hands-on experience and employ all of their senses to investigate their surroundings. Her method is designed to help children with their task of self-construction as they grow from childhood to maturity. It succeeds because it draws its principles from the natural development of the child.

  • How does the Montessori classroom work?

    In the primary Montessori program, children from 3-6 years of age all share the same classroom. While the younger children benefit from their older classmates who act as role models, the older children benefit from the opportunity to help their younger friends. Each child usually has the same teacher for three years. The children’s innate passion for learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities with the guidance of a trained adult. Children are free to choose any material to which they have been introduced, learning at their own pace and rhythm according to their individual capabilities in a non-competitive atmosphere. As children achieve success, they experience the pleasure of learning and develop concentration along with self-discipline.

How is the Montessori
classroom designed?

The learning materials in a Montessori primary classroom are divided into different areas.

  • Practical Life Exercises

    Dusting, polishing shoes, and washing dishes sound like drudgery to adults, but for children these are interesting tasks because they allow for engagement in meaningful, purposeful activity. While having fun using real objects, children perfect their coordination and become absorbed in an activity. They develop attention to detail and lengthen their concentration span. Finally, they learn an awareness of order and sequence while developing good work habits that foster their independence and personal and social responsibility.

  • Sensorial Activities

    “I smell cinnamon…oh, that’s garlic!” Montessori sensorial materials are designed to isolate physical qualities of the world. Comparing and sorting smells, sounds, colors, textures, sizes and shapes helps children to organize the sensorial impressions they receive. Sensorial materials also provide a foundation for both mathematics and language. More importantly, because these materials provide continual exercise of observation, comparison and judgment skills, they lay the foundation for active intelligence and conscious knowledge.

  • Language Materials

    Language materials work to develop speaking and listening skills as well as writing and reading. Oral language activities happen every day and include games, poems, and stories. Children learn the sound and formation of each letter of the alphabet with visual, auditory, and tactile materials such as the Sandpaper Letters and phonetic objects. The recognition of sounds leads to the construction of words with the Moveable Alphabet, and reading and writing follow quite naturally.

  • Mathematical Concepts

    Math is presented through extensive use of interesting concrete materials. Children first learn to recognize and sequence numbers and then learn to associate quantity. Through concrete work, they build towards a complete understanding of the concept of numbers and how to use them in mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

  • Art Activities

    Art is treated as a form of self-expression rather than being product-oriented. All different kinds of art media, including oil pastels, watercolors, easel paint, chalk, pencils, and clay are always available. Singing, dancing and opportunities for making rhythm and music take place regularly and spontaneously. These activities are integrated into the prepared environment and children gain an appreciation of the arts as a natural part of the physical world.

  • More Activities in the Classroom

    Because Dr. Montessori observed that young children are especially receptive to acquiring language, the basic nomenclature of biology, geometry, physical science and geography are also presented. In the Montessori classroom, the experience is given first and language follows. The children gain an awareness of the physical world around them by exploring everything from leaf shapes to geometric solids to concepts such as sinking and floating. Parents are often surprised when a child can name the countries of Africa or explain the difference between an isthmus and a peninsula. Children also gain understanding of and kinship with different peoples of the world by looking at the basic needs of all humans (food, shelter, clothing) and seeing how each culture meets those needs. Along with compassion, the Montessori experience develops children’s awareness of their own feelings and sensitivity to the feelings of others.

  • Summary

    Montessori education is an aid for life; an education that encourages independence, refines the child’s natural tools for learning and fosters self-motivation. Montessori goes beyond the academic disciplines; it stresses responsibility and consideration for others. And, importantly, it prepares children to embrace life experiences openly, enthusiastically and with a sense of joy for discovery.

Visit our Montessori preschool and kindergarten program.