Maria Montessori (1870-1952), the first woman physician in Italy, was working with retarded and emotionally disturbed children around the turn of the century when she discovered that they, as well as normal children, learn best through their senses by working with concrete materials. Building on the earlier work of Eduard Seguin, who had taught deaf-mute children, Montessori devised a set of manipulative learning materials that invite children to explore colors, shapes, textures, sounds, language, and even geometric relationships. For example, she designed a series of beautifully colored glass beads to develop numerous mathematical skills. Children responded to these materials enthusiastically, and in her “prepared environment,” Montessori and her followers have consistently found children developing intense concentration, self-confidence and a strong interest in learning to read, write, and understand their world.
In the Montessori classroom, children are grouped in 3-year age spans and are introduced to materials and activities according to their developmental stages and “sensitive periods” of special interest in the environment. They are then free to practice independently or in small groups for much of the day–a Montessori classroom resembles a busy workshop with activity taking place in every direction. At the same time, Montessori educators usually emphasize care, courtesy and orderliness within the environment. The Montessori approach is well developed at the elementary level and is becoming increasingly popular in public magnet schools.
Quotes from Maria Montessori
[quote]… we live in democracies, but for this to be really true, everyone must be democratic or rather everyone must live in a democratic way, even those who come between the ages of 0 and 20 (Rome Lecture, 1951)[/quote]
[quote]At this point one has to ask why one section of humanity is allowed to express its free choice for a government that it wants by voting, while the other half cannot show its own will int he same way. How can the soul be formed in such constriction? Children have no choice either in their school or in their teacher, nothing. Education understood like this is no education for the man who wants to grow into something great. There is no provision for such an approach in education today.[/quote]
[quote]Children unaided can construct an orderly society. For us adults, prisons, police, soldiers and guns are necessary. Children solve their problems peacefully.[/quote]