Montessori education is an established philosophy and method, originated by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 1900’s. Dr. Montessori, the first female physician in Italy, founded the first “Casa de Bambini” in 1907. She dedicated her life to the study of children and how they learn. Her approach to education was based on her scientific observations, combined with her background in psychology and her belief in the education of children as a means to create a better society. Today, after over 100 years of application, the principles of her approach have proved to be valid and continue to be respected and practiced all over the world.
The foundation of the philosophy evolved from Dr. Montessori’s observations that:
- Young children have an intrinsic capacity and desire to explore, discover and learn about their world.
- Children learn most effectively through concrete experiences and self-discovery.
- No two children learn at the same pace or in the same way, and must be respected as unique individuals.
- The impressions formed during the early childhood years have a lasting effect upon a child’s attitude toward learning and life itself.
- Learn at their own pace;
- Learn spontaneously and creatively through manipulation and action
- Develop a sense of independence and self-worth
- Are encouraged to choose tasks and make decisions
- Discover that learning is a joy that can last a lifetime.
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THE MONTESSORI CLASSROOM
Montessori classrooms are specially prepared environments where children are free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. They are bright, warm and inviting, filled with plants, intriguing learning materials, art, music and books. The children’s inherent love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in self chosen, meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. Within this framework the children progress at their own pace and rhythm; independence, responsibility, social and intellectual development spontaneously flourish.
Montessori classrooms are designed to meet the needs of individual children within a community-like setting. The needs of the children are met through the interplay of the prepared physical environment, a directress, assistants and the children. The result is a group of happy children who are involved in activities that contribute to their sense of competency and self-satisfaction. It is a true community of young children, who move freely within the rooms, selecting work that captures their interests, rather than passively participating in lessons and projects selected by the teachers.
THE PREPARED ENVIRONMENT is structured so that children can be free to work at their own level and pace with the materials that will aid in their personal development. The name, “Prepared Environment” reflects the care and attention that is given to creating a learning environment that will support the development of each child’s fullest potential. Every effort is made to create an atmosphere that is comfortable, attractive and enticing. The furnishings are child sized. The materials are designed to help the child discover and learn to function within the world around him. They are extensive in their scope and designed to correspond to the developmental stages and needs of the children in the class. Everything must be complete, in good repair and aesthetically appealing.
THE DIRECTRESS acts as a catalyst between the children and the physical environment. Her primary role is to stimulate the child’s enthusiasm for learning and to guide it. It may take a minute to spot the teachers within the classroom. They will be found working with one or two children, advising, presenting a new lesson or quietly observing the class at work. She must be both an astute observer and also a guide to the children. A main function of the directress is to maintain the environment so that the exercises relate to the needs of the children in the class and at the same time are aesthetically appealing. The directress assists each child in choosing activities which are appropriate to that child’s stage of development. Her ultimate goal is to intervene less and less as the child develops. The directress builds an atmosphere of calm, order and joy in the classroom and encourages the children in all their efforts, thus promoting self-confidence and discipline. With the younger children at each level, the directress is more active, demonstrating the use of materials and presenting activities based on assessment of the child’s needs. Knowing when to observe and when to intervene is a skill the Montessori Directress develops during a specialized course of training and continued experience.
THE CHILDREN in the Montessori classroom form an active community of individuals. Each classroom is designed for a three-year age mix to allow for both individual and social development. The younger children learn by observing the work of their older classmates. The older, more experienced children share what they have learned with those new to the group. Every child is given opportunity to strengthen their independence and self-discipline. The continuity of remaining in one classroom for three years allows students to develop a strong relationship with both their classmates and their teachers. Each class is essentially a stable community, with only the oldest third moving on to the next level each year. All of the children are treated with respect and courtesy both by the directress and also by each other. The result is the fullest possible development of the whole child, socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually.